On Thursday, April 10, the first major championship of the 2014 golf season will begin, as the Masters is played from the world famous Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
Many of golf’s memorable moments have taken place on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, and those who are fortunate enough to win the Masters have their place permanently etched into the fabric of the game. No matter what they do or don’t do from that moment on, they will always be known as a Masters champion.
There are so many factors that make up what’s special about the Masters. Here, in this A-Z guide to golf's greatest tournament, are some of the more important ones:
Amen Corner was coined by Herbert Warren Wind in his recap of the 1958 Masters for Sports Illustrated when describing the second shot of the 11th, entire 12th hole and the tee shot on the 13th.
Many players have won and lost the tournament on those three holes over the years, and it’s widely considered the most famous stretch of holes in the world. Historically, the holes have played as the 3rd, 2nd and 17th handicaps on the course, and provide tons of drama every year.
Scott is the defending Masters champion, winning last year in a very memorable playoff against Angel Cabrera.
Since putting on the green jacket in 2013, Scott has put together a bunch of top finishes, including a win at the Barclays and back-to-back triumphs a few months ago in his native Australia. He probably should have won a few other times too, most recently in his last start at Bay Hill a few weeks ago when he couldn’t hang on to a three-shot lead on Sunday, eventually finishing in solo third behind Matt Every and Keegan Bradley.
With three consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta and his current form, you have to think that he’ll be in the mix again this year as he attempts to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only repeat champions in Masters history.
MacKenzie, along with Bobby Jones, designed Augusta National in the early ’30s, first opening in 1933 and hosting the inaugural Masters Tournament in 1934. MacKenzie died in January of ’34, so he never got to see a Masters tournament, but his impact is still being felt today. Even though the course has changed over the years due to advancements in the modern game, the layout has remained pretty similar, as have the notoriously difficult greens.
Yes, bunkers have been added and removed, yardage has been increased, and the rough has been grown out, but the feel of the course hasn’t changed substantially in the 80 years it’s been around. MacKenzie said that “the chief object of every golf architect or green keeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from Nature herself.” Not only did he do that to perfection, it has remained that way ever since.
Augusta National has three bridges on the grounds that are named after former champions:
The Hogan Bridge takes players over Rae’s Creek and onto the 12th green. The bridge was dedicated to Ben Hogan before the 1958 tournament in honour of his then-record performance of 274 strokes in the 1953 Masters. A plaque is present before the bridge, commemorating the achievement, reading:
This bridge dedicated April 2, 1958, to commemorate Ben Hogan’s record score for four rounds of 274 in 1953. Made up of rounds of 70, 69, 66 and 69. This score will always stand as one of the very finest accomplishments in competitive golf and may even stand for all time as the record for The Masters tournament.
That record didn’t last long, as Jack Nicklaus posted a 271 mark in 1965 and Tiger Woods holds the record at 270 when he ran away from the field in 1997.
Much like the Hogan Bridge, the Nelson Bridge was dedicated to Byron Nelson prior to the 1958 Masters, and also sits above Rae’s Creek, this time taking players from the 13th tee to the 13th fairway. The bridge also has a plaque commemorating Nelson’s come from behind win at the 1937 Masters, reading:
This bridge was dedicated April 2, 1958, to commemorate Byron Nelson’s spectacular play on these two holes (12-13) when he scored 2-3 to pick up six strokes on Ralph Guldahl and win the 1937 Masters Tournament. In recognition also to Guldahl, who came back with an eagle 3 on 13 to gain winning position in 1939.
The Sarazen Bridge is a small bridge on the 15th hole that gets players to the green. It was named after Gene Sarazen because of his “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” in 1935, a double eagle with a 4-wood on the 15th that allowed him to get into a playoff with Craig Wood, which he would later win to claim the 1935 Masters.
When asked about it after it happened, Sarazen was quoted as saying: ”That double eagle wouldn't have meant a thing if I hadn't won the playoff the next day. The aspect I cherish most is that both Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones witnessed the shot."
The Crow’s Nest sits atop the Augusta National clubhouse, and serves as housing for the invited amateurs. It’s as old-fashioned as you can get, looking like your traditional bed and breakfast that you would see in the Southern United States, with a common area and average sized beds, all done in green and white with pictures and memorabilia from the club and the tournament.
