Players Trying to Break From Their Shells in Houston

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Is there a window of winning opportunity? And if so, is that window closing in 2001 for some of the games best.
 
Aside from world No. 1 Tiger Woods, there are six full-time PGA Tour members ranked in the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
Those six players ' Phil Mickelson (No. 2), Ernie Els (3), Vijay Singh (6), David Duval (7), Davis Love III (8) and Hal Sutton (10) ' have combined for all of two tour victories this season.
 
Love won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, shooting 64 in the final round to earn a come-from-behind victory. And Mickelson defended his title at the Buick Invitational, doing so in a bizarre playoff.
 
Its not to say that the aforementioned have played poorly in 2001. In fact, its just the opposite.
 
The six players have combined for 19 top-five finishes.
 
Still, while Steve Stricker, Garrett Willis, Joe Durant, Scott McCarron and Jose Coceres have all found the winners circle this year; Els, Singh, Duval and Sutton have not.
 
All have had excellent chances to cash at least one first-place check.
 
Els finished in the top-4 in each of his first three starts this season.
 
After winning at Pebble, Love lost to Mickelson in the Buick playoff. In his next start, the Nissan Open, Love led by three shots entering the final round, only to shoot a Sunday 75 and finish in a tie for 8th.
 
The week before winning the Buick, Mickelson double bogeyed the 72nd hole at Pebble to finish in a tie for third. He then finished a shot back of Woods at the Bay Hill Invitational.
 
At the BellSouth Classic, the left-hander was within two shots of the 54-hole lead, but fired a final-round 75 to tie for third.
 
And at the Masters Tournament, Mickelson was on pace to win his first major for the better part of Sunday. But too many loose shots resulted in another third-place finish.
 
Duval and Sutton have both been hampered by injuries this year. Suttons bad back kept him out of contention early in the season. Hes since found his form, earning a pair of top-5s over his last four starts.
 
In the Genuity Classic at Doral, Sutton was just one shot off the 54-hole lead, but shot 72 in the final round to tie for third.
 
Duval missed over a months worth of action due to tendonitis in his right wrist. When he emerged at Augusta, Duval found himself in great shape to garner his first major title, but an errant 7-iron plus a missed five-footer equaled a runner-up finish.
 
Then theres Singh.
 
Despite finishing fourth or better in six of his ten starts this year, the Fijian has yet to record a win.
 
Three times ' the Mercedes Championships, Pebble Beach and The Players Championship ' Singh was within two strokes of the lead entering the final round. On each occasion, he failed to due what was necessary to win.
 
Last week, at the WorldCom Classic, Singh led by two shots after 54 holes. Yet he shot 74 on Sunday to tie for third.
 
Once again, opportunity arises for Singh, Sutton and Duval. The three men are the only players ranked inside the top 10 scheduled to compete in this weeks Shell Houston Open at the TPC at The Woodlands.
 
Duval won this event in 1998; Sutton is a two-time runner-up (1994, 99). Singh has three top-10 finishes in five career starts.
 
With their track records at The Woodlands ' combined with their consistent play this season ' it shouldnt come as a surprise if any, or all three, contend for the title this week.
 
Whether or not one of them can break through and win is a question which will take a full 72 holes to answer.