What you need to know about
The Masters is on every golf fan’s bucket list and working with GolfTraveller, eric has the inside track on all things Augusta. Here, Conor Young gives us a lowdown of the basics…
It all began with an amateur golfer and an investment banker. Bobby Jones, a lawyer by profession, was a champion golfer while Clifford Roberts had made his fortune on Wall Street. Unhappy with the constant pressures of competition, Jones longed to play with friends away from the hordes. And so, together with Roberts, he created his dream course. In 1933, Augusta National Golf Club opened its doors and, a year later, they invited 72 golfers to play in a golf invitational that would eventually become known as The Masters.
With holes given names such as Magnolia (5th) and Azalea (13th), it’s no surprise to learn that Augusta was built on a nursery, giving British architect Alister Mackenzie incredibly fertile ground to work with. Although he never saw the Masters played at Augusta, passing away months before the first tournament in 1934, it was one of his greatest pieces of work, in a career that produced some of the world’s finest, including the globally acclaimed Royal Melbourne Golf Course.
The Masters’ private status has been a priority from day one. The first ‘Augusta National Invitational’ tournament, as The Masters was originally known, was just that – and the tradition of The Masters invitation continues today. It remains unique in that a private organisation, the Augusta National Club, dictates the requirements for entry, not a national governing body. Testament to its popularity, 43 million viewers watched Tiger Woods’ final round in 1997. This year it will be broadcast in 200 countries and jurisdictions.
The prestige of Augusta
President Eisenhower made Augusta his regular retreat in the 1950s, adding further prestige to its growing reputation. The course is still intimately linked to the former President, with a cabin and a recently removed tree named after him. Augusta still boasts famous members including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Condoleezza Rice.
The war-time effort
The Second World War meant The Masters tournament was put on hold from 1943-45 with Jones instead volunteering the land to be used to raise cattle and turkeys as part of the effort. Since then, The Masters has been held at Augusta National every year, gaining in reputation thanks to the consistent attendance of the best golfers in the world. The total prize fund now reaches $11 million.
The Green Jacket
Champions keep the legendary Green Jacket in their possession for only one year. After this time, the Green Jacket – the official attire of club members – must be returned to the clubhouse, where it is kept to be worn by the owner when they return to Augusta. However, some do exist in the public domain. One jacket was discovered in a Canadian thrift store in 1994 and bought for $5, later selling at auction for $139,349.
The greatest shot
The “shot heard ‘round the world” is perhaps golf’s most famous swing and was the work of Gene Sarazen in 1935. One of the only double eagles to ever have been hit at Augusta, the shot propelled Sarazen into club and golfing history after he holed from the fairway on a par 5. American Sarazen won seven Majors titles, including the 1935 Masters, the US Open in 1922 and 1932, The Open in 1932 and the PGA Championship in 1922, 1923 and 1933.
One of the greatest sporting rivalries was forged at The Masters, with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer sharing ten Masters victories between them. In 1966, six-times winner Nicklaus was the first to win consecutive titles, and he was the oldest-ever winner in 1986, aged 46.
The Tiger Slam
More than 20 years after winning his first Masters aged 21, and 17 on from his ‘Tiger Slam’ year in which he held all four Major titles at the same time, Tiger still remains the biggest story as he looks to win his fifth Green Jacket.
The last three winners of The Masters have all been first-time champions. Jordan Spieth, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia took the wins in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. Could another new champion be the outcome again? Rory McIlroy for one is looking to add The Masters to his collection and complete a Grand Slam.