AUGUSTA, Ga. — During the 1980s and 1990s, Augusta National Golf Club was the personal playground of Europe’s star players.Players such as Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal dominated the action at the Masters and combined to win nine green jackets from 1980 to 1999.But Olazabal was the last European player to win the Masters in 1999.“There’s no real reason to it,” Ian Poulter said. “We just haven’t performed very well, simple. ... Tiger [Woods has] taken a few, Phil [Mickelson] has taken a few. They are pretty good, those two.”There will be 28 European players in the field this week, and many of those should be considered contenders for the championship.Rory McIlroy leads the charge with his two major titles, and he is ranked second in the world behind Woods. Justin Rose is ranked third, and he’s followed by Luke Donald in fourth.Poulter has made his name with dynamic performances in the Ryder Cup, but he has not won a major. He has never missed the cut in eight Masters appearances and had his best finish last year when he placed seventh.“I feel very good about my game right now,” he said. “I’ve hit the right shots in practice. ... I generally play [the Masters] pretty well. I’m kind of fired up to play well again this year and try and slip one of those jackets on come Sunday.”Rose has four PGA Tour wins, and his best Masters finish was fifth back in 2007. He finished 11th in 2011 and eighth last year.“I think my game sort of … there’s nothing I feel like I can’t do out there,” Rose said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”Donald has five PGA Tour wins, and his best Masters finish was third in 2005. He finished fourth in 2011.“I think it’s going to come down to seeing the ball go in, getting the putter rolling,” Donald said. And the European players seem to like their chances of ending the drought.“Does it surprise me? Yeah, nothing surprises me in golf anymore,” Donald said. “I think since I’ve been a professional, I feel like the fields have gotten a lot stronger, a lot deeper. You’re seeing anyone on a given week has a chance to win. ... But we certainly have as good a chance this year as any other.”
Today-Sunday, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
Yardage: 7,435 yards
Purse: $8 million
Winner’s share: $1,440,000
TV: ESPN and CBS (KTVT/11). Thursday and Friday rounds (ESPN, 2-6:30 p.m.). Saturday round (KTVT/11, 2-6 p.m.). Sunday round (KTVT/11, 1-6 p.m.).