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Golf: Scott grateful for dry finish.

Byline: By Phil Casey

Not many players will be able to relax on Augusta's 18th hole this week, but Adam Scott might just be one of them.

Scott won the Houston Open on Sunday despite finding water on the final hole, eerily mirroring the manner of his victory in the 2004 Players Championship.

The world No 3 will be one of the main contenders when the first major of 2007, the US Masters, begins on Thursday, and will be relieved no water hazards await him on the 18th at least.

"I've gotten away with it twice now," he said with a wry smile. "Maybe the third time I won't be so lucky."

The 26-year-old will certainly need luck on his side this week, especially given a record of just one top-ten finish in five appearances at Augusta.

That came on his debut in 2002 when he finished joint ninth, and Scott is certainly taking nothing for granted.

"I'm very pleased with the result in Houston," said Scott, who crumbled to a final-round 80 in the WGC-CA Championship just seven days before claiming his fifth PGA Tour title.

"I still think I've got some room for improvement in most areas of the game, but it was good for me to play in the heat of the battle again and just see what happened.

"It's been a couple of months since I've been in that position so just knowing how to control your nerves a little bit will be good for me.

"I still think I can do some work on my putting. Obviously this week putting is a key factor of getting around the golf course."

Last year Phil Mickelson also won the final event before the Masters on his way to claiming a second green jacket, although Scott acknowledges the circumstances were slightly different.

"I'm sure Phil felt confident going to Augusta last year, I think he romped it in Atlanta by 13 shots," Scott added.

"I feel great about my game but I'm certainly not predicting a win at Augusta."

Tiger Woods, of course, is the hot favourite to claim his fifth Masters title and 13th major, edging him closer to Jack Nicklaus' record tally of 18 majors. It would also be his third major victory in a row following victories in the Open and USPGA Championship in 2006.

The world No 1 missed his first cut in a major as a professional in the US Open last June, but that was his first event since the death of his father, Earl.

The 3 1-year-old rebounded with consummate displays at Birkdale and Medinah to once again distance himself from the chasing pack, and it is hard to see anyone else having the green jacket placed around their shoulders on Sunday evening.

Europe's challenge for a first major title since Paul Lawrie's Open win at Carnoustie in 1999 will be led by Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the world No 6 and winner of the Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year.

However, the Swedish star missed the cut last year on his Masters debut.

CAPTION(S):

Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the eighth hole in front of an expectant gallery as he practises for this year's Masters
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 3, 2007
Words:538
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