Odds on Ends to a Moistened Masters

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Jonathan Byrd was driving to his first Masters. Actually, his wife, Amanda, was behind the wheel. They had begun their trek in Sea Island, Ga., and when the cell phone rang they were near Statesboro.
 
On the other end of the line was your intrepid Golf Channel reporter wanting to know what Byrd thought of close friend Ben Crane's breakthrough victory at the BellSouth Classic.
 
Byrd, who had won his first PGA Tour tournament at last year's Buick Challenge, was ecstatic for Crane. He pointed out that Crane was a wonderful putter and fearless when near the lead. He said he wasn't surprised that Crane had shot 64 63 at the TPC at Sugarloaf, 17-under par on the weekend, to overhaul veteran Bob Tway and beat him by four shots.
 
So on to the subject turned to Augusta National. This was when Byrd learned for the first time that the weather prognosticators were calling for rain and chilly temperatures Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Augusta National. And he was bummed. He had squeezed in a practice round the previous Thursday under ideal conditions and pronounced the course 'a beast.' It was a beast he couldn't wait to test again. But now the meteorologists were prediciting bad things.
 
'Doesn't God know,' Byrd said with a pause, 'that this is Masters week?'
 
Byrd is very religious, as is Crane. So he paused again. Then he added, 'Just kidding.'
 
Byrd didn't want to sound sacrilegious. But his point was made. A wet Masters week would reduce the number of players with the length to win at the 7,290 yard Augusta National course under those conditions.
 
Which brings your intrepid reporter to my predictions, along with odds for the 67th Masters.
 
Tiger WoodsTIGER WOODS - Even Money
Only a fool would pick against Tiger in his bid to become the first man in history to win three straight Masters. Now that doesn't mean it's a certainty that he will win the tournament. But if the weatherman turns out to be right, it will help Tiger more than most. In case you've been on Neptune for the last 10 years, Tiger hits the ball a long way. And please, not to forget: His last 10 rounds at the Masters have all been under par.
 
ERNIE ELS - 8:1
Maybe the rest from the incident in which he injured his wrist working out on a heavy bag wil turn out to be the tonic that he needs. Clearly, Els has been the second best player in the world so far this year. He has three top 10s in a row at Augusta. But he also has bad memories of the triple-bogey eight he took on the 13th last year during Sunday's final round.
 
DAVIS LOVE III 10:1
Has the length and the momentum off his recent Players Championship. Plus, has finished in top 15 in six of the last eight Masters. Last three Masters winners have led the field in greens in regulation
 
Phil MickelsonPHIL MICKELSON - 12:1
Just a hunch here, but I think all the things that have been going on in Mickelson's life in the last few months - the birth of his first son, the controversy over his critique of Woods' equipment, the fuss over his conditioning, etc. etc. - may turn out to work in his favor. This could be the major that 'wins' Phil. Certainly his expectations will be lowered. And I think that could be of benefit. Conversely, I won't be surprised at all if he shoots 76-76 and trunkslams late Friday. A reminder: Mickelson has finished third in each of the last two Masters.
 
RETIEF GOOSEN - 15:1
Tied for third at the BellSouth Classic Sunday; second at last year's Masters. Goosen has the length to keep up with the big boys if it rains. His game seems to be coming to the boil at the right time as well. Eight Masters champions won the year after finishing second.
 
VIJAY SINGH - 30:1
All depends on his physical condition. The 2000 Masters champion has been nursing sore ribs. Don't expect much from him. But don't be surprised if he plays well.
 
Fred CouplesTHE FIELD - 100:1
The best of the rest include Mike Weir, Chris DiMarco, Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Sergio Garcia. A good longshot is Robert Allenby. Another player I like is Darren Clarke, who always seems to play well when instructor Butch Harmon is around.
 
Speaking of Butch, he is coaching the field's preeminent wild card, Fred Couples. Ignore Boom Boom in your Masters pools at your own peril.
 
Related Links:
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  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology