Masters Tournament – A classic event in a serene atmosphere
The Masters Tournament is one of the four major championships in professional golf. We also call it as The Masters and the U.S. Masters.
It takes place in the first week of April and the organizers hold the event at the same location, Augusta National Golf Club. The venue is a private golf course, located in Augusta, Georgia in the southeastern United States.
Bobby Jones, an amateur champion and Clifford Roberts, an investment banker started the tournament.
Bobby Jones acquired the place which was a plant nursery, after his grand slam in the year 1930. An architect, Alister MacKenzie designed the course with Bobby Jones.
The first tournament played in the year 1934 is an official money event on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Japan Golf Tour.
From the year 1949, the champion of the tournament gets a green jacket and it became a tradition. The champion has to return the jacket to the clubhouse in one year. The club will keep it in a special cloakroom with the jackets won by other champions.
Ben Hogan started ‘The Champions dinner’ in the year 1952. The defending champions host it every year on Tuesday before each tournament. And it is the exclusive event for champions and certain board members of the Augusta National Golf Club.
From the year 1963, a former champion hitting an honorary tee shot in the morning to begin the tournament also became a tradition.
Playing a semi-social contest at the par-3 course on Wednesday, the day before the first round is being in practice from the year 1960.
Bobby Jones opened the Augusta National Course in the year 1933 and it underwent many changes since then. Different architects have contributed their part in making changes.
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History of Masters
In 1930, Bobby Jones retired from competitive golf and formed an alliance with Wall Street financier Clifford Roberts.
They bought a 365-acre in Augusta for $ 70,000 which was a commercial nursery then. They bought the land with the aim of forming an exclusive golf club.
English designer Alister MacKenzie designed the 72-hole golf course and they opened it in early 1933. But, unfortunately, MacKenzie died before the first Masters tournament.
In 1933, they opened with members tournament only. But, in the consecutive year, Jones expanded the tournament. Thus the Masters tournament began.
Events in the initial years
On March 22, 1934, the first “Augusta National Invitational” tournament began. And Horton Smith won the tournament and got the prize money $1500.
In the first tournament, the golfers played with current holes 10 through 18 played as the first nine, and 1 through 9 as the second nine. Then they reversed it to the present layout and made it for the year 1935.
In the year 1939, the tournament got the present name.
During the initial years, only close associates of Bobby Jones played in the tournament. When Jones asked USGA to hold U.S. Open, the administration denied it by citing the hot climate of Georgia as the reason.
In 1935, Gene Sarazen hit the “shot heard around the world”. He holed the shot from the fairway on the par 5 15th for a double eagle. With this shot, he tied the points with Craig Wood. And further, in the 36 hole playoff, he became the winner by a 36-hole playoff.
During the period 1943-1945, the club stopped the tournament due to World War II. In that period to assist the war effort, the organizers lent the course to raise cattle and turkeys.
Masters – between the 1960s–1970s
Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus were the Big Three in that period and they dominated the Maters from 1960 to 1978. During the period they won the event 11 times and remained formidable golfers.
In 1958, Palmer won the tournament by one stroke and won the tournament in 1960 again by one stroke which was a memorable one. In the 1960 event, he trailed Ken Venturi by one shot and made birdies in the last two holes to prevail. Further, he won the tournaments in the year 1962 and in the year 1964.
In the 1960s Jack Nicklaus emerged as a popular player. He became a rival player to the Palmer. And he won his first green jacket in 1963 by defeating Tony Lema by one stroke.
In 1965, he made a course record of 271 (17 under par) for his second Masters win.
Consecutively, in the next year, Nicklaus won his third green jacket on an 18-hole playoff against Tommy Jacobs and Gay Brewer.
Thus, Niclaus became the first player to win consecutive Masters. In 1972 also, he won the tournament. Then in the year 1975, Nicklaus won the tournament by one stroke in the most exciting finish.
Gary Player won the Masters in 1961 by beating Palmer and he was the first non-American to win the title. Then in the year 1972, he again won the tournament by two strokes.
