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With Campbell, Mahan and Furyk leading the way, leaderboard is red (and white and blue)

0409_hunter-mahan_600x399 AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Masters has always had an international flavor, including last year's winner, South African Trevor Immelman, but American players as a group haven't looked this good in a big event since, well, last year's Ryder Cup.The
guys leading the charge are the same ones who led the way for Team USA
at Valhalla: leader Chad Campbell at 7-under par, and Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan at 6-under par. It's not a coincidence, either, at least for Mahan, who readily credits last year's Ryder Cup for helping him develop the confidence to contend at the Masters."I feel like I
could step up on the tee at any tournament and feel like I should be
able to win; I don't see any reason why I can't step on the tee this
week and win," Mahan said. "And playing in the Ryder Cup and playing in
pressure packed situations like that with all of the fans, it's
a great learning experience and great confidence builder and
hopefully will play a big role on this weekend."Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brady Riggs has been watching Mahan since Mahan's college days at Oklahoma State and said the 26-year-old is ready to win now, especially at Augusta National, which sets up well for him."Augusta
National is a second-shot golf course, and Hunter is a terrific iron
player," Riggs said. "He's got
great control of his irons, and he can hit his approaches to the correct
side of the green. Chad Campbell's a great iron player too, and of
course Furyk is too. That's what it takes here."The American domination of
Augusta is likely a fluke on what was a wild day at the Masters,
Riggs said, since international players hold eight of the top 10 spots
on the Official World Golf Rankings. (Woods and Mickelson, at No. 1 and 2, are the only Americans.) "Still, it was nice to see," Riggs said. "The top three were Americans, and four of the top five."But it's the American player tied for 20th at 2-under par who's the one to watch."That
was classic first-round Tiger," Riggs said of Woods' steady opening
round. "At Augusta, guys are trying to shoot a number and get in
position for the back nine on Sunday. Tiger will do that Friday and Saturday, and if he's there Sunday it's his tournament."Photo: Hunter Mahan, by John Biever/SI

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by Kevin Cunningham