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Europeans don't dominate Masters anymore

AUGUSTA, Ga. - There was a time when the Europeans almost owned the Masters. From 1988 to 1996, the boys from across the pond won seven of nine green jackets. The list of European winners since 1980 is a regular Hall of Fame: Seve Ballesteros (19...

AUGUSTA, Ga. - There was a time when the Europeans almost owned the Masters.

From 1988 to 1996, the boys from across the pond won seven of nine green jackets.

The list of European winners since 1980 is a regular Hall of Fame: Seve Ballesteros (1980, '83), Bernhard Langer ('85, '93), Sandy Lyle ('88), Nick Faldo ('89, '90, '96), Ian Woosnam ('91) and Jose Maria Olazabal ('94, '99).

And as we saw last fall in Ireland, Olazabal and a mostly younger crop of Europeans can still gang up on America at the Ryder Cup. They have dominated, winning five of the last six Cups.

But in recent years, when it comes to winning the Masters or any of the major championships, the Europeans are in the midst of a bone-dry drought, as in 0 for 29. The last European to win a major was Paul Lawrie at the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie.

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What gives?

There are as many answers - or excuses - as there are would-be European winners. But they all make it clear it is a statistic they wish would cease to exist, preferably at the end of the 71st Masters, which begins today.

"I guess we've had this question and this conversation a few times," Henrik Stenson, a Ryder Cup player and rising star from Sweden, said this week.

Yesterday, under the big oak tree behind the Augusta National clubhouse, England's Justin Rose mulled the question with the usual discomfort. Of course, he had no answer.

"We have a good bunch of players who are capable of getting on a run, like myself, Sergio (Garcia), Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Monty (Colin Montgomerie), Ian Poulter, (Padraig) Harrington. It won't take much for a European to win."

Ireland's Harrington, 35, is a veteran whose best finish in a major is fifth (five times). He believes that all it will take is for one European to "break through" to open the floodgates for the others. But he also believes he and his fellow Euros might need a little convincing that they can do it.

"Why do you think all us golfers need sports psychologists?" joked Harrington. "We need our egos massaged as much as anybody else. We need to be told we can do it, you can win, you're great."

The winless streak for the Europeans becomes all the more baffling in view of the world rankings.

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Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson rank Nos. 1, 2 and 4, respectively, but after that, Americans are few and far between in the top 25 - and the Europeans are well-represented.

The top-ranked European is Stenson, at No. 6, followed by Harrington (10th), Donald (11th), Garcia (12th), Casey (14th), David Howell (21st) and Montgomerie (23d)

Among the European media, there is no prevalent theory about the reason for the drought, except that these things tend to be cyclical.

The media also agree that with each passing major that a European fails to win, the pressure collectively builds on them.

One obvious factor in the drought is the way Woods has dominated golf for the last 10 years. Of the 29 majors in question, Woods alone has won 11. (His first was in 1997, at the Masters.)

So who is the likely candidate among the Europeans to get the job done?

The general consensus among players seems to be that it will be a veteran with a few near-misses rather than one of the younger, relatively untested players such as Stenson or Rose.

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