Driving for show

Phil Mickelson, who uses the Titleist 983 driver and Titleist Pro VIx ball, is No.3 in driving distance on the US Tour with 307 yards. Ernie Els, who uses the same combination, is on 319 yards. Tiger Woods, who has been

using a Nike driver and ball since

last September,

is No.27 in driving distance on 293 yards.

Going for dough

When Tiger Woods turned professional

in 1996 he signed

a five-year deal worth $40m with Nike.

A new

five-year agreement was reached in 2000, this time worth $100m.

Hotting up

The Titleist 983 driver is retailing in the US for around $400 and is expected to be available in the UK next month for about (pounds) 300 with a ''hot-faced'' version on line later in the year.

Bouncing down

Early signs are that driving distances in Europe are down this year by six yards and those in America are up by four yards, possibly because the measure of the trampoline effect of thin-faced drivers has been reduced on the European Tour, bringing it into line with America.

six to watch

2.05 Colin Montgomerie,

Scotland, world No.19

Love him or loathe him, you can't ignore him. The star of Europe's Ryder Cup team, using a new set of Hogan blade irons, has had a dismal start to the season with four out of five missed cuts and a first-round World Matchplay exit. He wears his heart on his sleeve and you can capture his mood by playing every shot with him.

3.11 Padraig Harrington,

Ireland, world No.8

Europe's highest ranked player was joint second in the Players Championship a fortnight ago and is clearly on form. He was the subject last year of some withering comments on his pace of play, such as Augusta National are quicker at changing their membership policies.

3.44 Tiger Woods, USA,

world No.1

All eyes are on his march towards an unprecedented third Masters title in a row, or, as the Americans call it, a three-peat. He reckons the secret to success At Augusta National is not so much distance as ensuring the fairways are hit, as spin cannot be controlled even in the first cut of rough.

4.50 Davis Love III, USA, world No.3

The winner of the Players Championship with a stunning final-round 63 has a new belief in himself. He also has a motive, having been runner-up at Augusta National twice. Betrays little emotion and a rare sighting will be even the flicker of a smile.

5.23 Arnold Palmer, USA, world No.1252

At 73, he is well past his

sell-by date but the receptions at each green will show he is much loved even if his scores reach the 90s.

Make sure you watch him today or tomorrow because he won't be playing on Saturday, unless there are weather delays. The same can also be said for fellow past champions Charles Coody, Tommy Aaron, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, and Ray Floyd.

6.18 Ernie Els, South Africa, world No.2

The Big Easy with the swing to die for has won four times this season and no longer fears Woods. Has been given a clean bill of health following a wrist injury sustained in a bizarre incident with a punchbag. A Sunday final grouping with Woods would be compulsive viewing.