Justin Rose will attempt to end the 18-year barren spell for an English winner at the Masters as he heads the home challenge at Augusta tomorrow.
The Golf at Goodwood ambassador is the leading Englishman to emulate Sir Nick Faldo’s victory in 1996, although his Ryder Cup team-mate – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy – is considered the bookmakers’ favourite to land a first green jacket.
Although Rose missed the cut in his last outing on the PGA Tour – the Arnold Palmer Invitational – and has suffered with a shoulder injury recently, he has never failed to make the cut at Augusta and has finished in the top 40 in each of his eight previous visits.
His best showing was tied-fifth in 2007, but after his breakthrough major victory in the US Open at Merion last year, Rose has shown he can handle the pressure of the biggest golf tournaments in the world.
And he’s in quietly confident mood as he bids to succeed last year’s champion Adam Scott.
‘I think it’s a good golf course for me. I know my strategy, and I can see the tee shots,’ said Rose.
‘It’s more of a second-shot golf course – you really need to be on with your iron play, and over the last few years that’s probably been one of my biggest strengths.
‘My long-iron shots, in particular, have been strong, which really helps on the par fives especially.
‘I’ve putted reasonably well in the past at Augusta, too.
‘I like the feel of quick greens. I putt better on fast greens than I do on slow greens, because I slow my putting stroke down and I can also see the breaks better.
‘So all things being equal, I feel Augusta is a good fit for me – but it’s also a good fit for a lot of the guys.
‘It doesn’t give me a huge advantage over the field, because you look at the likes of Rory and Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson, and it also fits their profiles.
‘But at least I’m not going in there with any disadvantage.’
Rose also admits he is still among those who thrives in the unique environment of what many spectators and amateurs see as the golf season’s curtain-raiser and the signal to dust off the clubs from their winter hibernation.
He said: ‘Just playing at Augusta is an amazing experience.
‘It’s one of the few tournaments where you play practice rounds, even though you don’t really need to.
‘You already know the course and your strategy, but you can’t resist getting out there on that golf course.
‘It’s a magical place, and I can’t wait to get back there.’
With Tiger Woods out with injury, Scott has been tipped by some to become the first man to successfully defend the crown since Woods in 2002.
But Phil Mickelson, who has won three times at Augusta in the past, is among the favourites once again.
While Rose’s fellow Englishmen Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter will all be keen to break their major duck, this is perhaps the first year that their names have not been mentioned as potential winners – and perhaps that could work in their favour with less expectation on their shoulders.
n Darren Wright successfully came through his quest for EuroPro qualification last week.
After opening with a one-over-par 73 at Frilford Heath, the Rowlands Castle professional shot a fine second-round 68 to make it through to the final round and guarantee his playing privileges on the third tier of European golf.
Although he then struggled to a five-over-par 77 in his final round, Wright had already done enough to gain entry to all of the tournaments this season, having played on the German-based EPD Tour last term.
And it means he will start his campaign at The Matchroom Championship at The Belfry next week, with £10,000 up for grabs for the winner.