Greeson: Woods, Mickelson among the best bets at Augusta

Greeson: Woods, Mickelson among the best bets at Augusta

April 7th, 2011 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Golf

Tiger Woods hits from the sand at the practice range as he prepares for the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday, April 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined to win six of the last 10 Masters and are the heavyweights of golf's current generation.

They are among the favorites again this morning when the 75th Masters tournament begins at Augusta National Golf Club. But not all favorites are created equal - and none are as feared today as Woods once was before his personal-life trauma unfolded on a global stage and altered his status as golf's top player more than any swing change.

Here are the four leading candidates to steal the show this week:

The favorite

Mickelson is golf's swashbuckling pirate, frequently tip-toeing the thin plank between highlight reel and horror show. Last year's three-shot win was dominated by the highlights, and for Mickelson the question is not whether he will try the unthinkable shot (he will), but whether he'll pull it off. If he does, he could become the Masters' first repeat winner since Woods in 2000 and '01.

The comeback

Not that long ago, Woods seemed a sure-thing to pass Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major championship victories. Now, who knows. Plus, if he's going to rebound, why not here, where Woods has finished no worse than a tie for sixth since 2004.

The best without a major

Lee Westwood finished second here last year to Mickelson. He also was the runner-up at the British Open and was the top-ranked player in the world for a part of last year after finishing in the top 10 in 13 of the 25 events he entered worldwide.

The top-ranked player

Martin Kaymer moved to No. 1 in the world earlier this year and won last year's PGA Championship. The main knock against Kaymer this week is his spotty record at Augusta National, where he's missed the cut in each of his three Masters starts.