Masters blog: Who will be No. 1 in the world?

Tiger Woods speaks to the media during a press conference prior to the 2011 Masters.

Editor's note: We will be keeping a running blog moving to take you through each day of the Masters, and we will time stamp each item so that you know when we posted it. Check back often, as we will bring you updates in real time on the stories surrounding the day.

Editor's note, Part II: For a complete rundown of all of our Masters coverage, by the day, click here to find the story you want to read!

6 p.m.: Some quick hits with Phil Mickelson

AUGUSTA, Ga.–In an effort to win his fourth Masters, Phil Mickelson has focused on his bag and back.

Regarding the latter, Mickelson said Tuesday that he has worked with a back specialist to ensure maximum speed through the ball.

“This week is the week where I swing my absolute hardest,” the lefthander said. “I believe it’s a big advantage if you can move it out there.”

Mickelson is hoping history from 2006 repeats. He won the week before claiming the second of his three green jackets. On Sunday, he won in Houston.

What’s more, he carried two drivers in his bag at that Masters. And he’s doing it again this week. He said he doesn’t need a 3-iron or hybrid but wants a second driver for added length so he can carry bunkers on Nos. 1, 2 and 8. The second driver, he said, has a shaft that is an inch longer and enables him to carry the ball about 15 yards farther.

“This reminds me of 2006 when I put it together and carried the momentum through,” Mickelson said.

He had been off form until winning Sunday. Asked what clicked, he said, “I was able to see shots better and hold the picture in my mind throughout the swing.”

Something seems to click every time he comes to the Masters. As he said, “Driving down Magnolia Lane gets me rejuvenated for the game of golf. All these feelings come back and it reinvigorates my passion for the game.”

Mickelson touched on numerous other topics, working the interview room like a playful politician.

•On Augusta’s first cut of short rough: “It helps players, in my opinion, because it keeps balls from running into trees.”

•On his Champions Dinner menu featuring Spanish cuisine (Ensalada Verde con Vinagreta de Gazpacho foer starters and Empanada de Manzana for dessert) in honor of Seve Ballesteros, recovering from brain surgeries: “I wanted to let him know we were thinking of him.”

•On going off as defending champion in the penultimate tee time, 1:48 p.m., on Thursday: “I’d like the latest tee time available because at 5 o’clock the wind calms down. I’d like nothing more than have the last tee time every day.”

•On whether he has tried replicating his famous 2010 thread-the-needle shot on 13 in practice: “I didn’t see the point. I’ve already done that.”

•On whether he has improved his vertical leap since winning his first Masters in 2004, when he jumped a couple of inches after holing the winning putt: “The camera did not get me at the apex. I want to stress that.”

- Jeff Rude

4 p.m.: Oosthuizen aiming at back-to-back Par 3 titles

Undeterred by keeping in tact a lengthy hex here at Augusta National, Louis Oosthuizen insists he’d love to do what he did in 2010 – win the Par 3 Contest.

photo

Charl Schwartzel (L) and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa walk to a green during a practice round prior to the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.

But no one in the 51-year-old history of the Par 3 Contest has won that and the Masters in the same year? Oosthuizen smiled.

“I don’t like to believe in things like that,” he said.

Then he thought for a moment, and added, “but it happens all the time. I’m definitely playing again. My little girl is going to walk with me, so I’ll probably try and get her to kick the ball of something so that my score won’t count.”

Proving that he’s tough to scare off, the reigning British Open champ said he recently went quail hunting with Nick Price and Charl Schwartzel in the West Palm Beach area, this despite being injured in a hunting trip back in South Africa late in 2010.

“But I’m very careful now when I do anything like that,” Oosthuizen said.

- Jim McCabe

•••

2:00 p.m.: Tiger, others vie for No. 1 ranking

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tiger Woods can regain the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking if he wins this week’s Masters. He’s not the only one, though. Five players enter this week with a chance to overtake Martin Kaymer, based on projections from OWGR staff.

Woods, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald must win to have any chance of becoming No. 1; Woods and McDowell are paired together for the first two rounds. Kaymer declared Donald as his favorite to win this week.

