Woods has company in list of contenders

Thursday, April 7, 2005

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Tiger Woods is still the main attraction at the Masters.

After all, Woods' accomplishmets at Augusta National include shattering scoring records as a 21-year-old and claiming three green jackets by the time he was 26.

But he no longer is the main event.

Phil Mickelson is the defending champion when the 69th Masters begins today. His victory Monday in the BellSouth Classic was his third of the year. And his confidence soars even higher on a golf course where a year ago he birdied five of the last seven holes to capture his first major.

"Being able to come through when I needed to gives me a little of extra confidence," Mickelson said.

Vijay Singh is No. 1 in the world, and has been for all but two weeks in March. And while his only victory this year came in the second week of the season, he is the only player who seems to be around the top of the leaderboard no matter where he plays.

Ernie Els is seeking redemption at Augusta National. Retief Goosen is seeking recognition.

"If you look at guys who are at the top in the world ranking, and the guys who have won major championships, you know they can handle the heat," Woods said. "You know they're not going to make a mistake."

And while top players are getting most of the attention, another familiar theme threatened to intervene. A line of violent thunderstorms began working its way toward Augusta on Wednesday.

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