The Masters

The Masters is one of golf’s elite tournaments and makes up one of the four majors that are played each year. It’s an important event as it’s the first major of the season and is often thought of as being the most prestigious. 

It’s also unique in that it’s the only one of the majors that is held at the same golf course each year; Augusta National, Georgia, United States. Played in April, the tournament takes place over four days, but often you will see TV coverage start from as early as the Monday, watching players partake in practice rounds, pro-am events and the prestigious Par 3 event that is played on the Wednesday as the curtain raiser to the main event. 

About

The tournament is played over 4 days, with each day consisting of 18 holes, combining in a 72 hole strokeplay format. The field is the smallest of all the majors, usually consisting of 90 to 100 players. It’s also unique in that it’s an invitational field, with the committee sending out invites to each of the players. Qualification can be based on a number of factors, that include:

Qualification Factors

  • Top 50 ranked players in the world as listed by the Official World Golf ranking from the previous season
  • Former major champions
  • Previous Masters winners (lifetime exemption)
  • Amateur champions and runners-up from around the world
  • Current major champions (5 year exemption) 
  • Top players from previous major tournaments
  • Winners of PGA Tour events from the previous year

Obviously the numbers of each can vary with each year, which is the reason behind the unconfirmed field numbers for each event. 

Throughout the four days – starting on the Thursday and finishing on the Sunday – a cut is made of the field after 36 holes (Friday). This will include the top 50 placed players and ties, but also now includes any player within 10 shots of the leader. As the Masters is renowned for having a fairly bunched field, this number can vary quite a lot each year, providing there is no runaway leader after these 36 holes.

The remaining players then play out the final 36 holes before the Masters Champion is crowned on the final day.

The Course

The course is probably as famous a course as you are going to find in the world. The Augusta National is one of the most manicured and most beautiful that you are going to find. As it’s played at the same place each year, many people are familiar with each hole and each has their own risk-reward play. 

What many people don’t realise about the course is how undulating it is. A lot of courses in America are pretty flat, but Augusta has some steep hills, inclines and declines, which adds another layer of difficulty. These are also often found on some of the greens, which again, can make them treacherous to play on. 

The course is often tinkered with quite heavily before each event. Whilst major changes are kept at a minimal, they inclusion of new bunkers, the trimming of fairway rough, the inclusion of trees and the speed of the greens are ways in which the committee feel that course is kept fresh, each year posing slightly different challenges. To get an idea of just how perfect they make the course look, if they have to fell any branches from the trees, they actually paint the stud where the branch was removed from to make it more aesthetically pleasing! 

The climate is another issue that players have to cope with. Throughout April in Georgia there is on average a 30% chance of rain each day, which means at some point it’s likely the rain will affect the play. This combined with the humidity and heat that can often occur at this time of year makes it tough to predict for players. 

In regards to the greens, one of the ways in that the committee are able to control how the course is played is by removing moisture from the greens to either speed up or slow them down. Each green has a moisture control system included which can suck certain amounts out of the turf. What you will usually find is that at the start of the week they leave them pretty fair, but as the it moves into the weekend they will dry them out to speed them up and increase difficulty. 

With so many rounds being played at the course over the years, they often move around the flagsticks to make holes harder or easier as they see fit. For example, the 16th hole par 3 allows for several positons that can only leave a fast downhill putt. 

The Augusta National Holes & Pars

Hole

Name

Par Score

1

Tea Olive

4

2

Pink Dogwood

5

3

Flowering Peach

4

4

Flowering Crab Apple

3

5

Magnolia

4

6

Juniper

3

7

Pampas

4

8

Yellow Jasmine

5

9

Carolina Cherry

4

10

Camellia

4

11

White Dogwood

4

12

Golden Bell

3

13

Azalea

5

14

Chinese Fir

4

15

Firethorn

5

16

Redbud

3

17

Nandina

4

18

Holly

4

Par 3 Contest

The par 3 contest is the curtain raiser tot the main event, played on the Wednesday afternoon before the first round Thursday. It’s played on it’s own course, running adjacent to the main course, but is as picturesque as you will find. 

