The Masters - Player likes Mickelson, McIlroy for Augusta
Golfing great Gary Player regards holder Phil Mickelson as the favourite for this week's US Masters but he also has "a feeling" Ireland's Rory McIlroy will flourish in the season's opening Major.
American left-hander Mickelson shortened his odds on winning a fifth Major title with a three-shot victory at the Houston Open on Sunday while McIlroy is viewed by many as a future world number one.
"Phil Mickelson winning yesterday is a very significant thing," Player, 75, told Reuters at a sun-splashed Augusta National. "It's given him coming in here a big psychological lift.
"He's got to be saying: 'I'm going to win.' It's a feeling you get and it's a positive feeling that you have and either you have it or you don't. It's not something you can say you manufacture. It's a gift.
"Without a question Phil is the favourite right now."
However South African Player singled out the 21-year-old McIlroy as his pick for success this week.
"Rory McIlroy is so talented," said the nine-times Major champion. "I've got a feeling about him. I don't know why.
"He is ready to come through. I just love the way he plays golf. However we don't know how he will rise to the occasion if he comes down the line (on Sunday) and he's leading.
"You never know who has got what I call the ingredients.
The swing is not the thing. It's what's inside that makes you win. You don't know if you have it until you are tested."
McIlroy is yet to win a Major title but the world number nine is one of the most exciting players in the game with his high ball flight and ability to shoot very low numbers.
The mop-haired Irishman catapulted into the limelight with a stunning maiden US PGA Tour victory at last year's Quail Hollow Championship, where he won by four strokes after firing a course record 10-under-par 62 in the final round.
Player, who was one of golf's so-called 'Big Three' with fellow greats Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer in the 1960s, was less certain about Tiger Woods's prospects this week.
The American former world number one, who has lifted the prized green jacket on four occasions at Augusta National, has slipped to seventh in the rankings and has not triumphed anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters.
"I am surprised he has not won since then but his swing has been out of kilter," Player said of 14-times Major champion Woods, who began working on the fourth swing change of his career last August after the break-up of his marriage.
"He's been to quite a few different (swing) coaches and I think that's the thing you've got to be careful, that you don't get paralysis by analysis. Change is okay as long as you're making the right change.
"Particularly over the last year, I have noticed quite a few flaws in his swing, in my opinion. But golf is like genetics. You know a hang of a lot about nothing."
Player, a three-times Masters champion, felt Woods was still capable of enhancing his reputation as the greatest scorer of all time.
"Of all the super stars that I have seen, Tiger Woods was on his way to being the best scorer that ever lived," he said.
"The best player that ever lived was Ben Hogan. But that's not what they pay you for. They pay you for a score.
"Golf is a humbling game and you don't know if it (form) will come back. But I've always said if anybody was going to break (Jack) Nicklaus's record (of 18 Majors) it would be Tiger.
"It's food for thought now. Will he do it? The man is very focused and he has a passion, but you don't know what happening inside. You can give an opinion but none of us really know."
The 75th Masters starts on Thursday.