While Tiger Woods seems to be most analysts' pick to win the Masters, Phil Mickelson isn't counting himself out. Mickelson won the Northern Trust Open in February but hasn't finished higher than 20th on the PGA Tour since. ¶ He played in last weekend's Houston Open instead of getting to Augusta, Ga., a week early. He finished tied for 23rd, not exactly a head of steam. But Mickelson, who won at Augusta in 2004 and '06, isn't ready to concede the major championship to Woods just yet.
"I don't think it really matters if you're favored or not or what people expect," Mickelson told the Chicago Tribune. "I think how you're perceived heading into the tournament really doesn't matter.
"I love this (type of) golf. I love this tournament. I love when you get here how you don't have to be perfect. You have to get up-and-down a lot from on and around the green, and I think those areas are where I feel most comfortable."
Another player who should feel comfortable is Zach Johnson, who held off Woods and two others to win last year by two strokes. He said the secret to besting Woods is remaining calm.
"First and foremost, I didn't look at the scoreboard until 16 tee, and I didn't know where he was,'' Johnson told the New York Times. "I knew he made eagle on 13 just based on the roars, but I didn't know where he stood relative to where I was. I didn't know if I was in the lead until 16 tee.
"Part of that was just ignorance. On this type of golf course, there's not much risk-reward for me here, so I just play my game and hopefully make some putts. Outside of that, what does it take? I think it's the attitude that, first of all, Tiger — and maybe even some of the other guys, top guys — are supposed to win. I'm not supposed to, so the pressure is off me. Why not go out and give it all and see what happens?"
Tiger on the catwalk
Nike Golf has scripted what Tiger Woods will wear: today, striped polo in khaki/pink clay (salmon color), with birch (khaki) slacks and a white hat; Friday: black mock turtleneck, with gray plaid slacks and a white hat; Saturday: white, striped polo, with black slacks and a white hat; Sunday: vertical patterned shirt in carmine (magenta)/pink clay with black slacks and a black cap.
Davis Love: He snapped a streak of 70 straight major-tournament appearances when he failed to qualify. Love needed to win the Houston Open Sunday, but he finished 11 shots behind winner Johnson Wagner. Love, 43, tore ligaments in his left ankle in September and has struggled to regain his form.
Nick Faldo: Past champions get a lifetime exemption, but Faldo, 50, will not play. Winner of the 1989, '90 and '96 Masters, he will work as a television commentator instead.
Ryuji Imada: Tampa's Imada is 13th on the money list with $1,233,047. But he failed to reach the top 50 in the world rankings the week before the Masters. He is the highest ranked player on the money list not invited.
John Daly: His five-year exemptions as a PGA Championship and British Open winner have long since expired. He hasn't done much in the past few years, and he sits 204th on the money list. But you might find him at the Augusta Hooters.
Colt Knost: He's the 2007 U.S. Amateur and Public Links champion. That normally would mean an invite, but Knost turned pro in September and forfeited his spot. He has earned $80,922.17 on the Nationwide Tour.
From Milton to Augusta
Milton is a city of 8,118 just east of Pensacola. It is the home of three Masters invitees. Boo Weekley and Heath Slocum, both 34, were teammates at Milton High. Bubba Watson, 29, also played golf at Milton High. "Milton could come to a standstill when the Masters begins,'' Weekley's friend, Toggy Pace, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
In case you were wondering
As defending champion, Zach Johnson hosted the Champions Dinner on Tuesday. It is for past champions only, and Johnson, a native of Iowa now living in Lake Mary, planned the menu. He chose corn-fed beef and ahi tuna, shrimp mecca, corn casserole and crab cakes.
There will be more coverage than ever. First- and second-round coverage is 4-7 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, and there is a 15-minute highlight show at 11:30 tonight and Friday on Ch. 10. Saturday's coverage begins at 3:30 on Ch. 10. Sunday's coverage begins at 2:30 on Ch. 10.
Masters.org and cbssports.com is also offering extended coverage, with live streaming video from Amen Corner (holes 11, 12 and 13) and Nos. 15 and 16, as well as postround interviews. Amen Corner coverage is 10:45 a.m.-5:45 p.m. today and Friday and 11:45-5:45 Saturday and Sunday. Nos. 15 and 16 is from 11:45 a.m.-6:45 p.m. today and Friday and 12:45-6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Cheap but not easy
One New York broker said a four-day pass was going for $3,500, and if that sounds like a steal, consider the face value — $175, by far the cheapest for a major sporting event. A ticket to Super Bowl XLII, which lasted four hours, was $700. No applications for future Masters tournament badges are being accepted.