The whole nature of the par 3 is to create a relaxed atmosphere amongst the players and whilst it’s not required that players take part, the majority of them do. A lot of players also get friends and family involved, either to carry their bag or to even hit a couple of shots. The famous white boiler suits that the caddies will wear all week are often given out to kids of the players or anyone carrying the bag. 

But, the par 3 contest comes with a strong hoo-doo attached in that no player who has won the par 3 has then gone on to win the Masters proper. This has caused many superstitious players to deliberately hit balls into the water or pick their ball up on the last should they be having a good round to ensure that they don’t win! 

Silver Cup

The Silver Cup is awarded to the low scoring amateur that makes the cut. It’s a prestigious award as it gets presented alongside the winner of the main event as well, often seeing a fair amount of limelight for the young (or old) player to have managed the feat. 

This is a traditional that has been running since 1952, but in 1954 they also decided that they would award a silver medal to the low amateur runner-up as well. 

Statistics

The American’s definitely hold the mantle over the rest of the world when it comes to total Masters won. Since the tournament started in 1934, an American has won on ne fewer that 59 occasions, with 36 different winners. The Europeans have a total of 13 wins, with 5 coming from South Africa and then a single win for players from Fiji, Canada, Argentina and Australia, respectively. 

There are two players who have tied the lowest scoring totals in Masters history; Jordan Spieth (2015) and Tiger Woods (1997), both with 72 hole scores of 18-under. Both players in those years obviously went on to win the event, with Spieth winning by 4 strokes over Phil Mickelson and Justin, and Woods winning by 12 stokes over Tom Kite, which is also a record for the biggest margin of victory. 

The great Jack Nicklaus is the most successful player at the Masters, with 6 wins to his name. But, what’s probably most impressive about it is that his first win came in 1963 and his final win came some 23 years later in 1986, 11 years after his previous win, highlighting just what a legend Nicklaus was. Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer are tied second place with 4 wins a piece. 

The course record has been set twice Augusta; first by Nick Price in 1986 and then 10 years alter by Greg Norman in 1996, both shooting rounds of 63. It’s actually quite staggering given how many rounds that there have been on this great course to see only two rounds of 63 scored as the lowest, highlighting just how tough Augusta National is.

Other Notable Stats

  • Youngest Player: Guan Tianlang, aged 14 years and 168 days (also youngest to ever make the cut)
  • Most Appearances: Gary Player – 52 (also most consecutive cuts with 23)
  • Highest Winning Score: +1 – Sam Snead, Jack Burke Jr. and Zack Johnson
  • Most Birdies in a Single Round: 11 – Anthony Kim, 2009
  • Most Runner-Up Finishes: 4 – Ben Hogan, Tom Wieskopf and Jack Nicklaus

Best Masters Finishes

Ranking

Name

Best Masters Finish

1

Dustin Johnson

T4

2

Jordan Spieth

W 2015

3

Justin Thomas

T22

4

Hideki Matsuyama

5th

5

John Rham

T27

6

Justin Rose 

T2 x 2

7

Rickie Fowler

T5

8

Rory McIlroy

4th

9

Henrik Stenson

T14

10

Brooks Koepka

T11

2017 Prize Money Breakdown

Place

Golfer

Prize Money

1st

Sergio Garcia

$1,980,000

2nd

Justin Rose

$1,188,000

3rd

Charl Schwartzel

$748,000

T-4th

Matt Kuchar

$528,000

T-4th

Thomas Pieters

$440,000

6th

Paul Casey

$396,000

T-7th

Kevin Chappell

$354,750

T-7th

Rory McIlroy

$354,750

T-9th

Adam Scott

$308,000

T-9th

Ryan Moore

$308,000

History

The driving force behind the Masters was one of the legends of the game; Bobby Jones. It was Jones’ idea to create a course that he could play after he had retired, little did he know the effect of this vision on the game of golf. 