Former champions like Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods all stayed there when they first played the tournaments as amateurs, and this year, it’ll house the following players:
- Matthew Fitzpatrick, 19 yrs old (England): Won the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship
- Oliver Goss, turns 20 on Masters Saturday (Australia): Runner-up in the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship.
- Chang-woo Lee, 20 years old (Korea): Won the 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
- Michael McCoy, 50 years old (USA): Won the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
- Jordan Niebrugge, 20 years old (USA): Won the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
- Garrick Porteous, 24 years old (England): Won the 2013 British Amateur Championship.
CBS is the primary North American broadcaster of the event, and will be entering their 58th year of coverage at Augusta National. ESPN handles Thursday and Friday coverage of the event, but it is still jointly produced by the crew at CBS.
It’s grown significantly since that first airing back in 1956 when they used only six cameras and broadcasted the last four holes. Now, it’s a massive undertaking that involves dozen of cameras and coverage of every hole, with minimal commercial interruption.
As mandated by the club, there’s only four minutes of commercials every hour, which makes the network cringe, but is great for the fans.
First started in 1952 at the suggestion of Ben Hogan, the Champions Dinner is held every year on the Tuesday before the event for all previous winners of the Masters. The reigning champion of the event is responsible for selecting the menu and for footing the bill afterwards.
The menu usually relates to the player’s place of birth, and while Scott hasn’t divulged his plans in full, he has said that his mother’s pavlova recipe will be the dessert, and he hasn’t ruled out kangaroo or Moreton Bay Bugs, a form of lobster, as the main course.
Some of my personal favourites from the past, courtesy of about.com:
- Charl Schwartzel, 2012: An opening course consisting of a chilled seafood bar, which includes shrimp, lobster, crabmeat, crab legs and oysters. The main course is a “braai,” a South African barbecue, which includes lamb chops, steaks and South African sausages. Desert of vanilla ice cream sundae. Also in the mix are salads, cheeses, plus sides such as sautéed sweet corn, green beans and Dauphinoise potatoes.
- Mike Weir, 2004: Elk, wild boar, Arctic char (that’s a fish), Canadian beer.
- Tiger Woods, 1998: Cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, french fries, milkshakes.
Dan Jenkins is as much a part of the Masters as anyone these days, as he will be covering the event for his 64th consecutive year. He got his start in journalism in 1951 as a college freshman, and has parlayed that into a ridiculously long career with several newspapers, Playboy, Sports Illustrated and now Golf Digest, in addition to writing several books.
He was profiled by Bryan Curtis for Grantland, and his recently released book, His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir is a must read for anyone interested in the game of golf.
To this day, Dwight Eisenhower is the only United States president to be a member of the ultra exclusive Augusta National Golf Club. On the 17th hole, there used to be a giant loblolly pine tree to the left of the fairway, about 210 yards from the tee. Unfortunately, the recent ice storm that hit the Augusta area damaged the tree so badly, that it needed to be chopped down. The story behind the tree though is still worth remembering.
While not in play for the pros, it would have been in play for those of us who have little idea of where the ball is going, like the former POTUS. Reportedly, Eisenhower hit that tree so often with his tee ball that he proposed in a 1956 meeting that the pine be cut down. Clifford Roberts, who was club president at the time, didn’t want to offend Eisenhower, so instead of responding to the request, he simply ended the meeting.
So, you want to go to the Masters? Well, you can. You can try and go through the official channels, but you’d almost have a better chance of qualifying for the event itself. Or, you can go purchase tickets online from places like StubHub or TiqIQ, but be prepared to pay.
As of this writing, Thursday to Sunday passes will run you north of $8,000 and that’s not including flights and accommodations. You can get better prices if you buy earlier, but if you want to go, even for one day of tournament play, you’ll be spending into the four digits.
Of the four major championships, the Masters is the only one that gives a lifetime exemption to former champions, giving fans at least one tournament a year to see the guys they used to watch growing up.
Usually, the former champions play much longer than they would otherwise because they love the tournament so much. Arnold Palmer last played in 2004 at age 74 and Jack Nicklaus went out in 2005 at 65. Tommy Aaron, winner in 1973, is the oldest player to make the cut at the Masters, doing so at age 63 in 2000.
