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European Victory Drought At Masters Could End On Sunday
Europe has better golfers right now than America does, at least if you go by recent Ryder Cup results. Yet for whatever reason, Europeans struggle at the marquee tournament on the PGA Tour. the Masters. This year's event begins Thursday at Augusta National and it sure seems like Europe's drought has a good chance of ending.
16 Long Years
The last time a European triumphed at the Masters was shortly after Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the current No. 1 player in the world, won his first tournament in the United States. In December 1998, a 9-year-old McIlroy won his age division at the Doral-Publix Junior Golf Classic in Florida. Four months later, José María Olazábal of Spain prevailed by two strokes over Davis Love III at Augusta National Golf Club.
That emotional victory 16 years ago proved to be the last chapter in two decades of European supremacy at Augusta. Fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros set the ball rolling with his breakthrough win in 1980 and over the course of 20 years, victory went to European golfers 11 times
Olazábal’s Masters victory, his second, was the eighth by a European in 12 years. In the more than 15 years since, European players have won 13 majors — but no green jackets. Twice since 1999, European golfers have failed to place in the top 10. Only once since 1999 has a European come within two strokes of victory. Nine times, the low European has been at least five strokes back.
“It is an obscene stat, really, when you think about it,” said Graeme McDowell, McIlroy’s countryman.
McDowell’s performance at Augusta National is representative of the Europeans’ woes. He has failed to advance to the weekend in three of the four Masters contested since he won the 2010 US Open. McIlroy believes that there is no one factor preventing a European player from winning the year’s first major. Asked to account for the winless streak, McIlroy replied: “Tiger Woods has been one of the reasons.
“I don’t know if it’s anything necessarily to do with European players. You know, I feel a few of us had a chance, Lee had a chance in ‘10, I think. I had the chance in ‘11. Luke Donald was up there ‘11, ‘12. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s any reason. ... You look at in the early ‘90s you had a lot of Europeans win; Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam.
“Maybe that will change and it will start to happen again. I don’t see any reason that I can think of, of why that is.”
Advantage For Southpaws?
Ian Poulter has another reason: “Left-handers have won six of the last 12 Masters,” Poulter said. “And, to my mind, they have an advantage at Augusta, particularly the big-hitting lefties like Bubba [Watson] and Phil [Mickelson]. I can’t think of any high-profile big-hitting left-handers who are European; so there you go.”
Some point to the lower-spinning, three-piece hard ball which came into circulation 13 years ago. It is more difficult to put spin on a draw than a fade, thus the advantage has increased and thus Mickelson and Watson have won five of the past 11.
McIlroy is the 8/2 favorite at Bovada, followed by Americans Jordan Spieth (8/1) and Watson.
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