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Masters Golf Tourney Kicks Off Thursday

The first major golf tournament of the season, the Masters, tees off Thursday at Augusta National in Georgia.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, fellow-American Tiger Woods, South African Ernie Els and top-ranked Vijay Singh of Fiji lead the field of elite players in the 69th edition of the prestigious event.

Several tournaments have been drenched with rain this year, including the shortened BellSouth Classic in Duluth, Georgia that ended Monday with Mickelson taking an extra holes victory. The spring showers that make Augusta National Golf Club's flowers bloom so beautifully have come in downpours in recent years.

Rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. But tournament officials are hoping a dry weekend will display the lengthened course and difficult greens.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.