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Times staff, wires

Who to watch

Many players in the field have little or no chance of contending. Old-timers such as Ben Crenshaw, Larry Mize, Craig Stadler and Sandy Lyle, and newcomers such as amateurs Peter Uihlein, Lion Kim, David Chung and Jin Jeong would have to play beyond expectations to get near the leaderboard. As for who has a good shot at getting near, or on, the leaderboard, aside from Tiger Woods and defending champ Phil Mickelson:

Lee Westwood: He is ranked second in the world and plays well on big stages. He was runner­up to Phil Mickelson last year and is long enough off the tee to do well at Augusta National.

Dustin Johnson: The 26-year-old was in contention at the PGA Championship last year before grounding his club in a hazard. He is long off the tee, almost emotionless and has four worldwide wins.

Nick Watney: He has won once this year, and his game seems to have rounded into shape. He shot 65 in the final round of the Masters last year.

Graeme McDowell: He won last year's U.S. Open and is a good putter. He's not the longest driver, but if he keeps it straight, he can make up for it on the greens.

Rickie Fowler: He has the length, the putter and the mentality to survive 72 holes. But the last player to win the Masters on his first try was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

Woods just another player this year

When Tiger Woods played in the 2010 Masters, it was his first tournament since his personal life publicly became a mess. After he tied for fourth, many thought he would soon get back to winning. Wrong.

In 69 rounds since the Masters, Woods has broken par 31 times. In 14 of 18 tournaments, he has finished at least seven shots out of the lead; in the 18 tournaments leading up to his downfall, that happened three times. This year he has played in four tournaments, and his best finish is a tie for 10th. He doesn't exactly have a head of steam heading into Augusta, but Woods is optimistic.

"This year it's nice to have some tournaments under my belt," he said. "Last year I went into (the Masters) just like I did the '08 U.S. Open. I didn't really practice before the '08 U.S. Open because my leg was broken. Just go out there, show up and play. Those two venues, I knew the golf course, and that helps a lot. It's nice to be actually in more tournament shape going in."

No. 1 up for grabs

Fresh off his win in Houston on Sunday, Phil Mickelson has another chance to reach No. 1 in the world for the first time. In all, six of the top seven players have a chance to reach the top by winning this week. Martin Kaymer, right, remains No. 1, followed by Lee Westwood, Mickelson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey and Tiger Woods. Casey is the only player who could not reach No. 1 by winning because he has played more tournaments than Woods. Mickelson last year had a dozen chances to reach No. 1 until he began to slide down the ranking.

Tech talk

Don't look for massive video boards or electronic scoreboards at the Masters. At least not as long as Billy Payne, above, is chairman.

"We already have cutting-edge technology. But most of it's buried underground," Payne said during his annual address.

The Masters has one of the most advanced websites in sports (masters.com) that will include a tournament 3-D video stream. The first Masters iPad app was unveiled last week. And the Masters is the backdrop for the latest edition of EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game.

Field maxing out

Today, 99 players tee off for the year's first major. That's the most since 1966, when the tournament had 103 players, and Masters chairman Billy Payne says the field is close to reaching its limit. Augusta National will review qualifying procedures after seeing how this year's tournament goes. "There is a maximum number of competitors for which we can give the experience that we want them to have and do it in a way that's manageable; (100) pushes that limit quite significantly," Payne said.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

. fast facts

75th Masters

When/where: Today-Sunday, Augusta National Golf Club (par 72, 7,435 yards), Augusta, Ga.

Purse: To be determined ($7.5 million in 2010)

Field: 99 players (six amateurs)

Defending champion: Phil Mickelson.

Cut: Top 44 and ties, and anyone within 10 shots of the lead

Key statistic: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won six of the past 10 Masters.

Television: Today-Friday, 3, ESPN;

Saturday, 3:30, Ch. 10; Sunday, 2, Ch. 10

Website: masters.com; it includes eight lvideo channels that will cover live Amen Corner (Nos. 11, 12 and 13), Nos. 15 and 16, and two featured groups, and 3-D stream.

Times staff, wires 04/06/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2011 9:48pm]

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