Masters begins Thursday at Augusta

April 7, 2004 at 2:48 PM

AUGUSTA, Ga., April 7 (UPI) -- The world's top golfers tee off in the Masters Thursday with Tiger Woods, as usual, leading the field.

Woods won the Masters in 1997, 2001 and 2002. This season, he is fifth on the money list with a victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, the 40th win of his career.

The world No. 1 player will be in the second to last group on the 7,290-yard Augusta National course, playing in a threesome with Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and amateur Casey Wittenberg, an Oklahoma State University student.

Defending champion Mike Weir, the world's fifth-ranked player, is among the other favorites. The Canadian left-hander won the Masters over Len Mattiace in a playoff last year. He won the Nissan Open this year.

Other top contenders include Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Davis Love III, Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson, all ranked in the world top 10.

Crowd favorite John Daly, who has a win this year, will be in a threesome with Singh and Harrington.

"I feel like I'm playing well enough that maybe I can contend this year," said Daly, whose best previous finish in the Masters was third place in 1993.

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