Again in the year 1978, Gary Player won the Masters when he was 42. Meantime he didn’t win for nearly four years. He played in 52 Masters and held a record for 23 consecutive cuts.
Masters – between the 1980s–2000s
During 1980 and 1990, Non-Americans won the final 11 times. Among them, Seve Ballesteros was the first European to win the Masters. And Nicklaus was the oldest player to win the Masters. He won it for the sixth time in the year 1986 at the age of 46.
In these years, Greg Norman suffered from the pressure of competing in Augusta. In the year 1987, he lost the game to Larry Mize. Then again in 1996, he lost the championship to Nick Faldo.
Tiger Woods who was at the age of 21 in 1997, won the Masters and broke the record of 72-hole which stood for 32 years.
He continued his winning streak and when he won the Masters in 2001, he completed his ‘Tiger Slam’ by winning it for the fourth consecutive time. He also won in the following year and became the third player in history to win it in consecutive years.
Further in the year 2005, he won the green jacket after a gap of three years by defeating Chris DiMarco.
In 2003, Martha Burk organized a failed protest demanding the acceptance of female members.
The Chairman of Augusta National, Billy Payne made comments about the off-court behavior of Tiger-Woods in April 2010 and it became headlines.
Mike Weir was the first Canadian who won the tournament. He won it in the year 2003 and he was also the first left-hander to win the Masters.
Phile Mickelson won the Masters in the following year by beating Ernie Els by a stroke. Incidentally, he was also a lefthander. Further, he also won the tournament in the year 2006 and 2010.
Charl Schwartzel won the tournament in the year 2011. In 2012, Bubba Watson won it. Then in 2013, Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the tournament.
Watson won the 2014 Masters and it was his second winning in three years. In the year 2015, Spieth won the Masters and became the youngest winner in his second Masters.
Danny Willett of the U.K won the Masters in the year 2016. In 2017, Sergio Garcia of Spain won it. Then Patrick Reed won the title in 2018. Tiger Woods won it and regained the glory in the year 2019.
Format of the game in Masters
From 1948, the final round of the tournament has been scheduled for the second Sunday of April. But several exceptions of the schedule occurred.
The Masters is the first major event of the year. Like other major events, it consists of four rounds of 18 holes each and is played from Thursday through Sunday.
When compared with the other majors, the Masters has a relatively small field of contenders and the tournament is unique, as it is the only tournament conducted by a private club. In the case of other majors, national organizations conduct the tournaments.
The total prize money in the Masters tournament is periodically revised. In the 2019 championship, the total prize money was $11.5 million and the winner Tiger Woods got $2,070,000.
It’s worth to be noted here that the winner Horton Smith in the first Masters in the year 1934 got $1500 and the total prize money was $5000.
From the year 1949, the winners receive a distinctive green jacket. The green sport coat is the official attire of the members of the Augusta National and the winners become the honorary members of the club.
The winner of a tournament receives the green jacket inside the Butler cabin soon after the completion of the tournament. The presentation is repeated outside near the 18th green and the patrons of the event attend it.
The winners keep the jacket for the first year and return it to the club to be kept in a cloakroom. And they will wear it whenever they visit the club. This tradition began in the year 1949.
By tradition, the defending champion puts the jacket on the winner. In 1966, when Jack Nicklaus won it for a second consecutive time, he wore the jacket himself.
But, the chairman of the Augusta National put the jacket when Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods won the title in consecutive years.
In addition, there are several awards being presented to the players for peculiar achievements.
The player who gets a daily lowest score receives a crystal vase. And the players who score a hole-in-one or a double eagle win a large crystal bowl. Further, the players get a pair of crystal goblets for each eagle they make.
The name of the winners gets engraved on the actual silver Masters trophy. From the year 1951, the runner-up receives a silver medal. Now the runner-up also gets a silver salver and presenting the silver salver began in the year 1978.
From the year 1952, the Masters presents a Silver cup to the lowest-scoring amateur. Further, from the year 1954, the organization also presents a silver medal to the low amateur runner-up.
