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10 Who Can Win

Players Who Have the Best Chance at the 73rd Masters

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Web Posted: Wednesday, April 8, 2009; 1:53 PM
Paul Casey
Age: 31.
Home: Esher, England.
Best Masters finish: Tied-sixth, 2004.
Best 2009 finish: First, Shell Houston Open
Assessment: Casey won a playoff in a gusting win last week at Houston for his first PGA Tour victory, but it was merely a reminder of his talent. His problem at Augusta, to this point: consistency. In 14 competitive rounds here, he has broken 70 five times and shot 77 or worse five times. Last year, he entered the final round tied for fourth but ballooned to a 79 in the wind. That experience, in addition to his victory last week and the fact he's ranked sixth in the world, should help him negotiate this year's tournament.

Fred Couples
Age: 49
Home: Scottssdale, Ariz.
Best Masters finish: First, 1992
Best 2009 finish: Tied-3rd, twice
Assessment: A reach? Probably, considering Couples would become the oldest champion here and given the fact that he missed the cut -- by one shot -- a year ago, his only missed cut at Augusta in 24 tournaments. But Couples's game -- which should be headed for the Champions Tour next season -- is surprisingly stout. Six of his last 10 rounds have been in the 60s. His is still long enough off the tee to make all the necessary shots here, and his knowledge of the course and completely unwavering demeanor would serve him well should he get in contention. It was only three years ago that he hounded Phil Mickelson all week before finishing third. Plus, wouldn't it be fun to have his name near the top of the board?

Retief Goosen
Age: 40.
Home: Pietersburg, South Africa.
Best Masters finish: Second, 2002.
Best 2009 finish: First, Transitions Championship
Assessment: Goosen might be the best player currently playing who hasn't won at Augusta. Though a final-round 76 cost him last year, he had posted three straight top-3 finishes from 2005-07. His best chance here, though, came in 2002, when he was tied for the lead after three rounds but shot 74 on the final day to lose to Woods by three. Should Goosen find himself in one of the final groups on Sunday, however, it's unlikely he would succumb to nerves, as his two U.S. Open championships suggest.

Padraig Harrington
Age: 37.
Home: Dublin, Ireland.
Best Masters finish: Tied-fifth, twice.
Best 2009 finish: Tied-fifth, Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
Assessment: Did anyone notice who won the two majors when Tiger Woods was out following knee surgery? That would be the supremely talented Irishman, who suddenly has won three of the last six Grand Slam events. Though Harrington's results here -- three top 10s and two missed cuts in nine appearances -- are underwhelming, his game would seem to be a good fit, particularly if the wind picks up. He is at his best when the conditions are at their worst, and he is one of the best clutch putters in the game.

Phil Mickelson
Age: 38.
Home: Rancho Santa Fe, Calif..
Best Masters finish:First, twice.
Best 2009 finish: First, twice
Assessment: No player in the field other than Woods has more top-three finishes here than Mickelson. Indeed, his last 10 appearances here have included nine top-10 finishes. He said this week that his short game, long one of his strengths, has improved lately as well, and his wins earlier this season at Doral and Riviera indicate as much. Perhaps the only concern for Mickelson fans is his performance last week in Houston, where he shot 77-76 to miss the cut. Still, he said: "I feel as good about my game as I have." That means he can win.

Geoff Ogilvy
Age: 31.
Home: Melbourne, Australia.
Best Masters finish: Tied-16th, 2006.
Best 2009 finish: First, twice.
Assessment: Ogilvy's Masters resume is hardly sexy, three also-ran finishes in three appearances, with more rounds in the 80s (one) than in the 60s (zero). But don't sleep on the Australian who has quietly developed into one of the world's best players. When Ogilvy took the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, more people remembered that Mickelson melted down on the 72nd hole than the fact that Ogilvy won. But he has twice won the Accenture Match Play Championship, including this year, and his inclusion among the game's elite players is recognized on tour if not by the public.

Vijay Singh
Age: 46.
Home: Ponte Vera Beach, Fla.
Best Masters finish: First, 2000.
Best 2009 finish: Tied-17th, Accenture Match Play Championship
Assessment: Sure, Singh has finished no better than tied for fifth in the eight Masters since he won here and he hasn't broken 71 in his last 11 rounds at Augusta. And yes, his performance this year -- with no top 10s and three missed cuts in seven tournaments -- is all but abysmal. But he cannot be dismissed as a threat. Singh led the PGA Tour in earnings a year ago, and he still outworks most players half his age. A victory here, however unlikely, would make him the second-oldest Masters champion -- by a matter of weeks -- to Jack Nicklaus in 1986.

Henrik Stenson
Age: 33
Home: Dubai, UAE
Best Masters finish: Tied-17th, twice
Best 2009 finish: 3rd, twice
Assessment: One of Europe's top players, the Swede is due to truly contend in a major. His record in match play events -- the Accenture World Match Play, which he won in 2007, as well as the Ryder Cup -- would show that he doesn't shy from competition. He contended at the British Open last year, finishing third, and he's coming off a strong tie for third in Houston. He has the length to handle the modern version of Augusta National, and his putting is steady enough to handle the knee-knocking eight-footers that players must sink to contend here.

Nick Watney
Age: 27.
Home: Las Vegas.
Best Masters finish: T-11, 2008.
Best 2009 finish: First, Buick Invitational
Assessment: Watney could reasonably be this year's Trevor Immelman, the South African who seemingly came from nowhere to beat Woods and the rest of the field a year ago. Though his only Masters appearance came a year ago, he impressed by shooting 71 on the final day in miserable, windy conditions, and finished at even par for the tournament. His season thus far includes not only the win at Torrey Pines, but a runner-up to Mickelson at Doral, showing that a struggle to 121st on the 2008 money list might be behind him.

Tiger Woods
Age: 33.
Home: Windermere, Fla..
Best Masters finish: First, four times.
Best 2009 finish: First, Shell Houston Open
Assessment: Can a man who has played 10 competitive rounds in the last 10 months actually be considered the favorite? Indeed he can, only if he's Woods. It may seem like eons since Woods last won here, back in 2005. But it's worth remembering that in the three tournaments since, he finished second, tied for second and tied for third, a combined nine strokes off the lead. Woods's rebuilt left knee appears healthy. Watch his short game Thursday and Friday. If it's sharp enough to handle Augusta's slick-as-linoleum greens, he'll be there Sunday.

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