AUGUSTA, Ga. -- One after another, some of the worlds best players and favourites to win the Masters trudged up the hill on the opening hole to start their practice rounds. Phil Mickelson. Rory McIlroy. Adam Scott. It was typical of any Tuesday at Augusta National, except for the scoreboard to the right of where they were walking. The board has the names of all 97 players in the field, with blank boxes to put their scores when the tournament begins. On the far right side of the board is a list of this years noncompeting invitees. Tommy Aaron. Doug Ford. Tiger Woods. "Its a weird feeling not having him here, isnt it?" said Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion and the chief foil for Woods over the years. "Hes been such a mainstay in professional golf and in the majors. Its awkward to not have him here. I hope he gets back soon. I hope hes back for the other majors. As much as I want to win -- and I know how great he is and tough to beat -- it makes it special when hes in the field and youre able to win." Woods hasnt been the same all year, even before back surgery last week. He is missing the Masters for the first time. His presence looms as large as some of the Georgia pines lining the fairways, though it will be forgotten when the opening shot is in the air Thursday, and a green jacket is awarded Sunday. Even so, Woods brings a buzz to any tournament, even at Augusta National. And this year, his absence has brought talk of the most wide-open Masters in nearly 20 years. Las Vegas has installed Scott and McIlroy as the betting favourites at 10-1, followed by Mickelson, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar at 12-1. McIlroy had his own version of a betting sheet on the table where he sat during his interview -- the tee times for the opening two rounds. Told that 97 players were in the field, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland figured 70 had a chance to win. "Theres a few past champions that play that might not be able to compete. There might be a few first-timers or a few amateurs that wont compete," McIlroy said. "But then youve got the rest. Im just looking down the list here. Stewart Cink. Tim Clark. Ian Woosnam -- no." The room filled with laughter as McIlroy smiled and said, "Sorry, Woosie," referring to the 56-year-old former champion. "Youve got a lot of guys that can win, a lot of guys that have won PGA Tour events," McIlroy said. "OK, were playing at Augusta. Because its the Masters and because its so big and so hyped up or whatever you want to say, you ought to remember that youre still playing against the same guys you play with week in and week out. "Ive beaten them before," he said. "Theyve beaten me before." The PGA Tour is 21 tournaments into the season, and only one player (Zach Johnson) won while he was in the top 10 in the world. McIlroy and Scott each had comfortable leads going into the final round and lost to players outside the top 100. "I think in the past, certainly thats been easy to go to events and look at a guy who is the guy to beat," Scott said, not naming Woods because he didnt need to. "I think that scope has kind of broadened now. Theres a lot of guys with the talent and the form that arent necessarily standing out above the others. But on their week, theyre going to be tough to beat. "Id like to think my name is one of those guys," Scott said. "And I feel like Im going to be one of the guys who has got a chance if I play well this week." Scott had one more occasion to wear his green jacket Tuesday night as host of the Champions Dinner. Then, he sets out in a bid to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Woods as the only players to win back-to-back Masters. For years, the Masters was seen as having the smallest group of contenders, and not just because it had the smallest field of the four majors. Augusta National is a puzzle that can take years to figure out. The roars that reverberate through the trees and from deep in Amen Corner on Sunday can be unsettling. Scott won two years after he was a runner-up. Jason Day has completed two Masters and has yet to finish worse than third. As for Mickelson? Theres no telling what he might accomplish next. Even though he has withdrawn from two tournaments with different injuries this year, Augusta invigorates the 43-year-old Mickelson. All of them would love to be near the top of the leaderboard Sunday afternoon. By then, no one will be thinking about anything except a green jacket. "No matter who is in contention or who is going to win this week, the Masters always provides a great finish," McIlroy said. "Regardless of who is there." Philipp Lahm Jersey
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. -- Former Penn State coach Joe Paterno was admitted to the hospital Friday for observation due to minor complications from cancer treatments, his family said.NASHVILLE -- General manager David Poile hopes he sent the strongest message possible by making the first coaching change in Nashvilles history: missing the playoffs is not acceptable for the Predators. Poile announced Monday that Barry Trotz, the NHLs longest tenured head coach with one team, would not be back for a 16th season after the Predators missed the post-season for a second straight year. A few hours later, Poile said at a news conference a few hours later that wont get it done. "This is a wakeup call for everybody in our organization," Poile said. "Its a wakeup call for me. Get out of your comfort zone. Its going to be different here. Theres going to be a new coach in charge. ... Its going to be a difference voice and its going to be a different direction. And hopefully ... the foundation Barrys presented here for the next coach will take us to a higher level." Trotzs contract expires June 30, and the Predators offered him a job in their hockey operations department. The two-time Jack Adams finalist made it clear in a very emotional news conference before Poile spoke that he appreciated the offer but wants to keep coaching. "I love Nashville, but now Im going to have to beat you," Trotz said with a smile. Poile refused to put a timetable on hiring a new coach or what type coach he wants. This will be his first search since hiring Trotz in August 1997 when the Predators were gearing up for the expansion franchises debut season in 1998-99. Trotz said he had not been contacted by any other teams when he spoke to reporters, but Poile said he will let the coach out of his contract instantly for another coaching job. Predators captain Shea Weber said the only NHL coach hes ever played for wont be out of a job long. "His resume speaks for itself," Weber said. Still, missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-02 and 2002-03 was too much for a franchise that needs to reach the post-season to sell tickets and generate crucial revenue. "We didnt win this year, we didnt win last year," Trotz said. "Theres no excuse. I expect us to be in the playoffs, the Nashville Predators expect us to be in the playoffs.dddddddddddd We didnt make it this year, so Im good with it." Trotz said losing goaltender Pekka Rinne, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, for 51 games to an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip "blew a hole" through the Predators this season. Poile said having a healthy Rinne or even two more shootout wins after going 2-9 would have gotten Nashville into the playoffs. Poile said that would have at least delayed this coaching change. But the general manager noted that hes been thinking about needed changes since the Predators missed what both he and Trotz thought was their best chance at a Stanley Cup in 2011-12. That team lost 4-1 to Phoenix in the Western Conference semifinals. Trotz coached 1,196 games with Nashville, second only to Greg Popovich of the NBAs San Antonio Spurs for longest active coaching tenure in the four major sports. He is the only NHL coach to take his team to the playoffs in seven of eight seasons between 2003-04 and 2011-12, which included two conference semifinals. He was 19-31 in the post-season. But the Predators have been in transition since losing defenceman Ryan Suter to Minnesota as a free agent in July 2012 and matching a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet to keep Weber. Poile said hes been rebuilding the Predators "on the fly" over the past year. He said upcoming changes will not include Weber, who will remain with the Predators. With the lockout shortening the season, the Predators posted their first losing record (16-23-9) since 2002-03. Nashville spent more than $36 million on five free agents last July. Goalie Carter Hutton did post 20 wins in Rinnes absence, but the rest of the spending spree didnt produce the offence they wanted. With Rinnes hip keeping him sidelined, they finished 10th in the West going 38-32-12 with 88 points. "In the end, its our fault he got fired," said forward Patric Hornqvist, "and obviously thats a huge responsibility for us and we have to be better next year." Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys
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