Jones and his good friend, Clifford Roberts, who also later went on to become Chairman at Augusta, manged to find a bit of land in Augusta, Georgia, and the rest, as they say, is history! Allister MacKenzie was the brains behind the design of the course and he was brought on board in 1933. Originally the land had been a plant nursery, which is why there are so many references to plants and nature within the course and likely one of the reasons it looks so beautiful. Sadly, MacKenzie passed away before the inaugural tournament was hosted in 1933. 

The name ‘The Masters’ didn’t actually come along until 1939 and it was known as the Augusta National Invitational before that. The original tournament actually played the current back nine as the front and current front 9 as the back. This was switched in 1935 as it allowed for a better layout given the increasing popularity of the tournament. 

Since then, the course has seen very little in way of major renovation. It’s been able to stand the test of time and whilst each year there are new features, the actual layout and the undulations that you see are all as they were some 80+ years ago.  

But, it has had to move with the times and one of things that has changed has been the length of the course. In 2001 the course was measuring just 6,925 yards, relatively short compared to modern standards. The additional 300 yards that were added were almost seen as a nod to inflation, given the lengths players were hitting the ball, rather than an increase in difficulty, per say.

However, further extensions just 5 years later to push it to 7,445 yards did come under some heavy criticism from former players such as Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, saying that players who were shorter hitters weren’t going to be able to cope hitting long irons into tight flags. 

Green Jacket

The green jacket is probably the most iconic thing about The Masters. Instead of a trophy that is often presented in silver, gold or crystal, the winners of the Masters are awarded a green jacket, that they are able to keep for life. Only past winners and honorary members of the Augusta National Country Club are allowed to receive one.  

The jacket is awarded to the winner upon completion of the final round and presented by the winner of the previous year’s tournament. The initial presentation takes place in the log cabin within the club house, including the chairman at the time of Augusta National, the past winner, the current winner and the low amateur for the week. A more relaxed presentation is then made on the 18thgreen, allowing fans and the media to see the winner with his green jacket. 

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus is not just widely regarded as the greatest player of the Masters of all time, but that of the greatest player in golf of all time. He’s been able to win 18 major championships over his illustrious career, more than anyone else in the game.

6 of those victories were at Augusta and Jack himself recalls the course more as a home than just a golf course. What’s most impressive is that Nicklaus has won his 6 tournaments spanning over 23 years, winning his first aged just 23 and then his last aged 46, also making him the oldest player to win the Masters. 

Whilst all of his victories were undoubtedly special at the time, there was something about his first in 1963 that really stood out. The fact that he was able to win the tournament by just one stroke and that he had likes of Sam Snead, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer all within 5 shots of his precious lead made it even more remarkable. 

However, the 1965 Masters has to go down as one of the greatest of all time. It was a no contest really in that Nicklaus manged to shoot 17 under par, a record that stood for over 30 years. But, it wasn’t the fact that he won by 9 shots and obliterated the field, it was the fact that in tied second place was that of long time rivals and two of the greatest golfers of all time, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. 

Tiger Woods

If Nicklaus is the best ever, there are few golfers that have had as big an influence on the game than Tiger Woods. It was Woods who transformed the game from slightly overweight, middle aged players, to that of lean, young, fit and strong men that you so often see striding down the fairways today. 

Tiger Woods has been able to excel at almost every level and with 79 wins is second in the all-time list of career victories. He also holds 14 majors to his name, just 4 behind Nicklaus, although it does appear now that due to injuries, this number likely won’t be improved upon.

We spoke about Nicklaus setting the lowest ever tournament total of 17 under in 1965, well, it was none other than Tiger Woods that went 1 better in 1997 with a stunning 12 stoke victory (still the largest margin of victory today) over Tom Kite. It was a win that put Woods firmly on the map and cemented his place as the superstar that he was. 

Just 4 years alter he would go back to back, with wins in 2001 and 2002, both securing relatively easy 2 and 3 stroke victories. His final Masters victory – to date- came in 2005 where he beat Chris Di Marco in the first hole of a playoff. 

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