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The verdict

European golf has never had it so good. The last three Majors have been won by members of the European Tour and Martin Kaymer last month replaced Lee Westwood at World No 1.

Phil Mickelson cuts a lonely figure among five Europeans in the world's top six. And the Ryder Cup is back where it belongs.

Yet Major championship golf is not a team game and Mickelson can underline his status as the Master of Augusta this weekend. Golf has been crying out for a new Messiah since Tiger's damnation, and he has appeared in the portly shape of the 40-year-old left-hander.

Who is Europe's finest? Kaymer has not made the cut in three US Masters because his short game isn't good enough, while Westwood faces a massive leap of faith after so many near misses in Majors.

Luke Donald showed his form by winning last night's Par 3 competition but Padraig Harrington is peerless on and around the greens and has Major-winning experience to boot. The Dubliner has exuded a calm resolve in recent days and if that remains after the bullets start flying this morning, he could push Mickelson all the way for Europe's first Green Jacket since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.

Irish Independent