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, though in 2020 it was the final of three majors.
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. Normally played in April (November in 2020), 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.
|Augusta National Golf Club||Augusta, Georgia||7,475 Yards||$11,500,000|
The Masters is the only men’s major championship that takes place at the same golf course every year. Augusta National has changed considerably over time but year on year the general challenge posed by one of the world’s most iconic courses remains the same. But how much will it have altered this year?
There are no significant modifications to Augusta National compared to last year. The par 72 layout can still stretch to a maximum yardage of 7,475, the fairways are still vast and undulating and the greens remain lightning quick. But the rescheduling of the Masters from April to November due to the pandemic and the lack of fans could both have a serious impact on the way the tournament plays.
Hitting the fairways has never been a prerequisite for success at Augusta due to the relatively lenient rough. The lack of patrons around the fairways might just make driving accuracy a touch more important. Rough won’t be trampled down and balls may not always be found without thousands of eyes tracking them. The lack of fans will also give the course a much less intimate feel, Augusta without the grandstands is a cavernous, almost eerie place so players will need an even greater level of mental toughness.
Then there is the heavy rain in the forecast which will soften the course up, even the legendary greens, the speed of which can be controlled by a sub-air system. The greens themselves may not slow down too much but hitting the right parts of them, which is key at Augusta, will be so much easier as they will certainly be more receptive.
The inclement weather and the ability of some players to overpower certain holes will put an even greater emphasis on approach play and strokes gained from tee to green at this year’s Masters. For all the pre-tournament talk of players taking Augusta National on, power off the tee will be for nought if booming drives aren’t followed by accurate irons and wedges into the right parts of the greens. In recent times it is approach play that has been most important in deciding the winner and that is definitely an aspect of a player’s game that needs to be in great shape.
The Masters Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin||Course|
|2021||Hideki Matsuyama||-10||1 Stroke||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2020||Dustin Johnson||-20||5 Strokes||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2019||Tiger Woods||-13||1 Stroke||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2018||Patrick Reed||-15||1 Stroke||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2017||Sergio Garcia||-9||Playoff||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2016||Danny Willett||-5||3 Strokes||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2015||Jordan Spieth||-18||4 Strokes||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2014||Bubba Watson||-8||3 Strokes||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2013||Adam Scott||-9||Playoff||Augusta National Golf Club|
|2012||Bubba Watson||-10||Playoff||Augusta National Golf Club|
About the Masters at Augusta
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:
- 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.
As one of the most prestigious gold tournaments on the planet, it’s no surprise to see that The Masters has one of the biggest purses. The total prize fund for the 2020 tournament sat at $11.5 million. The only tournaments which now offer more are The Players Championship at $15 million and the US Open at £12.5 million. The breakdown of winnings for the top twenty positions at the 2020 Masters is shown in the chart below.
The Augusta National Golf 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 positions that can only leave a fast downhill putt.
Augusta National Course Hole by Hole Guide
|Hole||Name||Yardage||Par Score||Bunkers||Tee to Green Direction|
|1||Tea Olive||445||4||2||Slight right|
|3||Flowering Peach||350||4||5||Slight right|
|4||Flowering Crab Apple||240||3||2||Straight|
|8||Yellow Jasmine||570||5||1||Slight right|
|12||Golden Bell||155||3||3||Straight (over water)|
|13||Azalea||510||5||4||Left (across brook)|
|14||Chinese Fir||440||4||0||Slight left|
|15||Firethorn||530||5||1||Straight (across water)|
|16||Redbud||170||3||3||Straight (across water)|
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 hoodoo 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!
