The Masters

Introduction

Officially known as The Masters Tournament, The Masters or The US Masters is one of the four major championships of men’s professional golf. It is the first to be played each year, and always runs so that the final round is played on the second Sunday of April. The Masters differs from the other three majors, in that it is held at the same golf course each year, the Augusta National Golf Club. It is a 72-hole tournament that is held over 4 days, with 18-holes held on each day. It is also more exclusive than the other majors, with the field of players being much smaller and spectators having to work hard to get tickets for the event.

History

The US Masters is the youngest of the four majors, with the inaugural one having been held on 22nd March 1934. Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts wanted to be able to provide a service to the golfing world by putting on an annual championship. Together they had founded the Augusta Golf Club, as a result of their dream to build a golf course. They chose the site at Augusta as they believed the natural environment of the area would provide an excellent setting. No course is complete without a club, so once the course was built the Augusta Golf Club came into existence. It was decided that this club also needed national membership, and the course was opened in 1932.

Roberts initially chose the name “The Masters Championship” for their tournament but Jones saw this as audacious and wanted a more demure name, for which he chose The Augusta National Invitational Tournament. This name was used for the first five years of the championship until 1939 when Jones gave in to Roberts’ wishes and the name “The Masters Championship” was implemented. The first tournament was played with the 18 holes that are used today, but the first 9 holes played were the current holes 10 to 18, with the last 9 being the current holes 1 to 9. This pattern was only used for one year though, and the 1935 tournament adopted the route still used today.

Initially there was much debate surrounding whether Bobby Jones would play as part of the championship, or whether he would serve as an official. Jones said he would prefer not to compete but once again he was persuaded by others to go against his decision, as the Club’s members wanted him to join the field. Jones eventually played in 12 of the Masters tournaments, but the highest place he ever achieved was 13th in the 1934 championship. The first Masters that took place was won by Horton Smith, but the 1935 championship was most famous for the shot heard round the world. This was hit by Gene Sarazen when he holed a shot from the fairway to par 5 15th, which resulted in him scoring a double eagle and forcing a 36-hole playoff. He won this by 5 strokes, making him the 1935 champion.

In 1940 the championship was scheduled to take place in the allotted time it now occupies at the beginning of April. Play of the Masters was suspended for the years 1943 to 1945 due to World War II, and to assist with war efforts, the course at Augusta was used to raise cattle and turkeys. In 1960 the traditional Par 3 contest held on the Wednesday before the tournament began, which is still in place today. After the 1960s some fundamental changes were introduced governing who could compete, including Gary Player who was the first non-American champion in 1961, and Lee Elder who was the first African-American contestant in 1975. The popularity of the Masters quickly grew, and 1967 saw the first international broadcast of the tournament by the BBC. In 1968 there was the most controversial end to any of the Masters tournaments to date. Roberto DeVincenzo signed a score card that had incorrectly documented a 4 instead of a 3 on the 17th hole. Just that one extra stroke cost him the opportunity to be in an 18-hole playoff with Rob Goalby, who then went on the win the tournament. The 1970s unfortunately saw the death of both of the founders of The Masters Tournament, who had made such a contribution to the golfing world.

In 2003 the National Augusta Golf Club was targeted by Martha Burk who was protesting about female players not being able to become members of the club. The protest, however, failed and female players are still not able to join the club.

The Course

Listed below are details of each of the holes in order, from 1 to 18, including their names:

  • Tea Olive – Tee shots frequently find trouble in the right bunker or the trees to the left.
  • Dogwood – This hole is dogleg left and is one of the hardest holes for short hitters, but is reachable in 3 hits by the longest drivers.
  • Flowering Peach – This hole has a small L-shaped table-top green and is the shortest 4 par hole.
  • Flowering Crabapple – The green is wide so if a shot is sent to the wrong side of the green it can result in a putt as long as 80 feet.
  • Magnolia – 20 yards were added to this hole in 2003, so players now have to hit further to the right of the tee. The green at this hole has a hump in front of it, so players have to clear this when hitting.
  • Juniper – There is a giant hump at the right of the green with an elevated tee looking down on it.
  • Pampas – This is the tightest hole on the course, with trees lining both sides of the fairway.
  • Yellow Jasmine – Trees block the way to the green from the left side of the fairway, so players have to manoeuvre their way to try and reach the green in 2.
  • Carolina Cherry – The green slopes severely from back to front, but the trees on the right often catch wayward drives.
  • Camelia – The fairway at this hole often encourages tee drawn shots, which can kick off the hill resulting in extremely long shots.
  • White Dogwood – This is the first of the water holes, which calls for accuracy off the tee.
  • Golden Bell – This is the shortest of the holes, and is another water one.
  • Azalea – A creek runs to the left of the fairway, then crosses in front of the green to run along the right. Tee shots need to be long and straight to reach the bend of the dogleg.
  • Chinese Fir – This is the only hole on the course with no bunkers, and is relatively straight. However, it does have one of the most difficult greens on the course, which has a hump right in the middle of it.
  • Fire Thorn – This is the hole from where Gene Sarazen hit his infamous shot in 1935. A straight hit is needed to clear the pond, and there is a large landing area as well as some smaller ones.
  • Redbud – There is no fairway at this hole, only water. There is a small back to the green which emerges from the water, so an accurate hit is required although you need to watch out for the bunker on the right of the bunker.
  • Nandina – To the left of the freeway at this hole, stands a large ever-growing tree and the green slopes to the left of the freeway.
  • Holly – This hole requires a 330 yard uphill hit to clear the bunker, followed by a second uphill shot to reach the green.

