The "Great White Shark" appears ready to make his strike at this week's Masters golf tournament.

Australian Greg Norman agrees, considering how he's been playing of late, that he should be this year's Masters favorite after second-place finishes the two previous years."I feel strong and confident," he said Tuesday after a practice round with two-time Masters champ Seve Ballesteros of Spain, last week's Greensboro winner Sandy Lyle of Scotland and Masters newcomer Ian Woosnam of Wales.

"I have the confidence and ability to believe I'm going to win here some time. Why not this week?"

Norman, who finished second or better in three of the four major championships in 1986, appeared to have the '87 Masters won when playoff opponent Larry Mize left his approach shot 100 feet right of the green.

Unfortunately for Norman, Mize sank a sensational 150-foot chip shot and missing a 35-foot birdie putt left the Australian in second again.

"It would be different if I had screwed up that hole," Norman said. "Of course it affected me. You'd be telling a lie if it didn't. I thought I could win the tournament.

"It seems like a hell of an excuse to blame it on that one hole," he said. "The hard part is coming back now and everyone talking about it. But, it's a fact of life."

Norman appears primed for another Masters run. He's earned more than $90,000 in just three previous U.S. appearances this year placing third at Pebble Beach where he closed with a 66 and another $96,000 back home where he won three of the four events in which he participated.

"Being the favorite gets the crowd behind you," Norman said. "But I also create my own pressure. The more you feel you can do it, the more you push yourself. Why shouldn't I feel confident? I've played well every time I've played this year."

Mize, who says he's not playing as well as he was this time last year, feels Norman and Ballesteros, winner in 1980 and 1983 and fourth or better in six of the past eight Masters, should be co-favorites.

"You have to like the chances of Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros," Mize said. "This course is so suited for their games, they're the ones to beat."

The 52nd Masters begins Thursday. The 91 entrants get one last tuneup this morning with the Augusta National course then closed for a last-minute trimming.

The weather has been sunny and warm for the practice sessions, but the forecast calls for a "better than 30 percent" chance of thundershowers for Thursday's opening round.

Lyle, this year's leading money winner on the U.S. Tour with $408,000, predicted Tuesday that the Augusta National will play as tough this week as it did a year ago when the best 72-hole scores were the highest in 15 years.

"The greens are very firm," he said. "They're having to water them to keep them from turning brown. The fairways are in good shape, but the greens are really, really firm.

"I guess it would pretty good odds on this year's winner coming out of our (Tuesday) foursome," Lyle said. "Seve and Norman are both hitting the ball very well. All of us are hitting pretty decently."