Friday, 19 March 2010
A record 22 European Tour Members - plus Amateur champion Graeme Storm - have been invited to play in the 64th Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia this week.

First time invitations have been issued to four of the European Tour's stalwarts in recent seasons - Open champion Paul Lawrie, runner-up Jean Van de Velde - who was edged out by the Scot in the play-off at Carnoustie - Padraig Harrington and Angel Cabrera.

Sergio Garcia, who finished leading amateur last year, is invited for the first time as a professional while English Walker Cup player Storm now seeks to emulate the Spaniard by winning the Amateur title then completing all four rounds at Augusta,

José Maria Olazábal returns to that glorious beauty spot in Georgia seeking a hat-trick of Masters titles. He first triumphed in 1994 then returned from adversity twelve months ago to complete a stunning comeback from the serious illness which threatened his career.

Olazábal came home in 33 in the final round last year for a closing 71 and eight under par total of 280 which earned him a second Green Jacket by two strokes from Davis Love III and by three from Greg Norman.

His magnificent success among the azaleas, dogwood and magnolias of Augusta National further emphasised the ever-growing strength of the European Tour with Lee Westwood, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam all recording top 14 finishes.

Since the redoubtable Seve Ballesteros broke the mould in 1980, by becoming the first European winner of the Masters, Europeans have claimed the prestigious title a further ten times.

Olazábal's magnificent victory not only marked the end of the old millennium for the Masters Tournament, but also continued the fightback from illness to world-class competition for a player who was bed-ridden when the 1996 tournament was being contested.

He said after his 1999 victory: "I was so proud of myself. Little more than two years ago I had doubts not just on my golf career but my quality of life. Receiving the Green Jacket again was very emotional."

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