Phil Mickelson, who’s never held the No. 1 ranking, could become No. 1 with either a win or a second-place finish. Lee Westwood can finish as low as fourth and still regain the top spot.

These projections are preliminary, and could change with any field changes. A player’s movement in the ranking is also dependent on other players’ performance.

Mickelson’s victory last week moved him to No. 3 in the world. He’s now ranked higher than Woods for the first time since the week preceding the 1997 Masters, which Woods won by 12 strokes.

– Sean Martin

•••

12:30 p.m.: A deeper look at the pairings

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Masters will get under way at 7:40 a.m. Thursday with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus hitting the ceremonial first tee shots. That pairing has combined to win 10 green jackets. Here's a look at some other groups to keep an eye on:

• 7:45 a.m.: Jonathan Byrd, Ross Fisher and Sean O'Hair lead things off in the tournament's first threesome.

• 8:40 a.m.: Butch Harmon disciples Nick Watney and Dustin Johnson, who dueled at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, are paired with former Harmon student Adam Scott.

• 8:51 a.m.: It's an all-international pairing of the resurgent Vijay Singh (the 2000 Masters winner), Northern Trust Open champion Aaron Baddeley and 2010 Players champion Tim Clark.

• 9:24 a.m.: This is your "young guns" pairing: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day.

• 10:19 a.m.: The top two players in the world – Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood – are paired with Matt Kuchar, who has six top-10s in eight starts this year.

• 10:30 a.m.: Hunter Mahan, who's finished in the top-10 in the past two Masters, is paired with two-time Masters runner-up Ernie Els and Francesco Molinari.

• 10:41 a.m.: Tiger Woods plays with Graeme McDowell, a rematch of last December’s Chevron World Challenge, where McDowell beat Woods with birdies on the 72nd hole and first hole of a playoff. Robert Allenby rounds out the threesome.

• 12:31 p.m.: 2012 Ryder Cup captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III are paired with U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Lion Kim. Both Love and Olazabal missed the cut last week at Houston. Olazabal, a two-time Masters champion, shot 77-83.

• 12:53 p.m.: Luke Donald, who World No. 1 Martin Kaymer declared as his favorite this week, plays with Steve Stricker and 1992 Masters champ Fred Couples. Stricker is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Houston Open. Couples, who made the cut at Houston, said after the tournament that his back is “shot.”

• 1:48 p.m.: Defending champion Phil Mickelson and U.S. Amateur winner Peter Uihlein tee with former U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.

• 1:59 p.m.: Long hitters Jhonattan Vegas, Gary Woodland and Alvaro Quiros are the field’s caboose, teeing off in the day’s final threesome. Vegas and Woodland, who've both won on the PGA Tour this year, are making their first Masters appearances.

- Sean Martin

•••

10:45 a.m.: Weather causes delay

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s a cold, breezy morning here at Augusta National, the type where players jam their hands deep in their pants pockets and focus their gaze on the ground so their hat brim can shield their face.

Augusta National didn’t open until 8:45 a.m. Tuesday – a delay of 45 minutes – to allow crews to clean up after Monday night’s severe storms. Workers were still using rakes and leaf blowers to clear debris from the fairway. Magnolia Lane suffered a casualty in the storm. One player agent saw one of the drive’s famed trees laying on Augusta National’s old driving range this morning.

The storm had little impact on the course, though.

Two 10-foot branches were down between the 14th and 15th fairways, and a couple of green trash bags lay on the ground. The green mesh on the grandstand left of the 17th green flapped in the wind as workers tried to secure it with yellow rope. Workers driving Toro trucks loaded with branches were driving through the grounds.

When Alex Cejka and Martin Kaymer walked down the 13th fairway at 9:30 a.m., they were two of just four players on the course. Cejka, wearing a beanie and rain suit, hit the green with his second shot, then pulled his jacket zipper up to his chin. The weather is expected to be ideal for most of this week, so many players opted to stay indoors during Tuesday morning’s chill.

Sergio Garcia, who hasn’t finished in the top 25 here since 2004, was the first player off of No. 1 this morning.

– Sean Martin

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