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Tuesday, 08 April 2014
Joost Luiten  (Getty Images)
Joost Luiten (Getty Images)

If winning the Masters Tournament is tough enough, doing so on your very first visit to Augusta National is an exceptionally rare feat.

To put it in context, only three players in the 78-year history of the tournament have walked away with a Green Jacket on their maiden outing – and one of them was Horton Smith, who won the inaugural event in 1934 when nobody had played the Masters before.

The other two were American Gene Sarazen, who in 1935 made an albatross on the 15th hole en route to victory; and his compatriot Fuzzy Zoeller, who in 1979 took advantage of a late collapse by Ed Sneed to force a play-off with Sneed and Tom Watson, which he duly won.

Tiger Woods won the Masters – by a record 12 shots – on his first appearance as a professional in 1997; but it was his third attempt overall, while Jack Nicklaus won his first Green Jacket on his fourth visit to Augusta, and Arnold Palmer on his fifth.        

Thus, the weight of history is very much against the European Tour rookies of Jonas Blixt, Brendon de Jonge, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher and Joost Luiten, but the quality quintet will feel they have nothing to lose – or indeed to fear – when they make their debuts this week.

Luiten is the first Dutch professional to compete in the Masters for half a century, as he follows in the footsteps of Gerry de Wit, who made three successive appearances from 1962-1964.

Fellow Dutchmen Rolf Muntz and Reinier Saxton both secured invitations to play in the tournament courtesy of their victories in the Amateur Championship, but their respective appearances in 1991 and 2009 pre-dated their switch to the professional ranks.

Luiten made the cut on both his Open Championship and US PGA Championship debuts and, whilst making the weekend is again his primary aim on his Masters bow, the three-time European Tour champion and Ryder Cup hopeful is confident of achieving loftier ambitions.  

He said: “I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time, then you get here and it’s even better than you’d imagined. Everything’s just perfect – it’s difficult to think of a way that this place could be improved. I came here a few weeks ago to play a practice round, and that was great, but to come here and play it for real is something special.

“Your first Masters is something you’ll never forget, so this is a very proud moment in my career. Obviously the first goal is just to make the weekend, then we’ll take it from there. If I can finish in the top 20, I’ll be very happy. I do feel like my game is good enough.” 

Whilst Luiten may be a relatively new face to American golfing fans, Dubuisson is already something of a fans’ favourite in this part of the world after his exploits in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier in the season.

Despite losing in the final to Australian Jason Day, the mercurial Frenchman displayed the sort of finesse around the greens which should stand him in good stead around Bobby Jones’ quixotic masterpiece this week.

The coolest of customers, Dubuisson – who is already assured a Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles in September – will doubtless take the occasion in his Gallic stride.

He said: “I don’t really feel any pressure about playing there – I’m more excited. There are a few holes that I’m really looking toward to play, like the 12th and the 16th – those very famous holes.

“I think one day I can win a Major. But in the big tournaments, you don’t only need to have the game, you also need to be good mentally – and I think that’s maybe more important than the game. So that’s what I will try to work on this week.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1LANGER, BernhardGER-
T1BAE, Sang-moonKOR -
T1BOWDITCH, StevenAUS -
T1BRADLEY, KeeganUSA -
T1CASTRO, RobertoUSA -
T1CHOI, K JKOR -

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