April 7, 2011 in Sports

British golfers bring strong contingent to Masters

Daniel Shirley McClatchy
 

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The British invasion is in full force this week at Augusta National Golf Club.

Four British players – England’s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy – are ranked in the top 10 in the world. And all four should be in the hunt this week at the Masters.

Westwood is ranked second in the world while Donald is fourth. McDowell is fifth, and McIlroy is ninth.

McDowell is coming off a year that saw him win the U.S. Open and earn the clinching point in Europe’s victory in the Ryder Cup.

“Probably that I’m good enough,” McDowell said of what last year’s strong showing taught him. “I’ve never been blessed with a talent of a Rory McIlroy or a Tiger Woods or a Sergio Garcia or somebody like that. I’ve always had to work hard at my game.

“Things always came a little more difficult for me than other guys. I guess 2010 proved to me that I’m good enough.”

The British players are certainly showing to be good enough.

Westwood is making his 12th Masters appearance, and he finished second last year. He took over the No. 1 spot in the world last year after a strong season on the PGA Tour and the European Tour but was passed by Martin Kaymer earlier this year.

Westwood entered 11 PGA Tour events last year, finished in the top 10 in six of them and won the St. Jude Classic. In 14 European Tour events, he had seven top-10 finishes.

But it was his tie for second at the Masters that garnered the most attention.

Westwood was tied for the lead after the second round and had the lead by himself after the third round. But he shot a 71 in the final round to finish three shots behind Phil Mickelson.

“I got rid of all the memories (of last year) a week ago last Sunday,” Westwood said of getting in some early practice at the course for this year’s tournament. “That’s why I came here. (Monday) was just purely about looking at the golf course and getting used to the speed of the greens a little bit and chip shots and bunker shots around the greens.

“(The early practice) was good. I played well, so you get good memories from that.”

Donald is playing in his seventh Masters, and his best finish was a tie for third in his debut in 2005. McIlroy is making his third Masters appearance, and he finished 20th once and missed the cut last year.

McDowell is playing in his fourth Masters, and his best finish was a tie for 17th in 2009. But he certainly has plenty of momentum from last year.

“My fourth Masters appearance, and it’s my first time in the press center,” McDowell said with a laugh. “It’s always a nice place to be. Ninety-nine times out of a 100, if you’re in the press center, you’ve done something good. It’s nice to be in here, and I hope to be back in here this weekend.”

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