Europe's stars out to end 14-years of Augusta hurt

Story highlights

  • Europe aiming to end 14-year drought at The Masters
  • Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain was last European to win title
  • Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald leading the charge
  • Australia hoping for first ever winner at Augusta

They produced the "Miracle of Medinah" but Europe's golfers face an almighty challenge to amaze at Augusta.

Not since Jose Maria Olazabal triumphed for the second time 14 years ago has anyone from across the Atlantic managed to get their hands on that green jacket.

In fact, Europe's record in the tournament has been abject in recent years with Lee Westwood the only man to have secured a runner-up finish since the turn of the century.

When the late, great, Seve Ballesteros became the first European to win the tournament back in 1980, it paved the way for the likes of Olazabal, three-time champion Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and double winner Bernhard Langer to go on and dominate.

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Europe recorded eight wins between 1988 and 1999 and seven out of nine between Lyle's success and Faldo's third title in 1996.

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But with no success since 1999, the pressure is on Europe's stars to stand up and finally end the drought.

    "Does it surprise me? Nothing surprises me in golf anymore," former World No.1 Luke Donald told reporters.

    "I think since I've been a professional, I feel like the fields have gotten a lot stronger, a lot deeper. You're seeing anyone on a given week has a chance to win.

    "This game is a very mental game and it's almost those who are the least fragile players that have a chance."

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    England's Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter believes Europe's top players simply haven't been good enough while the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won five titles between them.

    "We just haven't performed very well. Simple," Poulter told reporters.

    "We haven't performed well enough and I think the guys are disappointed, to be honest.

    "One of the guys would have expected to have come through by now.

    "What's the reason for that? I don't know. Tiger (Woods) has taken a few, Phil (Mickelson) has taken a few. They are pretty good those two."

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    Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and England's Justin Rose are ranked two and three in the world, while Donald sits fourth on the ladder.

    But they will have to be at the peak of their powers to end Europe's bid for a famous green jacket with the likes of Woods and Mickelson the men to beat once again.

    One man who believes this is his best chance of winning at Augusta is Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter.

    The 37-year-old was a stand out star during Europe's incredible fightback, but he says recreating that kind of form in an individual event is incredibly difficult.

    "You've got two sets of fans (at the Ryder Cup) and here you've got fans that are wishing 92 players play well," he told reporters

    "It's very difficult to get that same atmosphere, recreate it. It just won't happen. But what will happen is on Sunday afternoon, when you're coming down the stretch, you will be feeling the same kind of emotions.

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    "The crowds might not be quite as loud, but they will be respectful of good golf shots and obviously the birdies that happen here on a Sunday.

    "So I think there will be some good vibes hopefully going through me with nine holes to play and hopefully I can pull upon those Ryder Cup moments to bring me through."

    While Europe has struggled, its troubles pales into insignificance compared to those of Australia.

    Greg Norman's meltdown in 1996 where he contrived to throw away a six-shot lead on the final day still hurts, while the ghosts of near misses in 1986 and 1987 still haunt Australian golf.

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    Adam Scott remains its best hope having finished second two years ago and the 32-year-old is desperate to break the jinx.

    "It's going to happen one day. We say it but it's up to one of us to make it happen," Scott told reporters.

    "I've certainly developed a real level of comfort with the golf course in the last three years, so I say that (an Australian will win the Masters) quietly confident that I believe I can make it happen one of these years."

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    Scott has demons of his own to exorcise after losing out in dramatic fashion at last year's British Open whee he ended his final round with four consecutive bogeys.

    But Scott is adamant he has learned from the experience and is ready to go for it at Augusta.

    He added: "When I got in position to win again, that's when it was gut-check time as a player, to not let it become a thing... that you struggle to close out a golf tournament.

    "I don't dwell on it at all. I just take the positives. It was great for me to play so well for so long. You need a little bit of winner's luck.

    "Everyone who wins a tournament has it, but it's not something you can make happen. I guess it just happens and when it's meant to be, it's meant to be.

    "That stuff, you can't control, but I think the golfing gods sort all that kind of stuff out."

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