- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

FIGURING THE FIELD

Golf writer Barker Davis of The Washington Times handicaps the favorites for this week’s 69th Masters. Official odds provided by Ladbrokes of London, the world’s largest bookmaker:

TIGER WOODS (5-1)

Form: Snapped stroke-play drought with two victories in seven starts this season.

Feeling green: Golf’s big cat last feasted on major prey at 2002 U.S. Open. He’s overdue.

Seeing red: Still not sold on swing changes. Why mess with near perfection?

PHIL MICKELSON (6-1)

Form: Torrid Lefty has three victories in ‘05, including last week’s BellSouth Classic.

Feeling green: Recent major run best in business ? defending at Slam that suits him best.

Seeing red: Back-nine 31 last year only thing separating Lefty from 0-for-50 major career.

ERNIE ELS (8-1)

Form: Two victories and seven top-6 finishes in nine worldwide starts.

Feeling green: Five consecutive near-misses at Masters ? Augusta National owes him one.

Seeing red: Augusta National can be a stingy debtor ? just ask Greg Norman.

VIJAY SINGH (9-1)

Form: One win and four other ‘05 top-5s for world No.1.

Feeling green: Hands down the world’s best player over the last two-plus seasons.

Seeing red: You still have to question his putting touch on world’s most treacherous greens.

RETIEF GOOSEN (16-1)

Form: Solid though unspectacular season includes three top-10s in seven starts.

Feeling green: Goose is pure platinum with putter, fulfilling Augusta’s ultimate prerequisite.

Seeing red: Short-game strengths somewhat neutralized if expected rain arrives.

ADAM SCOTT (25-1)

Form: Most consistent start of young career includes a victory and three other top-10s.

Feeling green: Best iron player in the game should be a major factor on wet track.

Seeing red: Putting still somewhat suspect for an elite player.

OTHERS

Jose Maria Olazabal (33-1) - Can he rebound from shocking choke job at BellSouth?

Luke Donald (33-1) - Contending in a major would be a huge step for English comer.

Padraig Harrington (33-1) - Tantalizing at 33-1 with his combination of touch and intelligence.

Sergio Garcia (33-1) - Best player never to win a major still has never holed a pivotal putt.

PERFECT LINES

“We’ve adopted a new policy. We don’t talk about club matters. Period.”

— Augusta National chairman Hootie Johnson when a reporter asked him the annual question about the club’s lack of a female member.

“I guess Sergio, Padraig and Darren would be at the top of that list, but I don’t want anything to do with that subject. … I’m hoping I can just skip right over that particular purgatory.”

— 24-year-old Australian Adam Scott, the world’s ninth-ranked player, on who now owns the moniker as the best player yet to win a major.

“Oh, yes they do [speak Swedish] when I’m around, but I’m learning. I’m sneaking up on them.”

— Tiger Woods on the tight relationship developing between his wife, Swedish supermodel Elin Nordegren, and Swedish LPGA sensation Annika Sorenstam.

NUMBERS

71.5 Scoring average for Tiger Woods over the last 10 majors. Since winning the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, Woods has had only one legitimate shot at a Slam title (finishing one stroke behind Rich Beem at the 2002 PGA Championship).

20 Consecutive Masters cuts made by Fred Couples, the longest active streak of any player in the field and the second longest streak in the event’s history. Three-time champion Gary Player made 23 straight cuts from 1959 to 1982.

1967 The last year a player had a better amateur season than UNLV rising senior Ryan Moore turned in last year, winning the U.S. Amateur, NCAA championship, U.S. Amateur Public Links championship and Western Amateur. In 1967, Bob Dickson won both the U.S. and British amateurs, the two most prestigious nonprofessional events.

45 Masters starts for Jack Nicklaus. The six-time champion is competing this week at the insistence of his son, Steve, who just a month ago suffered the death of his 17-month-old son, Jake.

THE LEADER BOARD

Fab Four — up —

The runaway pre-tournament story line

Ceremonial starters — down —

Arnold Palmer too proud to accept one-swing status

Weather — down —

Forecast calls for foul weather today and tomorrow

Martha Burk — down —

Martha who?

Lobster ravioli — level —

Lefty’s champions’ dinner entree receives universal yawns

Double-eagles — up —

Sergio Garcia makes first of his career on No.2 in practice rounds

POSTCARD

• Tiger Woods’ agent and former Illinois hoops reserve Mark Steinberg took an NCAA title game wallet whipping from his top client. Woods showed up wearing a Carolina blue shirt Tuesday, saw Steinberg (who was at the game) at his pre-tournament press conference and demanded, “Where’s my money”?

Asked how much he lost on the wager, Steinberg responded, “Nothing by his standards, but a lot by mine.”

• The Rover is still mystified by the fact that the most prestigious golf club in the world can’t afford proper toilet paper dispensers.

• This week’s most outrageous rumor from the caddie clique: Phil Mickelson switched from Titleist to Callaway after the most successful season of his career because he has run up considerable gambling debts. Lefty refused to address his recent claim that he’s quit gambling during his Tuesday press conference, atypically bristling at the question.

The folks at Callaway are irate about the rumor and yesterday explained that before the company signed Mickelson last September they had an intensive background check done on Mickelson’s gambling history.

“It came back completely clean,” said a source inside the company who preferred to remain anonymous. “He has no outstanding markers anywhere, not in Vegas, not in offshore accounts, nowhere. And that comes from [Las Vegas casino mogul] Steve Wynn. It doesn’t get anymore reliable than that.”

• Speaking of wagering, the Rover likes Ernie Els and Adam Scott.

- Barker Davis

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide