The Best European Hopes at The Masters
Until the year of 1980, there were only two nations that were represented as Masters winners: America and South Africa.
The arrival of Seve Ballesteros ensured that the trophy would be heading back to Europe for the first time, before a bombardment of European victors followed.
Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia have since emulated the great Ballesteros’ achievement.
However, since back-to-back triumphs by Europeans in 2016 and '17, there have been no winners representing the continent of Europe.
We’ve selected five golfers who have every chance of bringing the green jacket back to Europe with them this year.
Despite Scottie Scheffler snatching the summit of the world ranking from him, Jon Rahm continues to be the bookies’ favourite for this year’s Masters. When he’s flowing with confidence and seemingly not missing a 300-yard target, it’s very easy to understand just how good the Spaniard is - and how important he will be for Europe during future Ryder Cups.
He travels to Augusta off of a run of T21st-T17th-T55th-T9th and he has only missed one cut all season. He may be winless to date but he came ever so close at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, finishing runner-up to Cameron Smith by just one-stroke. With the U.S. Open behind him, can we see Rahm push on and secure multiple majors this year?
Rory McIlroy and Augusta National have a love/hate relationship. The Northern Irishman must relish the opportunity to play the iconic and historic course, but he’ll start to enjoy its marvelousness further once he finally earns a green jacket of his own. He needs this one for the grand slam but he’s never finished in the top three before, although that could possibly change this week.
A victory earlier in the season took him to 20 PGA Tour titles but there is a clear hunger for more - especially major championships. Having held four in 2014, it seems remarkable that he is stuck on the same number eight years later. Still, only aged 32, there will be so many more chances for McIlroy. The moment he can secure his next major, however, the relentless pressure will begin to ease.
The first two Europeans have majors to their name and thus, can recall on that experience if they find themselves in contention come Sunday afternoon. For Tyrrell Hatton, he won’t be able to lean on previous experiences, although he’s certainly got the talent to win one. He too is without a win this season, but a T2nd finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, when he wasn’t in contention at all, shows just how strong he can finish events.
Generally, Hatton has enjoyed a positive season with only one missed cut and three top 10s in eight starts. He has an excellent major record, finishing in the top 10 of every single one except… The Masters. He did, however, enjoy his best finish during 2021 (T18th) and will be desperate to build upon it. Another player who will undoubtedly win a major sometime during their career, why can’t it take place this weekend?
For Hatton, it feels like he’ll eventually have enough to win at least one major championship. How many times did golf fans say the same for Paul Casey during his younger years? Both Casey and Lee Westwood are fine examples of nothing being certain in golf. For the age of 44, Casey is looking and playing some fantastic golf, but as each major passes, he’ll understand that his chances are running out rapidly.
He'll take solace in Phil Mickelson’s triumph at the PGA Championship; enabling further belief as he gently approaches his 50s. It’s extraordinary that he hasn’t managed to secure a major, considering he has finished in the top 10 of every single one. Casey, who has recorded five top 10s at Augusta, will firmly believe that this is his time.
It’s impossible to not include a behemoth like Sergio Garcia in this list, the seemingly mascot and saviour of European golf. Whilst his presence is undeniable for the Ryder Cup team, he’s also represented the continent well in singular achievements. When the Spaniard retires, the sport of golf will sorely miss him, as he has racked up 23 top 10 finishes in major championships. Astonishingly, this includes a run of six top 10s in seven consecutive Open Championships!
Considering his prestige, and the fact he has earned 36 career victories, it is a shame that he has never been able to capture more than one major to date. Above all, that speaks volumes about the strength of competition around him and we must remember, these elite golfers only get four opportunities a year and one bad hole effectively removes them from contention. Can we see Garcia secure his second green jacket in a blaze of Augusta glory?
Since the 1980s, Europeans have flown the continent’s flag with pride as they continue to triumph at this magical place.
Since the latest European to prevail - Garcia - there have been three American winners and one Japanese victor.
We think it’s just about the right time to crown another European champion - and there are so many who are capable of that feat.
Do you think a European will win this year’s Masters?
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