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He sounded as confident as ever Tuesday, answering questions about his chances with a pursed smile and “Mmm-hmmm.” Asked if fans had seen his best golf, Woods replied, “No.”

“I believe in myself,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with believing in myself. God, I hope you guys feel the same way about yourselves. That’s the whole idea, that you can always become better.”

As for the Poulter comments?

“Well, Poulter is always right, isn’t he?” Woods said. “My whole idea is to try to win the golf tournament, and that’s what I’m trying to do. My whole idea is to prepare. I’ve prepared all year to peak four times a year, and that has not changed.”

There was a real storm that blew through Augusta overnight, toppling trees and power lines across town. The gates to Augusta opened 45 minutes late to give workers a chance to clean the course of debris.

Mickelson worked out on the range with Butch Harmon, then headed home to rest. He skipped a final practice round, feeling as though the conditions wouldn’t help him much. He’ll play Wednesday instead.

The wind pushed the clouds away, and sunshine is forecast the rest of the week. That figures to make Augusta National even faster than usual, putting a special premium on putting. That’s where Woods has been struggling most.

“I have been streaky here for some reason, and you can’t be streaky here,” he said. “You have to get it going and you have to keep it going. The years that I’ve won here, I’ve putted well the entire week. No matter how you play the golf course, you’re going to have to make 6- and 8-footers for par. And some of those years, I didn’t make those putts.”

The differences between Mickelson and Woods could be found in their news conferences. Woods was grilled on his swing change under Sean Foley, what he’s trying to accomplish, how far along he is in the process and why he changed in the first place.

“I felt that taking a step back, or sometimes even two steps back, there’s nothing wrong with that if I’m going to make three, four, five steps forward and becoming better in the end,” he said.

Mickelson looked as relaxed as ever.

He spoke of the pure joy of driving down Magnolia Lane, how it energizes his love for the game and for this tournament. And for more than a half-hour, he sprinkled in his share of one-liners.

Someone asked if he went back to the spot right of the 13th fairway, where last year in the final round he boldly hit 6-iron off the pine straw within 4 feet.

“I didn’t see the point,” he said. “I’ve already done that.”

Kaymer had said he wishes he could be left-handed because he hits a fade, and for a southpaw that shape works best at Augusta.

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