Is Sabbatini cursed?
Rory Sabbatini won the annual par-3 contest on Wednesday at 5-under 22. Tampa native Woody Austin was second, tied with Miguel Angel Jimenez at 23. No player has won the Masters in the same year he won the par-3 event, which has been held since 1960 on Augusta National's adjacent nine-hole, 1,060-yard course. "You can't break the curse unless you've won the par-3 contest to start with," the 32-year-old South African said. "I'm not a very superstitious person. I don't believe in curses." Paul Azinger, 1971 winner Charles Coody, 1992 champion Fred Couples and Wayne Grady each had holes-in-one. Four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods skipped the par-3 contest for the fourth straight year.
Compiled from Times wires
What are the odds?
VegasInsider.com has Tiger Woods as a 7-5 favorite to win the Masters. The rest of the field is 9-2. Here is a look at some notable players and the odds on them winning:
Five memorable moments
1 Gene Sarazen hits the "Shot heard round the world'' in 1935 when he scores double eagle on the par-5 15th hole of Sunday's final round to tie for the lead. He beats Craig Wood by five strokes in a 36-hole playoff.
2 Jack Nicklaus, right, makes a Sunday charge in 1986 to win by one shot. At 46, and it is his sixth and final Masters title.
3 Tiger Woods makes Augusta National look like a municipal course in 1997 when he shoots a course-record 18 under to win by 12 strokes. The next year, the course is lengthened to make it much more difficult and Mark O'Meara wins by one at 9 under.
4 Phil Mickelson wins his first of two green jackets in 2004 when he sinks a birdie putt on the 18th green to beat Ernie Els.
5 Ben Crenshaw wins the 1995 Masters, the same month his legendary teacher and friend, Harvey Penick, dies. It is an emotional scene when Crenshaw putts out and breaks down on the 18th green.
Five forgettable moments
1 In 1996, Greg Norman, right, holds a six-shot lead on Sunday. But Nick Faldo shoots 67 while Norman shoots 78 to finish second, five back of Faldo.
2 Roberto De Vincenzo signs an incorrect scorecard in 1968 (he signed for a four on the 17th hole when he had a three). He has to accept the higher score, and Bob Goalby, who birdied Nos. 13 and 14 and eagled No. 15 en route to 66, wins by one.
3 Ken Venturi has a four-shot lead in 1956 then shoots 80 in windy conditions and Jack Burke Jr. wins by one.
4 Scott Hoch (rhymes with choke) misses a short par putt on the 17th hole in 1989, then misses a 2-foot putt on the first playoff hole to give Nick Faldo the reprieve he needs to win it on the second hole.
5 In 1961, Arnold Palmer leads Gary Player by one heading to 18. But his approach shot finds the back bunker and his next shot sails over the green. Palmer takes double bogey and Player wins by one.
Arnie and Jack
Arnold Palmer won four Masters. Jack Nicklaus won six. Ian O'Connor, author of the recent book Arnie and Jack: Palmer, Nicklaus, and Golf's Greatest Rivalry, gives the Atlanta Journal-Constitution five things we didn't know about these stars:
1 Even now, in his late 60s, after earning recognition as the greatest player of all time, Jack still gets wounded by Arnie's Army. He could be playing Palmer in a Skins Game and the pro-Arnie gallery hurts his feelings.
2 The man who arranged the 1958 exhibition where Arnie and Jack met for the first time — Fred Swearingen — would become the NFL referee who made the most famous/infamous call in league history: the Immaculate Reception call that decided the 1972 Raiders-Steelers playoff game.
3 Woody Hayes, of all peacemakers, grabbed Jack's father, Charlie, to stop him from fighting a Palmer fan who was heckling Jack at the 1962 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Pennsylvania).
4 Arnie, Jack and Gary Player once trashed a hotel room in a food fight started when Player sprayed Palmer with cold beer, and continued when Jack threw a pot of iced tea at Gary and Arnie.
5 On Jack's final approach shot at Augusta in 2005, he turned to his son, Jackie, and said, "Don't think it ain't been charming." Those were the very words Jack's father, Charlie, said to his family in 1970 as he was wheeled into surgery in the final weeks of his life.