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Europeans struggle at 2003 Masters

European golfers have been a dominant factor at the U.S. Masters over the last 20 years but the continent notably failed to shine at the 67th edition of the prestigious tournament at Augusta National.

Mike Weir became the first left-hander to win the first of the year's four majors when he edged out American journeyman Len Mattiace at the first extra hole on Sunday, but Europe managed to yield only two players in the top 20.

Twice winner Jose Maria Olazabal, acknowledged as an Augusta specialist, fired a final-round 73 to tie for eighth while Scotland's Paul Lawrie also closed with a 73 to share 15th place with, among others, world number one Tiger Woods.

Europe, after producing 11 Masters victories in the 20 years spanning the debut win by Seve Ballesteros in 1983 and Olazabal's last triumph in 1999, simply failed to come to the Augusta party.

Darren Clarke, after charging into the first-round lead with a superb 66, fell away into a tie for 28th following scores of 76, 78 and 74. The Northern Irishman had been one of only six Europeans to make the cut.

However Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, was delighted to play all four rounds at Augusta after missing the cut in his three previous Masters starts.

"There is no question it was more difficult (this year)," said the 34-year-old Scot. "Some of the pin positions were ridiculous and there are times when this course can make a fool of you.

"But it was a real experience for me to play the course on the weekend for the first time."

Much had been expected of Ireland's Padraig Harrington, the world number eight going into the Masters and a top-five finisher last year, but he missed the cut following rounds of 77 and 73.

Seven-times European number one Colin Montgomerie, whose best placing at Augusta was a tie for eighth in 1998, also failed to qualify for the weekend action, as did twice champion Bernhard Langer.

Three-times winner Nick Faldo was one of the six Europeans to play all four rounds but, despite his impressive track record, the 45-year-old Englishman struggled with the slick and undulating Augusta greens.

"I played well and, from tee to green, was very good," he said. "But it was a very hard on those greens, I really struggled to read them all week.

"These greens are getting tougher and there's no such thing as a straight putt out here.

Fellow Englishman Justin Rose, on his Masters debut, also battled with his putting at Augusta and slumped to a closing 77 after moving into contention on the Saturday with a spirited 71.

"The first three days I was really comfortable with my game but, when we restarted on Saturday morning, I missed a lot of short putts," said the 22-year-old.

"It was really frustrating because, when I did hit a good putt, I mis-read it, and when I mis-hit the putts, I felt pretty comfortable with the line.

"I just couldn't quite get the stupid thing in the hole."

But despite his problems on the greens over the weekend, Rose relished savoring the Augusta atmosphere for the first time.

"Just being here has been great, it's the X-factor of the place," he said. "It's Augusta, you look out across the course and it is just beautiful."

Sadly for Europe, though, the collective performances of their golfers at the 67th Masters could not match the renowned beauty of Augusta National.

 

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