The course setup has been lengthened in recent years. In 1998 the course at Augusta measured 6925 yards from the Masters tees, but in 2002 it was extended to 7270 yards and then again to 7445 in 2006. Many of the players have criticised these changes, most notably Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer who felt that short hitters would be put at a disadvantage. Gary Player defended this after playing on the course, saying he thought that hitters would have to play the same shots as Jack Nicklaus did in his prime.

The Par 3 Contest

The Par 3 contest has been a tradition of the Masters Tournament since 1960. It is played on the Wednesday before the championship starts, and takes place on the specialist course built for the event in 1958. It is a 9-hole course that is 1060 yards in length, with a par of 27. The competition is seen as a stress-free game before the pressure of the main championship starts. Many of the players let their children caddy for them and will often stop to sign autographs and talk to spectators, making this a firm favourite with fans. The competition starts at 1 p.m. but it is advisable to get there early in order to get a good viewing spot. Cameras are not allowed during the tournament days so this is a good opportunity to get some shots of the players. Tickets for the Par 3 Contest cost $410. None of the Par 3 winners have gone on to become the Masters Champion in the same year.

Players

Notable Past Players
Arnold Palmer was one of the dominating players of the early sixties, winning the tournament 4 times between 1958 and 1964, with his second win being an epic feat against Ken Venturi. Jack Nicklaus went on to become the next big time winner with 6 wins in the early 1970s, the greatest number for any of the players in the history of the Masters , with his 5th win being the result of a 40-foot birdie. He was also the oldest player to win the Masters in 1986, when he won it for the sixth time. In contrast, Tiger Woods is the youngest champion to have won the Masters, doing so at the age of 21 when he won by an unbelievable twelve shots which also broke the 4-day scoring record that had been standing for 32 years. Woods along with Arnold Palmer are the only two players to have won the championship 4 times. The United States has produced the greatest number of champions, with a total of 55 wins. The Spanish have the next highest number of champions with 4 winners, and South Africa and England have both produced 3 champions. For details of all past champions see the list of Masters Winners.

Entrants
With only a total of 90 entrants, The Masters Championship has the smallest field of all the majors. It is an invitational event, but these invitations are automatically awarded to those who meet the criteria, to ensure that the top golfers will be playing in the tournament. Recently the National Augusta Golf Club has discouraged players who have passed an advanced age from participating in the tournament. Exemption categories include:

  • All past Masters Champions for their lifetime
  • Champions of the US Open for the past 5 years
  • Champions of the British Open for the past 5 years
  • PGA Champions from the last 5 years
  • Winners of the Players Championship from the last 3 years
  • The current US Amateur Champion and the runner up
  • The current Amateur Champion
  • The current US Amateur Public Links Champion
  • The current US Mid-Amateur Champion
  • The first 16 players of the last Masters Champion
  • The first 8 players in the last US Open
  • The first 4 players of the last Open
  • The first 4 players of the last PGA Championship
  • The 30 leaders on the PGA Tour money list for the last year
  • All players who won the PGA Tour Regular Season and Playoff events that have at least a full-point allocation for the Tour Championship from the last to the current Masters
  • All players who qualified for the last year’s season-ending Tour-Championship
  • The top 50 players on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous year
  • The top 50 players on the Official World Golf Ranking that is produced the week before the Masters Championship.

Prize

The winner of the Masters Championship is awarded a monetary prize, which currently stands at $7.25 million. Additionally they also win a gold medal and have their names engraved on the silver Masters Trophy, which displays an impression of the clubhouse. Champions also receive the Green Jacket, one of the most coveted awards of the golfing world, which came into existence in 1949 when Sam Snead won the championship. Members of the Augusta Clubhouse wear a green jacket when on the grounds of the club, thus every champion automatically becomes an honorary member of the club.

The champion gets to keep the jacket for the first year after the win, but then they must return it to the club so that they are able to wear it every time they visit. They are the only person who is able to remove the jacket from its holding at the club. The only player that has failed to adhere to this was Gary Player in 1961, who did not bring the jacket back to the club when his year was up. The winner of the last green jacket presents the new winner with their jacket and places it on them. If this happens to be the same player, then the chairman of the Clubhouse will present him with his jacket.

The Champions’ Dinner is held on the Tuesday before the Thursday’s first round. The first one was hosted by Ben Hogan in 1952 as an event to honour all past Masters champions. As well as past champions, selected members of the National Augusta Golf Club are invited as honorary members. The menu is selected by the defending champion

Tickets

Spectators are able to enter the course and watch the proceedings on both the practice round and the tournament days. These are limited, thus incredibly difficult to get hold of, and are sold in advance, and Tournament or Series Badges are available for all those on the closed patron list. Tickets for the practice days are also difficult to come by, with tickets costing $200 for the first day, $295 for the second day and $410 for the final day.

Applications for these tickets need to be made nearly a year in advance, and then a random draw is made to allocate tickets. Prices for the tournament days rise steeply, with Round 1 day costing $820, Rounds 2 & 3 are $865 per day, and tickets for the day of the Final Round will set you back $955. Multiple day tickets are also available; two-day tickets can be bought for the Thursday and Friday, or Saturday and Sunday, four-day tickets are available for the Thursday to Sunday, or seven-day ones for the whole week. These tickets are only available for those who are on the closed patrons list. This was opened in 1972 and closed again in 1978, and then reopened in 2000 and closed shortly after. See here for details about how to apply for and buy tickets.