All members of Augusta National are given a green jacket with the club logo on the left breast, as suggested by Clifford Roberts when the club opened so that the members would be easily identifiable on the course during the Masters, in case anyone had any questions.
It was a good move when you think about it since it’s ugly enough that no one else would ever want to wear one, but it really became part of the lore of the event when they started giving them to past champions, starting with Sam Snead in 1949.
Making it even more exclusive is that the only person allowed to take the jacket off the premises is the defending champion. Scott has said that he’s worn it at least once every day since winning it last April.
On the Monday after winning in 2010, Phil Mickelson decided to wear the jacket while going through a Krispy Kreme drive-thru.
Because, why not?
One of the things that makes the Masters special is their recognition and appreciation of history.
The tournament is opened each year, with honorary starters. Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were the first in 1963, and it has been done every year since with the exception of 1977-1980 and 2003-2006.
The starters line up and hit the opening tee shots, signifying the beginning of the event. For the third consecutive year, former champions Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus will open the Masters.
The first thing that you’ll hear when the TV coverage starts on Thursday is the intro music for the tournament, written and introduced by Dave Loggins in 1981. It’s one of the most iconic pieces of music in sports, and really fits with the tone of the tournament.
Getting the opportunity to play in the Masters is certainly a special feeling, even if you’ve been there before and had a chance to tee it up in the tournament.
One of the little things that makes the tournament stand out are the invitations that they send out every year to all of the players who are entered. Receiving one, especially for the first time like Graham DeLaet did at the end of last year, is the first indication that the tournament is just around the corner.
“A tradition unlike any other. The Masters on CBS.”
Nantz has become the voice of golf in North America, and while some people don’t care for his style, his tone and rhythm are a perfect fit for the Masters. He first started covering golf for CBS in 1986, and was present for Nicklaus’ historic win at Augusta.
He will address you as his friends, he will tell you about how tall the pines are and that the azaleas are in full bloom, and it all just seems to work. More than anything, Nantz loves Augusta National and the Masters, and nothing will ever change that.
Sometimes when you watch a golf tournament on TV, you’ll see that the grounds just aren’t well maintained, but you won’t see that at Augusta National.
Everything about the course, from the fairways to the bunkers, to the greens, is in the most pristine and immaculate condition. As good as it looks on TV, especially now with HDTV coverage, it’s supposed to look even better when you’re actually on the grounds. Words like heavenly and exquisite are often used to describe the course, and honestly, they couldn’t be any more accurate.
There are reports that the storm back in February may have caused significant damage to the course and that what we’ll see this week could be a very different looking Augusta National, but there’s no reason to believe that the course won’t be ready to go on Thursday morning.
Left-handed players are pretty rare in golf. At most, there will be ten on the PGA Tour in a given year, but five of the last eleven winners at the Masters have played from the other side of the ball.
Mike Weir, who famously wrote Jack Nicklaus when he was 12-years old asking the Golden Bear about switching to a right-handed swing and Nicklaus told him to stay left-handed as that was natural for him, won in 2003. Phil Mickelson has won three times in the last decade (2004, 2006, and 2010) and Bubba Watson won in 2012.
Magnolia Lane is the short, roughly 330 yard, drive when you enter the club’s gated community. The road is flanked by 61 magnolia trees that date back to the 1850’s. At the end of Magnolia Lane is Founder’s Circle, an area dedicated to the two founders of the club, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.
These days, we know that the tournament held at Augusta National every year is called the Masters, but that wasn’t the case when the tournament got its start back in 1934.
Clifford Roberts wanted to call it the Masters from the very beginning, but Bobby Jones protested, saying that the tournament name should be more modest, especially as a new event. Jones got his wish for the first five years, as it was named the Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
In 1939 though, Jones relented and with his blessing, the tournament was renamed as the Masters as Roberts originally wanted. Even still, he never liked the name, referring to it as the “so-called Masters” for decades after the change.
Cheering and ovations are standard on every course in the world, but there’s something different about them at the Masters. Players have frequently mentioned over the years that for some reason, especially on Sunday, the roars just reverberate around the course.
