AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Around the world, Ian Woosnam is recognized as one of the most competitive and skillful of golf's shot-makers. The only void, if you can call it that, was he had never proven his ability before an American audience.
Now that omission in his otherwise glittering resume has been taken care of, and the 33-year-old Welshman is wearing the green coat emblematic of the Masters championship. He performed with consistency and an unruffled demeanor as he won the 55th renewal of this famed tournament, played over the hallowed hills of the Augusta National Club on a hot, humid afternoon.
His four-round total of 277 brought another kind of green -- the folding kind, $243,000 -- and was his 27th victory worldwide. "It's my first major and on U.S. soil," he said. "I am so pleased it's the Masters because of the kind of standing it has everywhere golf is played."
Yesterday's win by the well-muscled 5-foot-4 1/2 native of Oswestry, Wales, means for the fourth year in a row the Masters winner is a British subject. It was Nick Faldo, of England, the last two years, via playoffs, and in 1988 Sandy Lyle of Scotland earned the prize.
This time around the Augusta National track, Faldo slumped early but got it back to post a total of 283. Lyle failed to make the cut. An American contingent, represented by Ben Crenshaw, Steve Pate, Lanny Wadkins and Tom Watson, tied for third at 279, one stroke behind Spain's Jose-Marie Olazabal.
For Watson, a double-bogey six on the 18th hole, after he put his tee shot in the trees, eliminated him from a chance to carry the 55th Masters classic into extra holes. Woosnam recovered with an impressive 8-iron that enabled him to par the final hole and get measured for the green jacket.
Watson made a stirring move on Woosnam, who took a one-shot lead into yesterday's grand finale, but putted poorly and let him off the hook frequently. "I had chances to win and didn't do it," said the veteran from Kansas City who was attempting to take his second Masters crown.
"I shoved my tee shot, a 3-wood, off line on the 18th hole and probably should have pitched out," Watson said. "But I thought I might be able to turn it and get it up the gap. I had a bad lie and put my 3-iron into a bunker."
While Watson, 41, encountered trouble and fell back, it left second place available for Olazabal. He, too, had a bunker problem, driving the ball in the sand on 18 and having no chance at a birdie that would have given him a tie.
"I would love to hit that tee shot again at No. 18," said Olazabal, who earned $145,000.
Following the four Americans at 279 came Jodie Mudd, Andy Magee and Australian Ian Baker-Finch at 280. The amateur winner was 20-year-old Phil Mickelson, down the line at 2-over-par.
Donnie Hammond of Frederick, Md., who now resides near Orlando, Fla., played in his fourth Masters and was one ahead of Mickelson. He was a study in consistency, going 72-73-73-71--289.
Because he wasn't one of the top 24 finishers, which he was last year, Hammond is not an automatic qualifier for the 1992 Masters.
The veterans agreed they couldn't remember four days of almost windless conditions in Augusta. But Woosnam's figure of 277 was still six shots away from the mark put in the books by Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and duplicated by Raymond Floyd 11 years later.