The original trophy is kept in the Augusta National. It weighs over 130 pounds and the base is four foot wide. The replica is small which is 6.5 inches tall and weighs 20 pounds. The names of the winner and runner-up get engraved on the permanent trophy.
In the year 1967, the Masters brought the double eagle trophy. Then Bruce Devlin got the trophy as he holed out for double eagle in number 8. Previously Gene Sarazen did it in hole 15 in 1932.
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Events before the Masters
In 2013, Augusta National established Drive, Chip, and Putt, a competition to develop skills of the youth, by partnering with USGA and PGA. The competition was first held in the year 2014.
The winners in the qualifiers in different age groups move to the finals which are being held in Augusta Nationals. And the event is held on Sunday which precedes the Masters.
While the match is on, the driving and chipping event is being held on the practice range in the golf course and the putting portion is held in the 18th hole.
The Augusta National Women’s Amateur (ANWA) is a golf tournament in Georgia, and the organizers hold the event at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta and Champions Retreat Golf Club in nearby Evans. The 54-hole stroke play event debuted in 2019.
The Augusta club introduced the contest in the year 1960 and the participants play it on Wednesday before the starting of the Masters. Snead won the first contest.
The organizers built the three par course in the year 1958. It is a nine-hole course, with a par of 27 and measures 1060 yards in length.
Though there have been winners who won the contest more than once, a player who won the 3-par contest never won the Masters contest in the same year.
In this contest, the golfers use their children as caddies and it creates a family-friendly atmosphere.
The winner of the contest gets a crystal bowl.
The winner of the Masters tournament gets several privileges.
He gets the invitation and qualified to play in the other three majors – the U.S. Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship, for the next five years.
Most importantly, the winners get a lifetime invitation to play the Masters. They receive membership in the PGA Tour for the following five seasons and also the invitations for the Players Championship for five years
The Masters also follows the tradition of honoring amateur golf. It invites winners of the prestigious amateur tournaments in the world, and also gives the honor of playing the first two days of the tournament with the defending Masters Champion, to the present U.S. Amateur Champion.
The Amateurs in the field receive the invitation to stay in the ‘Crow’s Nest’ which is located atop the Augusta National clubhouse, during the tournament. It’s 1200 square feet area which could accommodate five members.
Opening tee shot
From the year 1963, the club started the tournament with an honorary opening tee shot at the first hole. One or two legendary players play the opening shot.
Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod played as the honorary starters in the starting years. And they played the honorary role from 1963 to 1973. Then Hutchinson didn’t participate due to ill health. And McLeod participated until his death in 1976.
In 1981, Byron Nelson and Gene Sarazen started the Masters. Then Sam Snead joined them in 1984. The trio played the honorary role until 1999, as Sarazen died in the year. Then Nelson stopped his participation in 2001 and Snead took part in 2002 before his death.
Arnold Plamer started the event in 2007 and continued the honorary opening shot in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 and 2011, Jack Nicklaus joined with Plamer and started the Masters.
Further in 2012, Gary Player joined with them and the trio started the event. Palmer died in 2016 and the Masters paid tributes to him in the 2017 event by draping his green jacket over an empty white chair and the people attended the event wore “ Arnie’s Army”.
By tradition, the defending champion holds ‘The Champions’ Dinner on Tuesday evening which precedes Thursday’s first round. The then defending champion Ben Hohan hosted the dinner to honor the previous champions of the Masters and started the tradition in 1952.
Rules for Caddies
All players have to use the service of Augusta National Club caddie, who is an African American. This practice continued until 1983. But, from the year 1983, the club allowed the players to bring in their own caddie.
The caddies wear a white jumpsuit, a green Masters cap, and white tennis shoes. And also they bear the surname or the initials of the player they belong on their back.
The defending champion always gets the caddie number ‘1’, while the other players get the caddie numbers in the order they register for the tournament.
The other major also followed the same rules for caddies and the U.S. Open is the first major which allowed the use of own caddies in 1976.
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