AUGUSTA - A new golfing year, but the same old question confronts Luke Donald and Lee Westwood for the Masters at Augusta National next week - when will they finally win a major?

The English pair have shared the world number one ranking for all but 10 weeks in the last 17 months, but in that time four Majors have come and gone and they have both failed to break their duck.

Instead, the honours have gone to Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Keegan Bradley - with the exception of McIlroy hardly household names.

So what if anything can give them renewed hope for this year? - Donald, who battled back to take a share of fourth place believes his meticulous preparations and dedication will one day bear fruit. "Since I first turned pro the goal was always to win Majors and that hasn't changed," said the 34-year-old.

"I feel like if I continue to improve the way I've been doing I'm going to have a chance.

"I had some progress last year. I had a chance at Augusta and I didn't play nearly my best in the PGA and still was thereabouts (joint eighth with Westwood).

"I'm excited about the majors. I've gained a lot of confidence and I'm looking forward to the challenges of Augusta."

For Westwood, four years older than Donald at 38, the hope is that he has not already allowed his best chances of bagging one of the big four crowns go by.

Runner-up to Phil Mickelson at Augusta two years ago after leading the tournament going into the final round, he has had six top-three finishes in Majors in the last four seasons.

"I think it proves I'm capable of winning major championships," Westwood said during practice for the Houston Open this week.

"Lot of Top-3s and just have to keep doing that and put myself in position -- when I get the chance, take it the next time." Instead of hanging his head over near-misses, Westwood has taken confidence from coming so close.

"It makes me look forward to Major championships a lot more than I used to," Westwood said. "I think my game is better equipped to tackle Major championship golf courses."

A reason for that is sharpening his skills in the week before a Major rather than resting or playing practice rounds.

"I like to be competitive the week before the Masters," Westwood said. "It's a tough test at Augusta. If you don't go into it competitively sharp, you are not going to hit all the greens, going to have to get up and down.

"It just seems like it's more important at the Masters to keep the momentum going."

Donald and Westwood have added burdens in that the last Englishman (or Briton) to win the Masters was Nick Faldo coming from six strokes down in the final round to stun Greg Norman in 1996, while the last European to triumph was Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.

In the 12 years since then, the wins have gone to golfers from the United States (7 times), South Africa (2) and Canada, Fiji and Argentina (1 each).

This year though the English challenge will once again have a back-to-form Justin Rose who has proved in the past that he is a real threat at Augusta National and is back up to eighth in the world rankings making it three Englishmen in the top 10.

Faldo, who will also be at the course as he once again commentates for US TV, would seem to be the obvious choice to ask for advice on how to turn near-success into glory at the Masters, but to date that has not happened.

'I must say I am a bit surprised,' said Faldo in a recent newspaper interview.

"I know I have a reputation of looking through people at times but, are you kidding? I'd love to help out. I want to see them join the club as much as anybody.'