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SPORTS EXTRA / FOCUS ON GOLF: The Masters | TWENTY
PLAYERS TO WATCH

The Line Forms Here for Next Green Jacket

April 08, 1999

FRED COUPLES

Age: 39.

PGA Tour victories: 14.

Majors: Masters (1992).

Masters appearances: 14.

Best finish: 1 ('92).

Last year: T2.

Comment: Masters was his to win last year until he got wild off the tee on the back nine. Back problems last month raise questions, but closing 68 in the Players Championship showed he might be a factor. Has had eight top-10s at Augusta and has never missed a cut.

DAVID DUVAL

Age: 27.

PGA Tour victories: 11.

Majors: None.

Masters appearances: 3.

Best finish: T2 ('98)

Last year: T2.

Comment: Record speaks for itself. Four-time winner this year, 11 wins in last 18 months. Best player in the world, supremely confident and the clear favorite. Pressure might be tough for some to deal with, but he has tremendous composure.

STEVE ELKINGTON

Age: 36.

PGA Tour victories: 10.

Majors: PGA Championship (1995).

Masters appearances: 8.

Best finish: T3 ('93).

Last year: 30.

Comment: Playing well coming in. First round has always been a hurdle, having broken 70 only once in eight previous Masters.

ERNIE ELS

Age: 29.

PGA Tour victories: 7.

Majors: U.S. Open (1994, 1997).

Masters appearances: 5.

Best finish: T8.

Last year: T16.

Comment: The only major where he hasn't finished in the top three, but the one major he wants more than the others. Disappointed in play last year, which set the tone for the rest of his season. A win here makes him the first player since Seve Ballesteros to win three majors before 30th birthday.

SCOTT HOCH

Age: 43.

PGA Tour victories: 8.

Majors: None.

Masters appearances: 13.

Best finish: 2 ('89)

Last year: T16.

Comment: Rarely mentioned as the best without a major, but should be. Tremendous iron player and fearless. Most underrated player in America.

JOHN HUSTON

Age: 37.

PGA Tour victories: 5.

Majors: None.

Masters appearances: 9.

Best finish: T3 ('90)

Last year: T23.

Comment: First-round leader the year Tiger Woods won. Has very similar game to Couples, and similar disposition. Anyone who can make eagle on No. 18 and chip in for par on No. 1 using a four-iron deserves consideration.

LEE JANZEN

Age: 34.

PGA Tour victories: 8.

Majors: U.S. Open (1993, 1998).

Masters appearances: 7.

Best finish: T12 ('95, '96)

Last year: T33.

Comment: Hard to leave defending U.S. Open champion out of the mix, although nothing else seems to point to him having much of a chance. Has not played well this year.

BERNHARD LANGER

Age: 41.

PGA Tour victories: 3.

Majors: Masters (1985, 1993).

Masters appearances: 16.

Best finish: 1 ('85, '93).

Last year: T39.

Comment: Has quietly been playing well this year. Strong showing in Match Play Championship. Experience never hurts here.

TOM LEHMAN

Age: 40.

PGA Tour victories: 4.

Majors: British Open (1996).

Masters appearances: 6.

Best finish: 2 ('94).

Last year: MC.

Comment: Shoulder no longer an excuse, and he has experienced the feeling of contention at Bay Hill. Power draw a nice fit for Augusta. Could be dangerous if he's still there Sunday.

JUSTIN LEONARD

Age: 26.

PGA Tour victories: 4.

Majors: British Open (1997).

Masters appearances: 4.

Best finish: T7 ('97)

Last year: T8.

Comment: Doesn't seem to have game that fits Augusta, but he's a grinder and that makes him a factor in every major. Look out when he gets the putter going. Top 10s the last two years.

DAVIS LOVE III

Age: 34.

PGA Tour victories: 13.

Majors: PGA Championship (1997).

Masters appearances: 9.

Best finish: 2 ('95).

Last year: T33.

Comment: Putting has been suspect the past six months, but getting on the right side of the hole can take care of that. As talented as he is consistent, with at least one victory in eight of the last nine years.

PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 29.

PGA Tour victories: 13.

Majors: None.

Masters appearances: 6.

Best finish: 3 ('96).

Last year: T12.

Comment: No other player left in Duval's wake like Mickelson. Has been loose off the tee, which shouldn't be too much of a problem at Augusta. This is the first time he comes to the Masters without having won in the year.

COLIN MONTGOMERIE

Age: 35.

PGA Tour victories: None.

Majors: None.

Masters appearances: 7.

Best finish: T8 ('98).

Last year: T8.

Comment: Accuracy figures to help him more in U.S. Open or PGA, but don't overlook anyone who has won six consecutive money titles in Europe. Has had at least one round of 75 or worse in Masters every year since 1993.

GREG NORMAN

Age: 44.

PGA Tour victories: 18.

Majors: British Open (1986, 1993).

Masters appearances: 18.

Best finish: 2 ('86, '87, '96)

Last year: MC.

Comment: Hasn't been a factor since return from shoulder surgery, but playing better than results indicate. Only a matter of putting 18 holes together, four times.

MARK O'MEARA

Age: 42.

PGA Tour victories: 16.

Majors: Masters, British Open (1998).

Masters appearances: 15.

Best finish: 1 ('98).

Last year: 1.

Comment: Hasn't been in contention lately. Have to wonder if last season is finally catching up with him. Only two repeat winners in Masters.

NICK PRICE

Age: 42.

PGA Tour victories: 16.

Majors: PGA Championship (1992, 1994), British Open (1994).

Masters appearances: 13.

Best finish: 5 ('86)

Last year: MC.

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