nick faldo rory mcilroy masters

Who will end Europe’s wait for a Masters victory?

After a period of dominance in the 1980s and '90s, European wins have been few and far between at Augusta. So who's in contention to end the drought? Alex Perry ranks his five contenders

It’s been six years since Sergio Garcia edged out Justin Rose at the Masters to finally get over the line in a major championship.

Danny Willett handed the Spaniard his Green Jacket, the first time two Europeans had gone back-to-back at Augusta since Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal in 1993 and 1994 respectively.

Garcia is also our continent’s most recent winner, with a period of American dominance since then broken up only by Hideki Matsuyama becoming Asia’s first Masters champion.

So who will win the Masters? We can’t tell you that, but we can tell you who is in the running to become just the third European to win at Augusta since the turn of the century…

Europe’s next Masters champion

Who will win the 2023 Masters?

Rory McIlroy 

Rory McIlroy

Nationality: Northern Irish
World ranking: 2
Masters record: T20-MC-T15-T40-T25-T8-4-T10-T7-T5-T21-T5-MC-2
Form: T32-T29-T2-MC-3

We all have our own idea as to who might slip into the Green Jacket on Masters Sunday. Since that fateful day in 2011, where Rory McIlroy led by one on the 10th tee before an errant drive led to a triple bogey that ended his chances, my heart has always said Rory McIlroy. Rarely, though, has my head agreed. 

We’re all still teetering on the edge of therapy from what happened 12 years ago and that final-round 80 that still leaves so many of us in a cold sweat just thinking about it. That collapse left him on the phone to his mum in tears and ever since he has admitted that Augusta makes him feel uncomfortable. But it’s also a course that we’re told time and time again suits his game better than anyone else’s.

But for someone so brutally damaged by Augusta National, McIlroy has somehow managed to put himself in contention on a number of occasions. His record boasts seven top-10 finishes, including three in the top five, in the last nine.  

His most notable challenges in that run came in 2018, when his putter just wouldn’t get going in the final round and he fell too far back from Patrick Reed to do anything about it, and again last year when a rampaging Scottie Scheffler denied him the title for which he yearns more than any other. 

Now, though, McIlroy is playing the best golf of his career outside his major-winning purple patch – he’s added three more PGA Tour titles and a DP World Tour win since he left Georgia last year – and it’s the most confident I’ve been for a decade that it’s his time to pull on sport’s most famous piece of clothing. 

And while he has previously admitted he comes here over-prepared far too often, now it’s quite the opposite for McIlroy, whose own life has changed somewhat significantly with the arrival of his daughter, Poppy, now two, while meditation self-help books have become part of his daily routine as he bids to rediscover the form that made him a four-time major champion. 

“If I let something consume me too much then I start overthinking it – it’s just not a good thing,” he said ahead of the 2020 renewal. “It’s almost a nice thing to not have the Masters on your mind 24/7.” 

It’s time, Rory. Get the Green Jacket. Get the Grand Slam. Write yourself into golf’s history books forever.

NCG ranking:

5 star review

Jon Rahm 

2021 US Open

Nationality: Spanish
World ranking: 3
Masters record: T27-4-T9-T7-T5-T27
Form: 7-3-1-T39-T31

If there’s any player likely to deny Rory McIlroy the title he craves more than any other, it’s Jon Rahm Rodriguez. 

There isn’t a more in-form player on the planet right now than the Spaniard. At the time of writing, he has won five of his last nine starts and, in the process, reclaimed his position as World No 1.  

His Masters form is exceptional, too, with four top-10s in six starts, bookended by a pair of tied-27th finishes. Crucially, though, he has never really contended. Indeed, the closest he has come down the stretch is getting within three in both 2018 and 2019. 

It wasn’t to be, but this is Rahm 2.0. And, as someone who makes it very clear he likes adding his name to the history of our sport, particularly in Spain, nothing will make him happier than joining his idols Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia in adding a Green Jacket to his wardrobe. 

