LONDON – It has been 17 years since Nick Faldo overtook a floundering Greg Norman to become the last Englishman to win the Masters but if the current world rankings count for anything, this year could mark the end of the drought.
There are four Englishmen, Justin Rose (3rd), Luke Donald (4th), Ian Poulter (12th) and Lee Westwood (13th), near the top of the rankings and one other, lower ranked but with recent major form. Only the United States has more players in the top 15.
None of the Englishmen has won a major yet but all have come close at Augusta National with three of the four finishing in the top eight at last year’s Masters. If recent form is any guide, Rose looms as a real contender for the coveted green jacket. The 32-year-old has not won a title in over a year but has been ultra-consistent this season.
He has recorded top-10 finishes in four of the six tournaments he has played this year, including a second placing behind Tiger Woods at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose has been making steady progress since announcing his arrival of the world stage as a teenage amateur at the 1998 British Open.
He finished fourth and turned professional the following day but endured a tough start to his career, missing the cut in his first 21 events.
But now, with 13 titles under his belt and top-five finishes at all four majors, he has proven himself able to handle the pressure and says his early shortcomings have helped him blossom.
“I think I was thrown into it a little bit too soon,” he told a news conference earlier this year.
“I think the expectations are what I really, really struggled with. But I put all my faith in hard work, though to be honest.”
Donald finished tied for fourth at the Masters two years ago when his star was really on the rise. He won the money lists on the PGA and European tours that season and went into last year’s Masters ranked number one in the world, but could manage only 32nd.
He has not won so far this year but finished tied for fourth at his most recent outing, last month’s Tampa Bay Championship. Westwood, at 39 the oldest of the four-pronged English attack, is also a former world number one who has had 14 top-10 finishes in the majors.
He finished outright second at the 2010 Masters and tied for third last year, while Poulter was seventh 12 months ago.
Poulter also teamed up with his countrymen for the Ryder Cup and played a starring role in Europe’s amazing last day comeback.