Simon Cowell Picks Taylor Hicks to Win American Idol

Taylor Hicks

Ray Mickshaw/Wireimage

05/16/2006 AT 7:00 AM ET

Simon Cowell has named his pick to win American Idol: Taylor Hicks.

On Monday’s night’s Tonight Show, Cowell told Jay Leno, “I would say (his chances are) pretty good, pretty good. I’m going to say he’s the favorite – but what do I know?”

For the final two, Cowell sees the graying 29-year-old from Birmingham, Ala., going up against Katharine McPhee. “Based on last week, absolutely she should have gone,” he said. “But you know, she’s got a fighting chance. I think she’ll make the final – and I’ll tell you why, because I’m choosing one of her songs this week.”

That would mean Paula Abdul’s favorite, Elliot Yamin, is the next to go. Last week, Abdul told Teen People, “I am going to be honest with you – I want Elliott to win.”

Still, Abdul praised the other contenders. “I’m really grateful that Taylor is still here, because I love him so much, and he really deserves to be up there,” she said. “And Katharine is so primed to be the next Kelly Clarkson.”

The winner will be named May 24.

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