When Jack Nicklaus was making his Sunday charge in the 1986 tournament, both Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros were visibly shaken by the roars, and Seve especially appeared constantly worried about when the next ovation would come. Both players wilted on Sunday, helping to give Nicklaus his sixth green jacket.
In addition to the regular Augusta National course on the grounds, a tiny nine-hole par-3 course also exists, and houses the par-3 contest every year on the Wednesday before the start of the tournament. Holes range from 70 to 140 yards on the course, and it’s usually a place for the guys to have some fun before the event starts.
Former Masters champions usually take part, even the ones that aren’t playing in the main tournament, and most guys bring family members with them to caddie.
The course was built in 1958, and the contest first held in 1960 at the suggestion of Clifford Roberts. Art Wall and Gay Brewer hold the course record at 20 strokes, but no player has ever won the par-3 contest and gone on to win the Masters in the same year, so some players rather superstitiously don’t bother to keep their score when playing.
Over the years, many things have been changed about the course and the tournament from the original designs and intentions of Alister MacKenzie, Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones. However, there were a lot of things that were initially planned and discussed that never happened, such as:
- Originally, there were plans for a pair of 18-hole courses, an 18-hole approach and putt, along with a lavish clubhouse, tennis and squash. They didn’t have the money though, and so the clubhouse that was on-site was redone and they only had funding for one championship course, which is the one we see today. Recently though, MacKenzie’s plan for the approach and putt course were discovered, and you can see them here.
- Jones wanted a 19th hole on the layout where members who were playing cash games, could play double or nothing on a 90-yard uphill par-3 between the 9th and 18th greens. For financial reasons, this idea was scrapped.
- After seeing the success of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Jones and Roberts also looked at building a Hall of Fame at Augusta but the breakout of World War II halted plans and they never picked up again.
- Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts originally weren’t planning on starting the Masters, at least not in its current form. They actually petitioned the USGA to host the 1934 U.S. Open, but were rejected and the USGA went to Merion instead. It was at that point that they decided to start the Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
With everything that has gone on at the Masters over the years, and how beloved the club and course are, there are tons of quotes about the whole experience. A few choice favourites:
“This place always seems to have some kind of a ghost waiting around a pine tree or something for me. I remember all the places I don’t want to be.”
“The Masters is more like a vast Edwardian garden party than a golf tournament.”
“Every shot is within a fraction of disaster — that’s what makes it so great.”
“If the Masters offered no money at all, I would be here trying just as hard.”
“At my first Masters, I got the feeling that if I didn’t play well, I wouldn’t go to heaven."
“I’ve never been to heaven, and thinking back on my life, I probably won’t get a chance to go. I guess winning the Masters is a close as I’m going to get.”
“This is probably the only golf course I have spent a week on and never felt comfortable over a shot. I was off-guard all week.”
“I must admit the name was born of a touch of immodesty.”
“The first time I played the Masters, I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off. I shot the happiest 83 of my life.”
—Chi Chi Rodriguez
As of this writing, McIlroy is the current consensus favourite going into Augusta, and that was the case before he fired a final round 65 in tough conditions on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open.
He was a non-factor in both 2012 and 2013, finishing tied for 40th and 25th respectively, but everyone is still talking about his nightmare from 2011. Going into Sunday’s final round, he had a four-shot lead and ended up finishing tied for 15th after a 43 on the back-nine and a total score of 80.
Much was made of his equipment switch last year to Nike and he did struggle for most of 2013, but he did get it together towards the end of the year, and has put together eight top-10 finishes in his last eleven starts worldwide.
He has the talent and the shots to win multiple green jackets and him being the consensus favourite is entirely justified. He’s Europe’s best shot at their first champion at Augusta since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.
The most famous creek in the world of golf is present on three of the course’s eighteen holes, running at the back of the 11th green, in front of the 12th green and in front of the 13th tee.
It comes into play most notably on the 12th, where it sits in front of the embankment, guarding the green that sits a mere 155 yards away from the tee. Any balls that land short of the green and onto that embankment will roll into Rae’s Creek, unless of course you’re Fred Couples in the 1992 Masters, whose ball somehow stayed dry despite hitting the embankment, allowing him to win his first and only major championship.
