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Woods Favored Over Defending Champ Mickelson at Masters


World No. 1 golfer Tiger Woods is favored to dethrone fellow-American and defending champion Phil Mickelson when the Masters golf tournament gets underway at Augusta National in Georgia on Thursday.

The 31-year-old Woods came to international prominence 10 years ago when he won the Masters for the first time. The 12-stroke win still stands as a record and was the first of his 12 Grand Slam titles.

He won his second Masters title in 2001, completing what has become known as the "Tiger Slam," after he captured the U.S. Open, British Open and U.S. PGA Championship titles the preceding year. He won again in 2002 to become just the third player in Masters history to claim consecutive titles, then added his fourth Masters title in 2005.

However, 36-year-old left-hander Phil Mickelson won in 2004, undoing his reputation as "the best player never to have won a major." He is also the defending champion, after winning his second Masters green jacket in 2006.

Woods and Mickelson, who have won five of the last six Masters titles, will have lots of competition. Two-time runner-up Ernie Els of South Africa says he is back in form after reconstructive knee surgery two years ago, while world No. 2 Jim Furyk thinks the forecast for cool, dry weather could help his game.

Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer will be the honorary starter at the tournament this year.

Some infornation for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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