Aussies hoping to end Masters drought
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jason Day is too young to know any better. The history is not as personal to him, certainly not as immediate. This is his first visit to the Masters, and that alone is enough to contemplate.
Not that Adam Scott is carrying around any burden himself. He's got his own problems to worry about in trying to win his first major championship.
But Scott, 30, is aware of the history. So is Geoff Ogilvy, 33. For years, they've heard how no Australian has won the Masters.
"The dream of coming here and just playing is huge, and to win even bigger, probably indescribable," Scott said. "It's something, one of the things that we haven't accomplished in Australian sport. We are a strong sporting nation and we push our athletes hard. One day it's going to happen."
It could be Sunday.
Three Australians are in contention heading to the final round of the 75th Masters, led by Day, 23, whose even-par 72 left him four strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.
Scott, who has 14 worldwide victories but has never been much of a factor in majors, tied for the day's best round with a 5-under-par 67 despite bogeys on two of the last three holes. That put him in a tie for sixth, five strokes back. Ogilvy, who won the 2006 U.S. Open, is another stroke back, tied for ninth.
All of them, no doubt, have a green jacket on their minds for personal reasons.
"Thinking about the Aussie duck thing would happen after I won," Ogilvy said. "'Oh, I'm the first Australian.' That's probably not what I'm going to be thinking about when I'm out on the golf course. But obviously it would be a really nice thing for Australia for it to happen, for sure."
So, yes, they also know that their countrymen have never been able to take this title, for whatever the reason.
Australians have won tournaments all around the world, including the other three major championships. But the Masters has proved to be elusive.
Peter Thomson, who won the British Open five times, played in just eight Masters, never finishing better than fifth. Greg Norman, of course, was the most star-crossed, with six top-three finishes and three runner-ups. Bruce Crampton was second to Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Jack Newton second to Seve Ballesteros in 1980.
There have been numerous other Australian stars through the years. Steve Elkington won the PGA Championship in 1995 and a couple of Players Championships. Stuart Appleby and Robert Allenby have been top-ranked players for years.
"In '97, watching Tiger [Woods], and he just blew away the field ... that's when I wanted to play well and one day play the Masters, play Augusta National," said Day, who is playing in just his third major championship and will be paired with Scott in the final round. "Obviously in Australia, we have to wake up early to watch the Masters."
Due to the time change, it is typically Monday morning in Australia when the Masters is coming to an end.
And Scott remembers staying home from school when Norman was so cruelly denied a green jacket in 1987, having lost in a playoff to Larry Mize, who chipped in for birdie on the second extra hole.
As bad as that was, the 1996 Masters was worse. Norman blew a six-stroke lead to Nick Faldo.
"That was very hard," Scott said. "I think there was almost tears at home that day. I can't tell you how big of an inspiration he's been and a hero he's been to all of the golfers at home my age ... everyone was devastated."
In Norman, you are speaking of a sporting icon, a hero to a nation -- one that has only about 21 million people.
To be speaking of the country having failed for not winning one of golf's majors is a bit of a stretch, especially when you consider that it has just more than half the population of the state of California (37 million).
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"I don't think the guys here carry a burden," Scott said. "I think no one here is thinking there's a voodoo on us from Australia. I think it just hasn't happened. We are not a huge country but we certainly get our fair share of guys in this tournament every year it seems.
"No one's got over the line yet. But it's going to happen."
It would take a collapse by McIlroy, who has a four-shot lead over the field.
But then, the Aussies know that stranger things have happened.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
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