AUGUSTA, Ga. -- It is one of the great anomalies of the Masters. Despite producing a host of good and great players over the years, no citizen of Australia has yet donned the famous green jacket.
"It comes up every year," sighs former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, who recorded three top-ten finishes in eight Masters appearances between 1985 and 1996 and is now a member of the CBS commentary team. "The Masters is probably the number one rated telecast down there and as soon as the invitations go out, the same old question comes up again: Can an Aussie win? I just wish I had a definitive answer. But there isn't one really."
This time round, none of the six Australians in the starting line-up (Michael Sim qualified but withdrew because of injury) showed many signs of ending the long drought. Only four made the cut, with Geoff Ogilvy the best of those headed into the final round. The former U.S. Open champion, battling a balky putter was one under par after 54 holes.
Even the normally thoughtful Ogilvy struggles for an explanation why, on a course designed by Alister Mackenzie - whose design portfolio includes Royal Melbourne, Australia's best course - he and his compatriots have failed so miserably for so long.
"The only thing I can come up with is that, until quite recently, we had very few people in the field," he shrugs. "That is obviously a factor in our lack of success.
"It's a pity. Augusta National should be more than familiar to our best players. If you can play Royal Melbourne - and we have all done that many times - you can surely play Augusta National. The same principles hold true. You have to be putting from below the hole on both. And you can use width to create the proper angles for your approach shots."
It is, indeed, a mystery. Maybe next year.
-- *John Huggan