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Friday, 19 March 2010
The final Masters Tournament of the 20th Century takes place among the awesome beauty of the azaleas, dogwood and magnolias of Augusta National this week, and for European golfers it represents another opportunity to continue a trend set by Seve Ballesteros two decades ago.

Ballesteros it was who inspired a future generation of golfers from this side of the Atlantic when he became the first European winner of the coveted Green Jacket at the age of 23 years and four days in 1980.

Since then, the arrival of Spring has become synonymous with European glory as the golfing world traditionally turns its attention to the Masters Tournament over the creative masterpiece of Augusta National co-founder, Bobby Jones, and Dr Alister Mackenzie.

With two victories, in 1980 and 1983, Ballesteros instilled the belief in other European players that it was possible to win on American soil - and Augusta National has been a happy hunting ground for Europe’s finest with ten victories in 19 years.

Bernhard Langer triumphed at Augusta’s green acres in 1985 and again eight years later. Sandy Lyle, with that memorable bunker shot at the 72nd hole, enjoyed the honour of becoming the first British champion in 1988. He was followed by Nick Faldo, who went on to win back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 before adding a third Green Jacket in 1996. He is currently the all-time money leader at Augusta with $1,004,936 to his name from 15 Masters Tournaments.

Ian Woosnam and José Maria Olazábal, mastered Augusta in 1991 and 1994 respectively. This week, Denmark’s Thomas Björn and Swede Patrik Sjöland will experience what Faldo still refers to as the "sheer beauty" of Augusta National for the first time.

Can they, or for that matter, Colin Montgomerie or Darren Clarke - top Europeans last year in tied eighth place - or 1998 European Tour Golfer of the Year Lee Westwood, follow in the footsteps of their illustrious predecessors? Or can the established brigade recapture past glories at Augusta?

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