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  Monday, 2 April, 2001, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Transatlantic tussle for golf's green jacket
Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal (not pictured) led the way for Europe in the 1980s and 90s
Europe's famous five won nine titles in 20 years
American golfers dominated the US Masters until 1980, when a young Seve Ballesteros signalled Europe's renaissance.

When Ballesteros raced away with the 1980 US Masters title, he was the youngest golfer at the time to win the event.

His triumph, which set a record for birdies at Augusta yet to be beaten, ended America's 30-year strangehold.

During the post-war era, Gary Player had been virtually the lone international challenger at the season's first Major.

Seve Ballesteros wins The Open at St Andrews in 1979
Ballesteros clinched the Masters at the age of 23

In 1961, the South African became the first overseas golfer to don the Green Jacket over his distinctive black attire.

Though he went on to win the title on two more occasions in the following two decades, it took Ballesteros' sensational victory in 1980 to break the grip of the American golfers.

Twnety one years later, the Masters scoreboard reads Europe 11, America nine, with Vijay Singh's victory last year a rare moment of glory for Fiji.

One golfer in particular kept Europe at bay in the post-war years.

  11 European Masters winners: 1980-2000
1999: Olazabal: 8-under
1996: Faldo: -12
1994: Olazabal: -9
1993: Langer: -11
1991: Woosnam: -11
1990: Faldo: -10
1989: Faldo: -5
1988: Lyle: -7
1985: Langer: -6
1983: Ballesteros: -8
1980: Ballesteros: -13
Jack Nicklaus was only 23 when he won his first Green Jacket in 1963.

He went on to win the event a record six times and it is unlikely anyone, even Tiger Woods, will beat his acheivement.

During the 1960s, the legendary Green Jacket rarely left the wardrobes of Nicklaus and the legendary Arnold Palmer as they won the title three times apiece.

For the next decade, Nicklaus was the man to beat as he recorded two more victories and managed the astonishing feat of never finishing outside the top eight in 10 attempts.

Nicklaus ended back in sevent in 1977, when Player acheived one of the greatest fightbacks in Masters' history.

Four-time Masters winner Arnold Palmer
Palmer: Four-time Masters winner

He birdied seven out of the last 10 holes to win his third Green Jacket by a shot from defending champion, American Tom Watson.

By now, the event had a huge following in Europe, having been broadcast by the BBC via satellite for the previous decade.

So when three years later Ballesteros fired a record 23 birdies to become the youngest winner of the tournament at the age of 23, the whole of Europe cheered.

The Spaniard's success signalled the beginning of a European renaissance as America's top pros finally found they had a fight on their hands on home turf.

  Nine American Masters winners: 1980-2000
1998: Mark O'Meara -9
1997: Tiger Woods -18
1995: Ben Crenshaw -14
1992: Fred Couples -13
1987: Larry Mize -3
1986: Jack Nicklaus -9
1984: Ben Crenshaw -11
1982: Craig Stadler -4
1981: Tom Watson -8
Seve, Bernard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam and Jose Maria Olazabal countered victories by Americans Tom watson, Craig Stadler, Ben Crenshaw, Larry Mize, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara.

Seve squeezed his broad shoulders in the jacket for the second time in 1983, when he raced into a final round lead with birdie-eagle-par-birdie at the first four holes.

And two years later it was the turn of Langer.

The German wrestled the title from American Ben Crenshaw in a masterful display of composure which saw him finish with two rounds of four-under-par 68.

Nicklaus' love affair with the event came to a memorable conclusion in 1986.

At the age of 46, he shot a final round 65 to become the oldest player to win the Masters, and 23 years after his first victory as the then youngest.

Jack Nicklaus hugs his caddy as he becomes Masters champion for a record sixth time
Nicklaus: Seven-under par final round clinched victory by a stroke

The Nicklaus fairytale was followed by four glorious years for Europe, when Lyle and Woosnam clinched thrilling victories for Scotland and Wales, either side of back-to-back wins by England's Nick Faldo.

In 1989, Faldo holed a 25-foot birdie putt at the second play-off hole to defeat Americans Scott Hoch and Ben Crenshaw.

And Ray Floyd thought he had the title sewn up the following year as Faldo entered the final six holes four strokes behind the US veteran.

But Faldo, in his putting prime, made three birdies to tie on 10-under-par and force another play-off, which he won at the second extra hole.

As Ballesteros faded from the scene, it was the turn of countryman Jose Maria Olazabal to lead the European charge at Augusta.

Sandy Lyle sinks a 10-foot birdie putt to win the US Masters in 1988
Lyle's seven iron from a bunker to the 18th green is legendary at Augusta

The 27-year-old performed miracles on the notoriously dastardly Georgia greens in 1994, taking just one putt at 30 of the 72 holes to finish two shots clear of US star Tom Lehman.

The Europeans were nowhere in sight 12 months later, when Ben Crenshaw wept on the 18th green after winning by a shot from Davis Love III.

Faldo sealed his hat-trick in 1996, but the closing stages will be remembered for a disastrous collapse, the most calamitous in Masters history, by perennial bridesmaid, Greg Norman.

The Australian was six shots ahead of playing partner Faldo going into the final round, but he famously found the lake on his way to a 78 as the Briton took the title by five shots.

By 1997, America was firmly back in the asendancy, as a young man named Eldrick Woods arrived with a bang.

At the age of 21, Tiger blazed his way around the rhodendendron-lined course, breaking the tournament record to finish on 18 under par.

Greg Norman (left) dropped six shots in his final round to allow Nick Faldo to steal the title
Norman: Has never fully recovered from his collapse in 1996

He was just 21, beating Ballesteros' by two years to the tag of youngest ever winner.

No European finished inside the top five with Costantino Rocca and Langer, more than a dozen shots behind Woods, best placed.

Darren Clarke was the only golfer from this side of the Atlantic in the top eight the following year when Mark O'Meara holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the 18th to win his first Masters in 15 attempts.

But in 1999 Olazabal's second Masters victory apparently promised much for Europe's upcoming challenge at the Ryder Cup in Brookline.

It looked good for Mark James' men until the Amercians staged one of the greatest final day comebacks in the history of the event, to win back the cup by a single point.

Whether Woods can tip the Masters scales back towards the USA remains to be seen.


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