NCG ranking:

5 star review

Viktor Hovland 


Nationality: Norwegian
World ranking: 9
Masters record: T32-T21-T27
Form: T-42-T20-T10-T3-T31

Such has been Viktor Hovland’s ascension to the top of the game, it’s difficult to comprehend that he only turned pro in the middle of 2019. 

He only needed six months to win his first PGA Tour title, and since then has added four more, as well as two DP World Tour wins – including a Rolex Series event. 

There’s a lot to like about the laid-back Norwegian, but question marks remain over whether he has the tenacity to get it down on the biggest stages.  

His Ryder Cup debut didn’t go to plan – returning just one point from five – and a few months later he and Rory McIlroy were the runaway leaders through 54 holes at St Andrews only to wilt on the final day and end up six back of eventual champion Cam Smith. 

His Masters record, especially for someone so inexperienced, is not to be sniffed at. A tie for 32nd as the low amateur have been supplemented by ties for 21st and and 27th in the last two outings. 

His form has been steady since the end of last season – including a successful title defence at the Hero World Challenge, as well as a T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a T3 at the Players Championship – and it feels like he’s only just getting going. 

NCG ranking:

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Matt Fitzpatrick 

identifying golf ball

Nationality: English
World ranking: 15
Masters record: MC-T7-32-T38-T21-T46-T34-T14
Form: MC-T14-MC-MC-T31

Matt Fitzpatrick was one of five Englishmen to finish in the top 10 in 2016, when compatriot Danny Willett edged out Lee Westwood and defending champion Jordan Spieth to break his major duck. 

Fitzpatrick’s tie for seventh, five back of Willett, will have him believing he can get the job done in this corner of Georgia. 

But while he didn’t quite manage to continue that form at Augusta, the 28-year-old is trending in the right direction – culminating in a tie for 14th last time out, which was followed by a top five finish at the PGA Championship and, of course, that now famous US Open victory over Will Zalatoris. 

Now a major champion, and with Billy Foster – who knows Augusta better than most – on his bag, Fitzpatrick will fancy his chances of sliding into the Green Jacket on Masters Sunday. 

NCG ranking:

Justin Rose 

Justin Rose

Nationality: English
World ranking: 31
Masters record: T39-T22-T5-T36-T20-T11-T8-T25-T14-T2-T10-2-T12-MC-T23-7-MC
Form: 1-MC-MC-T6-T36

Justin Rose is a player who will end his career feeling like he could – and perhaps should – have won more than his sole major championship at the 2013 US Open. 

And it will be at Augusta where he will rue the missed opportunities. 

In 2007, Rose tied for the lead through 54 holes, only to double-bogey two of the first three holes and effectively end his chances. He rallied around the turn, but it was too little too late and he ended up three back of Zach Johnson. 

Eight years later, it was a tie for second for the Englishman, but in reality he never got near runaway leader Jordan Spieth. 

But it will be 2017 that stings the most. Having overtaken 54-hole leader Sergio Garcia at the turn, he led until an unfortunate bogey at 17 allowed his rival to force a playoff. Back to the 18th tee, and when Rose’s drive headed into the trees and Garcia’s effort found the short stuff, it was all but over. 

After a year in the wilderness with fitness and form issues, Rose goes into this year’s Masters having ended a four-year wait for a PGA Tour title. Don’t write him off just yet. 

NCG ranking:

European Masters champions

Eight players from our continent have won the Masters tournament:

1980: Seve Ballesteros (Spain)
1983: Seve Ballesteros (Spain)
1985: Bernhard Langer (Germany)
1988: Sandy Lyle (Scotland)
1989: Nick Faldo (England)
1990: Nick Faldo (England)
1991: Ian Woosnam (Wales)
1993: Bernhard Langer (Germany)
1994: Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain)
1996: Nick Faldo (England)
1999: Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain)
2016: Danny Willett (England)
2017: Sergio Garcia (Spain)

Alex Perry

Alex Perry

Alex has been the editor of National Club Golfer since 2017. A Devonian who enjoys wittering on about his south west roots, Alex moved north to join NCG after more than a decade in London, the last five of which were with ESPN. Away from golf, Alex follows Torquay United and spends too much time playing his PlayStation or his guitar and not enough time practising his short game.

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