The hype over Tiger Woods is not that strong this year at the Masters, though there is no doubt who is driving the conversation. Those who have played...

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The hype over Tiger Woods is not that strong this year at the Masters, though there is no doubt who is driving the conversation.

Those who have played with him at Augusta National or hit balls next to him on the range talked about how he never missed a shot. His putting has been pure since he got that tip from Steve Stricker last month at Doral. And it shows in the scores.

Woods has won his last two tournaments, at Doral and Bay Hill, and neither was terribly close.

When the Masters begins Thursday, he is the odds-on favorite to end his five-year drought in the majors and win a green jacket for the first time since 2005.

Trouble is, Augusta National doesn’t play favorites.

“Obviously, Tiger is Tiger,” said Scott Piercy, who will play alongside Woods and Luke Donald in the opening two rounds. “He’s always going to be that target. He knows it, and that’s how he wants it. But there’s a lot of people getting closer. And the golfing gods, or whatever you want to call them, have a lot to do with winning. A bounce here, a bounce there. A lip in, a lip out.”

It has been 11 years since the No. 1 player in the world — Woods — won the Masters.

There is always the usual assortment of players who seem to contend every year for a green jacket. Phil Mickelson is a three-time Masters champion, his most recent in 2010 when he arrived at Augusta National without having come close to winning that year. Seattle native Fred Couples was tied for the 36-hole lead last year at age 52. Rory McIlroy has shown he can play the course, at least on the weekdays. Lee Westwood has been among the top three twice since 2010.

“The favorite is all media-driven, all public-driven,” 2007 winner Zach Johnson said. “There are no surprises out there. There’s probably 70 or 80 guys that you would not be surprised one bit if any of them won.”

Note

Ted Potter Jr. beat Mickelson and Matt Kuchar in a three-way, two-hole playoff to win the Par 3 Contest.