Golf: The Masters - Five to tweak Tiger's tail

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The Independent Online
FRED COUPLES

Led for the first three days in last year's Masters but the unflappable one took a dramatic double-bogey seven at the 13th, hitting one ball out of bounds and another into Rae's Creek, to lose out to Mark O'Meara. Helped by the most outrageous piece of luck when his ball stayed up on the bank in front of the 12th hole on the way to winning the 1992 Masters. In 14 Masters, has had eight top-10 finishes and has never been lower than 35th. Fourth in The Players' Championship two weeks ago.

ERNIE ELS

His eighth place finish on his debut in 1994 remains his best finish in the Masters. Considered a natural for Augusta with his length and his fine short game, the South African has lurked just outside the top-10 without threatening in the last three years. Known as the "Big Easy" after showing more patience than anyone else to win two US Opens, but can get rattled here. Beat Woods, Duval et al to win the Nissan Open in February but cooled in form since.

SHIGEKI MARUYAMA

Decided he wanted to be a professional at the age of 11 after he saw Tom Watson winning the 1981 Masters. He has been tipped to become the next top player from Japan by the great Jumbo Ozaki himself after winning three of the country's four majors in 1997. Starred at the Presidents Cup last year, gaining Most Valuable Player nomination from his International team-mates for his 5-0 record. Missed the cut on his only Masters appearance last year but has had three top-10s in five tournaments around the world this year, plus a quarter-final showing at the World Matchplay.

VIJAY SINGH

He has the length but must have his putting - which can vary from very good to particularly bad - to be at its best. His Masters record is nothing to write home about. Has missed the cut twice in five appearances with a best of 17th two years ago. But has all the capabilities and now the confidence of being a major champion after winning the USPGA Championship in Seattle last August. While all the attention is on Duval and Woods, The Fijian could become the world's hottest player by winning back-to- back majors.

LEE WESTWOOD

It is time to find out if the Worksop-based 25-year-old is ready to take over the European mantle at the Masters? On form he is the main contender. Only Duval has more wins over the last 18 months and after a slow start to the season finished sixth at the Players two weeks ago. Natural fade will help to land his approach shots softly on the treacherous greens. Has results of 24th and 44th in previous two Masters but now says he is ready to compete with the best.

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