The Masters: Can anyone from England win a green jacket?
Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood try to become England's first Masters winner since 1996.
This year is the 77th Masters and do you know how many Englishmen have been fitted for a green jacket?
It's not for lack of having quality golfers in the field, either. This year, six of the 92 golfers in the field are Englishmen; last year it was seven.
These aren't amateurs or veteran grinders riding lifelong exemptions either.
These are quality golfers who know how to win golf tournaments. And yet none has won at Augusta yet.
Rarely have these golfers even come close on a Sunday.
Westwood finished T3 in 2012 and second alone in 2010 and Luke Donald went T4 in 2011 and T3 in 2005. Other than that, no Englishman has ever seriously contended since Nick Faldo won his third (and final) Masters title in 1996.
The common narrative for this struggle is that English (and Irish) golfers grow up playing a lot of links golf and learn to hit low punch shots and work a lot of bump-and-run play, which doesn't work at Augusta. Such is the case with amateur Alan Dunbar, as Alistair Tait outlined here.
But that seems to be a fallacy with guys like Westwood and Donald. They aren't amateurs who are still grappling with their upbringing and struggling to hit the high draws Augusta demands from its champions.
They are seasoned professionals, aware of what's needed after years of coming to the Masters and continually falling short.
So what is it? What is keeping these world-class golfers from breaking through at Augusta National?
Well, for one thing, the four I mentioned above struggle on the weekends, specifically on Saturdays. Here's the average score for each on Saturday rounds at the Masters:
Westwood - 71.6
Donald - 72.6
Poulter - 72.5
Rose - 73.4
Of the four, only Westwood has shown up consistently on Saturday. Poulter and Westwood have been even worse on Sundays, both averaging scores of 73.3 for their careers.
So far these guys haven't displayed the ability to do it (the exception to this is in 2010 when Westwood shot 68-71 on the weekend and got edged out by Phil Mickelson's back-to-back 67s).
And I think much of the English drought stems from the fact that there were no great English golfing careers that truly overlapped. When Faldo handed the torch to England's future greats in the late 1990s, all these guys were in their early 20s, hardly an age at which you're suuposed to know how to win at Augusta.
But as they play the Masters into their primes, we should expect more.
Can an Englishman win it this year? Sure, I have Rose receiving the green jacket from Bubba Watson next weekend and I don't buy into the whole "so and so doesn't have it in him" thing.
But as years fly by without a major win (Masters, or otherwise) from Poulter, Rose, Donald, or Westwood, we have to start asking more questions.
Maybe one of them will have an emphatic answer next Sunday afternoon.
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