English trio aim to join Faldo as Masters champions
London: The resurgence of Tiger Woods and rise of Rory McIlroy has many viewing the Masters as a battle between golf`s two highest-profile players, but three Englishmen believe they have what it takes to claim the winner`s green jacket.
Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have both held the world number one ranking without ever winning a major and are determined to finally put that right.
Justin Rose has never occupied the world`s top ranking but enters the April 5-8 tournament as a consistent challenger and one filled with confidence after clinching the biggest win of his career this month at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Six-times major winner Nick Faldo is the only Englishman to win at Augusta - the last of his three Masters victories coming in 1996 when he memorably overtook a floundering Greg Norman.
If there is to be an English winner this year then the quietly confident Donald appears to be the best bet.
World number one Donald, who became the first player to win the money list titles on both sides of the Atlantic last year, won his final tournament before Augusta with a victory in the Transitions Championship.
"Augusta is always the most exciting event partly because it`s the first major but especially this year, because a lot of exciting things are happening in golf; a lot of the big names are doing well," Donald said recently.
"All of the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. (Augusta) is a lot of what the off-season is geared towards. I certainly can`t wait to get there."
Westwood flirted with victory at the 2010 Masters and has come close to grabbing a major title on several occasions, finishing in the top three in six of the last 15 majors.
"It proves I`m capable of winning major championships. I just have to keep doing that and put myself in position. When I get the chance, take it the next time," he said.
"It makes me look forward to major championships a lot more than I used to and I feel like my game is better equipped to tackle major championship golf courses."
"(But) major championships are no different. Some of the tests are a little bit more severe, like Augusta`s greens will be faster than most greens we putt on all year but I feel like I`ve got a good enough game to cope with those things."
Rose`s victory in the elite event at Doral left him with no doubt that he is now ready for the step up in challenge.
"If you look at the tournaments I`ve won and now a World Golf Championship, the progression is really, really nice. The only thing that really is the next level up is a major," Rose said.
"But that`s not to say that I`m at that stage in my career where I am only focusing on the majors. I think there is a lot more for me to do in the game to get to that point. But no doubt, I feel my game is getting ready for that."
Rose`s best finish in a major was tied for fourth in the 1998 British Open while he finished fifth at the Masters in 2007 and fifth at the 2003 U.S. Open.