Before Augusta National came to be, the land which it sits on was a plant nursery. The area has tons of different trees, plants and shrubs on the course, and each of the 18 holes is named after one of them:
- No. 1 – Tea Olive
- No. 2 – Pink Dogwood
- No. 3 – Flowering Peach
- No. 4 – Flowering Crab Apple
- No. 5 – Magnolia
- No. 6 – Juniper
- No. 7 – Pampas
- No. 8 – Yellow Jasmine
- No. 9 – Carolina Cherry
- No. 10 – Camellia
- No. 11 – White Dogwood
- No. 12 – Golden Bell
- No. 13 – Azalea
- No. 14 – Chinese Fir
- No. 15 – Firethorn
- No. 16 – Redbud
- No. 17 – Nandina
- No. 18 – Holly
Tiger shocked a lot of people a couple of weeks ago when he decided to withdraw from the event thanks to ongoing back problems, and him not being there is a big blow to the tournament.
There have been reports that those expensive ticket prices have gone down now thanks to his absence and obviously his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ eighteen major victories is the biggest story in golf, but it’s not all doom and gloom for the event.
Remember that last year’s playoff between Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera was arguably the best moment of 2013, and Tiger played no part in that. The Masters is a special event regardless of who is or isn’t there, and that won’t change in 2014 without Tiger Woods.
As complicated as playing the rest of Augusta National is, the most difficult thing is dealing with the greens and run-off areas.
The undulations that players have to deal with on the greens and surrounding areas, not to mention the tight lies, ensure that only those who are putting the best will be at the top of the leaderboard. The most notable example of this is the 14th, where three putts are the norm, especially if the players don’t put themselves in the right position with their approach.
There’s a reason that even with all of the changes made to the course over the years, very little work has ever been done on the greens.
Golf has always been a game about respect, and there’s no course or tournament that generates the kind of reverence that Augusta National and the Masters does.
The players have a great amount of respect for the other majors and the tours that put them on, but it’s different at Augusta where there just seems to be a special feeling around the whole thing, and you can hear it in the way they talk about being there every April.
With respect to the other major championships, the Masters is the one that the players and fans love and cherish the most.
This could stand for Tiger Woods or for specific clubs, but in this case, we’re referring to actual trees.
Phil Mickelson’s famous shot through the woods on 13 at the 2010 Masters is an example of greatness at Augusta, but the woods tend to do more harm than good here. Thanks to the massive size of the pines that line the course, players tend to think that the wind isn’t a factor here, but in reality, it’s the opposite.
As Gary Player said above, each shot is a fraction away from disaster, and every little gust of wind plays a massive part in either running into or avoiding that disaster.
Augusta National is the ultimate thinking golfer’s course. Players can’t just go out there and hit driver all day just to get as far away from the tee as possible, with carefully placed bunkers and all kinds of areas that you just don’t want to be in.
Jack Nicklaus always came to Augusta a week early to prepare, and Keegan Bradley has travelled to the course with Phil Mickelson in each of the last two years to pick his brain and get some work in.
Before the tournament in 2012, Gary Woodland told USA Today about his preparation:
“I played the back nine with Tom Watson and learned so much. He told me something on every hole, mostly where not to hit it. Prime example was on 18. I smoked a driver, and right when I hit it, he said, ‘Wrong club.’ And I said OK and started walking away. And he told me to come back and told me to hit 3-wood to take the bunkers out of play. So I hit 3-wood all four rounds and was 2 under. I just played the back nine with him, and I was 7 under on the back for the tournament. I should have played 18 with him.”
A few years ago, there was a thought that professional golf was in rough shape when thinking about the future of the game thanks to an increasing amount of older players at the top of the sport.
Obviously players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are still going to be effective for the next little while, but over the last few years, a real youth movement has taken place, with players like Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and others showing that the game is actually in pretty good hands going forward.
We talked about strategy in X Marks The Spot, and obviously a big factor in that is getting familiarized with the course. Fuzzy Zoeller is the last guy to win the Masters in his first ever appearance, doing so in 1979.
The only other guys to do it? Horton Smith won the first ever Masters in 1934 and Gene Sarazen was victorious in 1935. That’s the list. Best of luck to the 23 first-time players this week.
Feature photo courtesy of Getty/David Cannon