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Masters last hurdle for Aussies

If Aussie's knock any harder on the Masters door they're going to bloody their bloody knuckles.

Aussies have finished runner-up at the Masters six times since Norman Von Nida first represented the country at Augusta National way back in 1950. Bruce Crampton placed second to Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Jack Newton second to Seve Ballesteros in 1980. Greg Norman finished an arm's length away from the green jacket in 1986, '87 and '96, and on each occasion destiny spit in his face.

And then there was last year, when Adam Scott topped the Sunday leader board through 14 holes and then finished tied for second with compatriot Jason Day, both of them victimized by Charl Schwartzel's unprecedented four-birdie close.

"Well, I don't think it adds to a burden, I think it makes the story a little juicier," Scott said. "There's another line you can put in your stories: in 2011 we came second, also, that year."

Masters winners have hailed from far and wide: Spain and South Africa, Fiji and Argentina, Germany and Scotland. Who can forget the Masters of 2007, when the winner declared, "I'm just Zach Johnson and I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa."

Yup. That's how the all-time Masters scoreboard reads: Cedar Rapids 1, Australia 0.

"It's one of those sporting hurdles that no Australian has gotten over, and it may be one of the last ones for sports that we play in our country after Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France last year," Scott said. "Now the Masters has really gone beyond just golfers in Australia, too. I think, thanks to Greg Norman and the years he played and the icon he is in Australia, he took golf beyond just the golfers and made it recognized by the whole Australian public."

Australia wants a green jacket in the worst way and it has the guns who can do it after the Stuart Appleby-Robert Allenby era failed to produce the anticipated breakthrough. Day and Scott both rank in the world's top 13. Geoff Oglivy, winner of the '06 U.S. Open, tied for fourth here last year. And coming up behind them is Bryden MacPherson, 21, who'll be playing his first Masters after winning the British Amateur. The question isn't so much, Will it ever happen? More like, Who'll be the first?

"You know, I think obviously this is -- for me this is the Holy Grail, to win this tournament," Day said. "But I would be very, very happy if one of the Australians this week won. Obviously I think that will kind of ease the pressure off our shoulders, and we can just go and play instead of worrying about being the first person to win."

"I don't feel too much pressure at all," Scott said. "I'm certainly probably not considered one of the favorites. There are a lot of other guys who have been playing very well so far this year. But I'm playing well myself. My game is in great shape. I haven't played that much, but this will be a good week to start posting some results."

With a whole continent watching hopefully, the pressure can be paralyzing. Norman had it all to himself in '96, taking a six-shot lead into the final round. It ate him alive. He shot 78 to Nick Faldo's 67 and lost in a five-stroke landslide.

"There are so many different thoughts, negative thoughts and positive thoughts, going through your head," Day said. "If you can do it, if I can do it, you're talking to yourself nonstop, nonstop, nonstop.

"It's so funny, because I've worked so hard to get to where I am, and I've always wanted to play in this tournament and had a chance to obviously win the tournament last year. Just the amount of emotions that were going through my body, through my head, it was an unbelievable feeling. Almost makes you want to cry, because you were so close, but you know, it's one of the most happiest moments I've ever had on the golf course by far."

Happy to be in contention, to finish second. Imagine if one of them finishes the job.

"Maybe a parade," Day said. "That would be fantastic. I don't think that's going to go that far, but it's going to be big."

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com