AUGUSTA, Ga. — There was a time not long ago when Britain's golfers ruled Augusta National like no other country. Now, the latest group of talented Brits is determined to end the empire's 17-year drought at the Masters.
England's Justin Rose ranks third in the world and countryman Luke Donald is No. 4. Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood give Britain four of the world's top 13 players, second only to the United States' six. And none of the British stars has broken through at the majors — something they hope to change when the Masters starts Thursday.
All four have excelled in Europe's Ryder Cup triumphs and all four have contended on Augusta National. So doesn't it seem surprising none have yet to slip on the green jacket?
"Yes, simple answer," Poulter said Tuesday.
British golfers were unstoppable for a stretch, winning five Masters between 1988 and 1996. Then the winning stopped.
"Nothing surprises me in golf anymore," said Donald, the former No. 1.
Donald has come close here twice before, tying for third behind Tiger Woods in 2005 then finishing fourth six years later when champion Charl Schwartzel ended his round with four straight birdies.
Donald believes fields have become stronger, meaning more golfers have the chance to rise up on a given week.
Poulter, a Ryder Cup star at Medinah in September, has had two top 10 finishes here, including a seventh behind champion Bubba Watson last April. He believes they simply haven't been good enough on this given week.
"I think the guys are disappointed, to be honest, that one of the guys would have expected to have come through by now," he said. "What's the reason for that? Don't know."
STILL WAITING: IBM will sponsor Augusta National Golf Club's Masters tournament for the 12th straight year, even as CEO Ginni Rometty waits for a public invitation to join the formerly all-male organization.
Augusta National has historically invited IBM's CEOs to join its ranks. Under pressure to change its rules, the club invited two women to join after the last tournament was held. Rometty, 55, wasn't among them.
Rometty will probably receive an invite eventually, said Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer for Landor Associates, a global branding and design firm. Still, the 80-year-old club may not be in a hurry.
"You can't say it's an equal-rights issue anymore because they admitted a couple women," Roth said. "Now it's Augusta playing by its own arcane rules, as always, and they have nothing to gain by playing into the controversy."
PAIRINGS: Tiger Woods will play the first two rounds with Luke Donald and Scott Piercy, teeing off at 10:45 a.m. Thursday. Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson are at the back end of the draw for the opening round, Mickelson teeing off at 1:30 p.m. with Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer and McIlroy in the group right behind him with Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson of Sweden.