Par 3 Contest Winners: 2000 – 2020
|Year||Player||Country||Masters Finishing Position|
|2019||Matt Wallace||England||Missed cut|
|2018||Tom Watson||U.S.A.||Did not play|
|2016||Jimmy Walker||U.S.A.||Tied 29th|
|2015||Kevin Streelman||U.S.A.||Tied 12th|
|2014||Ryan Moore||U.S.A.||Missed cut|
|2013||Ted Potter Jr.||U.S.A.||Missed cut|
|2012||Jonathan Byrd (tied)||U.S.A.||Tied 27th|
|Padraig Harrington (tied)||Ireland||Tied 8th|
|2011||Luke Donald||England||Tied 4th|
|2010||Louis Osthuizen||South Africa||Missed cut|
|2009||Tim Clark||South Africa||Tied 13th|
|2008||Rory Sabbitini||South Africa||Missed cut|
|2007||Mark O’Meara||U.S.A.||Missed cut|
|2006||Ben Crane||U.S.A.||Missed cut|
|2005||Jerry Pate||U.S.A.||Did not play|
|2004||Padraig Harrington||Ireland||Tied 13th|
|2003||Padraig Harrington (tied)||Ireland||Missed cut|
|David Toms (tied)||U.S.A.||Tied 8th|
|2002||Nick Price||Zimbabwe||Tied 20th|
|2001||David Toms||U.S.A.||Tied 31st|
|2000||Chris Perry||U.S.A.||Tied 14th|
Silver Cup & Silver Medal
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.
Some famous players have won this award in recent years including Phil Mickelson in 1991, Tiger Woods in 1995 and Sergio Garcia in 1999.
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. Amateurs must make the cut to be awarded the silver cup or the silver medal so there are occasions where one or both are not given.
Silver Cup & Silver Medal Winners: 1990 – 2020
|Year||Silver Cup Winner (Position)||Silver Medal Winner (Position)|
|2020||Andy Ogletree (T34)||John Augenstein (T55)|
|2019||Viktor Hovland (T32)||Alvaro Ortiz (T36)|
|2018||Doug Ghim (T50)||–|
|2017||Stewart Hagestad (T36)||Curtis Luck (46)|
|2016||Bryson DeChambeau (T21)||Romain Langasque (T39)|
|2014||Oliver Goss (49)||–|
|2013||Guan Tianlang (58)||–|
|2012||Patrick Cantlay (T47)||Hideki Matsuyama (T54)|
|2011||Hideki Matsuyama (T27)||–|
|2010||Matteo Manassero (T36)||–|
|2005||Ryan Moore (T13)||Luke List (T33)|
|2004||Casey Wittenberg (T13)||Brandt Snedeker (T41)|
|2003||Ricky Barnes (21)||Hunter Mahan (T28)|
|2000||David Gossett (T54)||–|
|1999||Sergio Garcia (T38)||Tom McKnight (T44)|
|1998||Matt Kuchar (T21)||Joel Kribel (45)|
|1995||Tiger Woods (T41)||–|
|1994||John Harris (T50)||–|
|1992||Manny Zerman (T58)||–|
|1991||Phil Mickelson (T47)||Manny Zerman (57)|
|1990||Chris Patton (T39)||–|
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 61 occasions, with 37 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.
Dustin Johnson has the lowest score in Masters history with a 72 hole score of 20-under when he won the 2020 tournament. His four round score of 268 was five clear of Im Sung-jae and Cameron Smith who tied for second place and eight clear of Justin Thomas in fourth.
There are two players who have tied the second 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 Rose, and Woods winning by 12 stokes over Tom Kite, which is 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 is second with 5 wins and Arnold Palmer in third place with 4 wins.
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
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 plus 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.
The green jacket is probably the most recognisable feature of 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 members of the Augusta National Country Club are allowed to wear the jackets with winners of the Masters becoming honorary members. Once won, the reigning champion may take the jacket away from the club but only for one year. After this the jacket must remain at the club, only to be worn when revisiting.
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, known as Butler Cabin.
The ceremony includes the chairman at the time of Augusta National, the past winner, the current winner and the low amateur for the week. The previous winner must place the jacket on the new winner, leading to many an awkward moment between players over the years. One such moment saw Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner blow a five shot lead in 2016, losing out to Englishman Danny Willett. Tradition then required Spieth to help Willett into his green jacket in front of the viewing millions.
A more relaxed presentation is then made on the 18th green, allowing fans and the media to see the winner with his green jacket.
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.
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 82 wins is tied in the all-time list of PGA Tour career victories. He also holds 15 majors to his name, just 3 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 fourth Masters victory to date came in 2005 where he beat Chris Di Marco in the first hole of a playoff.
In 2019 Woods sensationally won the Masters for a fifth time, finishing 1 stroke ahead of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Xander Schauffele. This was Tiger’s first Major in 11 years and at 43, he became the tournaments second oldest winner with only Jack Nicklaus at 46 doing so at an older age.