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Masters 2018: Hat-Trick of European Masters?

OK, now we're excited. With only one week remaining before the world's best golfers hit the fairways of Augusta National for the 82nd Masters, Hole19 HQ is positively buzzing.

In case you didn't already know (but, of course, you will) the last two Masters events have resulted in a European slipping into the famous 'Green Jacket' - Danny Willett in 2016 and Sergio Garcia in 2017. In the office, we've been debating the chances of a first European hat-trick of winners since 1991.

To help build up to next week's events in Georgia here's a few European players who we feel have the potential to come out on top on April 8th - a victory that will undoubtedly taste all the sweeter in Ryder Cup year.

Jon Rahm

Rahm is a major champion in waiting, of that there is no doubt. Whether he can make his mark at this year's Masters tournament is another question entirely. With that said, he currently occupies third place in the Official World Golf Rankings and will tee it up at Augusta National as one of Europe's leading hopes.

'Rahmbo' certainly knows how to get over the line given his four tournament wins in little over a year - the most recent of which came in January this year at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rory McIlroy

Just two weeks ago McIlroy secured his first win in 18 months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill after shooting an exceptional final round 64.

Up to that point though, his 2018 form had been inconsistent and the previous 12 months were hardly much kinder. 2017 had been decimated by a troublesome rib injury and this would lead to a calendar year without a single Tour win.

This past week he failed to make the knockout stages at the match play event in Texas, but the win in Florida has us expecting big things from the Northern Irishman.

Justin Rose

It was a case of so near, yet so far for 'Rosey' last year after going head-to-head with eventual champion Sergio Garcia on a dramatic final day.

There's no better time to banish those demons than at the very next Masters tournament - and it's well within the current world number five's capabilities after two top-5s in as many outings on Tour. He has played well upon the fairways of Augusta National on many occasions and will undoubtedly again. Will it be this year?

Here Rose responds to the stinging defeat with consummate professionalism:

Rafa Cabrera-Bello

We're going to keep putting this guy forward for big wins because they're coming.

Rafa is an elegant player and a guy who makes the game look so simple. He's making his way on the PGA Tour and has placed in the top-5 in the two WGC events so far this year.

Likely a shoo-in for the Ryder Cup team this September, Rafa should be predicting a strong Masters performance when he drives along Magnolia Lane in just a few days.

He wowed the crowds at last year's Players Championship - the unofficial 'fifth major' - with a glorious albatross:

Alex Noren

Coming off the back of a near miss at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, Noren will be hoping to make his mark at Augusta National this year.

Solid performances at the Honda Classic and Farmers Insurance Open point towards the big Swede beginning to feel comfortable on the PGA Tour. While he missed the cut on his only previous appearance at the Masters (2017), we expect to see a better showing this time out.

He took the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in fine style last year:

Sergio Garcia

Saving the most obvious for last - it seems only logical that one guy who could possibly secure the hat-trick for Europe would be the current Masters champ.

The last golfer to go back-to-back at the Masters was, yep, you guessed it, one Mr Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. If Sergio can emulate his long-time adversary he will cement his place in Masters history as only the fourth man to achieve the feat of backing up a win in Augusta, Georgia just 12 months on (Nicklaus and Faldo the other two).

Here's a memory jog of the winning putt in 2017. Sergio probably has it on a loop!!

Who wins this year's Masters tournament? Could we see a hat-trick of European winners? Let us know below.

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