Aussie anguish at Augusta

Here’s a trivia question for you.

Who was the first ever Australian golfer to compete in the US Masters?

Peter Thomson? Kel Nagle? No, it was Norman Von Nida, all of 61 years ago in 1950.

Robert Allenby Robert Allenby: Best Masters finish T22nd in 2006

Von Nida was then 36 years of age and already had been a professional for 17 years when he set foot onto the cathedral-like setting that is Augusta National.

A first round 80 was an unceremonious start for ‘The Don’ but his appearance heralded a wave of Australian players to travel to the Georgia golfing gem.

In all, Von Nida is among just 36 Australians to have been invited to compete in the season’s traditional opening Major.

The first big Aussie assault on Augusta was in 1962 when five players (Bruce Crampton, Frank Phillips, Kel Nagle, Norman Von Nida and Bruce Devlin) finished well behind Arnold Palmer.

The next big wave from Down Under came 30 years later when six Australians (Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Wayne Grady, Craig Parry, Steve Elkington and Rodger Davis) teed up.

The most Australians to have played in a Masters was eight in both in 2005 (Mark Hensby, Rod Pampling, Stuart Appleby, Adam Scott, Nick O’Hern, Robert Allenby, Craig Parry and Peter Lonard) and in 2006 (Geoff Ogilvy, Rod Pampling, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Mark Hensby, Nick O’Hern, Adam Scott and Peter Lonard).

Crampton was the first to go the closest to being fitted with the green jacket in finishing runner-up and three shots behind Jack Nicklaus in 1972.

But it was Greg Norman who continues to bear the biggest and saddest Augusta scars.

Twenty-two times Norman contested the Masters, finishing top three on six occasions including joint runner-up in 1986 and losing out in a playoff the following year.

However, it was in 1996 that Norman blew becoming Australia’s first-ever Augusta champion leading by six and losing to arch rival Nick Faldo by seven in again finishing second.

This year Queensland sensation Jason Day becomes the newest Australian to join the Augusta National honour roll with the young 23-year old booking his place early on the back of success in last May’s HP Bryon Nelson Championship.

Aaron Baddeley returns for a sixth appearance with the recent Northern Trust Open winner returning after last competing in 2009.

The pair will join Appleby, Allenby, Scott and Ogilvy.

Of the five to have contested the Major before, the lowest round is a 68 by Baddeley in 2009.

And among the five there’s been just five sub-70 rounds.

So what are the chances of an Australian becoming the first to be fitted with the most sought after item of apparel in all of golf – the Augusta National green jacket?

Geoff Ogilvy

  • 5 US Masters appearances since 2006
  • Best finish T15th 2009
  • Lowest round 69 (4th round 2009 and 3rd round 2010)

Stuart Appleby

  • 13 US Masters appearances since 1997
  • Best finish T7th 2007
  • Lowest score 69 (1st round in 2005 and only time to break 70)

Robert Allenby

  • 11 US Masters since 1997
  • Best finish T22nd 2006
  • Lowest round 70 (2nd round 2002)

Aaron Baddeley

  • 5 US Masters appearances since 2000
  • Best finish T17th 2009
  • Lowest score 68 (1st round 2009 and only sub-70 score)

Adam Scott

  • 9 US Masters appearances since 2002
  • Best finish T9th 2002
  • Lowest round 69 (1st round 2010 and only time to break 70)

Jason Day

  • Debut appearance in 2011