Many of golf’s memorable moments have taken place inside 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, and I’ve put some of them together in the Fanatico A-Z Guide To The Masters.
A Is For Amen Corner
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.
A Is Also For Alister MacKenzie
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 virtually untouched, 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 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.
B Is For Bubba Watson
Watson is the defending champion at the Masters, after defeating South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff by hitting one of the best shots in tournament history, and as we learned last week, he’s also the architect of a new hovercraft golf cart.
Good luck getting that thing on the grounds of Augusta National.
He’s also left-handed, uses a pink driver, attempts to rap, hits the ball longer than just about anyone in the world, and hangs out at your local course on his day off. In a game that is considered to be stuffy and boring, Bubba Watson is a breath of fresh air.
C Is For CBS
CBS is the primary North American broadcaster of the event, and will be entering their 57th 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.
C Is Also For The Crow’s Nest
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:
• Alan Dunbar, 22 yrs old (Northern Ireland): Won the 2012 British Amateur Championship
• Steven Fox, 22 yrs old (United States): Won the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship
• Guan Tianlang, 14 yrs old (China): Won the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship
• Nathan Smith, 34 yrs old (United States): Won the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship
• T.J. Vogel, 22 yrs old (United States): Won the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship
• Michael Weaver, 21 yrs old (United States): Runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship
C Is Also for The Champions Dinner
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. Watson has kept quiet about what will be on the menu this year, but usually it’s something native to the player’s place of birth. 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.
D Is For Dan Jenkins
Dan Jenkins is as much a part of the Masters as anyone these days, as he will be covering the event for his 63rd 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. His recent post about the Masters for GD is a must read for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the event.
E Is For Eisenhower’s Tree
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’s a giant pine tree to the left of the fairway, about 210 yards from the tee. While not in play for the pros, it can be 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.
E Is Also For Expensive
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.
F Is For Former Champions
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.
G Is For Green Jacket
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. 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?
H Is For Honorary Starters
One of the things that makes the Masters special is their recognition and appreciation of history. Many of the things they do might not be known immediately to the public, but one thing that is out in the open is the way the tournament is opened each year, with honorary starters. Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were the first honorary starters 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 second consecutive year, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will open the Masters.
H Is Also For The Hogan Bridge
One of three bridges on the course 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.
I Is For Intro Music
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.
J Is For Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus holds many records in the game of golf, but the one that he’s most famous for is his eighteen career majors, six of which came at the hallowed grounds of Augusta National, with the last coming at age 46 in the 1986 tournament. Outside of those six wins, he posted sixteen other top-10 finishes, including a tie for 6th at the 1998 Masters at 58-years old. More so than any other player, Nicklaus embodies the essence of the Masters, and even though he no longer plays in the event, his impact on the game and the tournament is undeniable.
J Is Also For Jim Nantz
“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.
K Is For Kempt
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.
L Is For Lefties
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 ten 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 last year.
M Is For Magnolia Lane
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.
N Is For Nelson Bridge
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.
O Is For Ovations
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.
P Is For Par-3 Contest
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.
Q Is For Quotes
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.” –Paul Azinger
“The Masters is more like a vast Edwardian garden party than a golf tournament.” –Alistair Cooke
“Every shot is within a fraction of disaster — that’s what makes it so great.”- Gary Player
“If the Masters offered no money at all, I would be here trying just as hard.”- Ben Hogan
“At my first Masters, I got the feeling that if I didn’t play well, I wouldn’t go to heaven.” –Dave Marr
“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.” –Fuzzy Zoeller
“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.” –Tommy Tolles
“I must admit the name was born of a touch of immodesty.” –Bobby Jones on the name of the event
“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
R Is For Rae’s Creek
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.
R Is Also For Rory McIlroy
More has been made of Rory McIlroy’s early season struggles than anything else this year, but the world’s second ranked player is coming into the Masters on a high, having finished as the runner-up at last week’s Valero Texas Open. He was a non-factor in 2012, finishing tied for 40th, 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. There’s nothing that says he can’t win the event, he’s got too much talent to not be at the top of the leaderboard, but until he wins one, fairly or unfairly, there’s going to be questions about his game.
S Is For Shrubs
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
S Is Also For Sarazen Bridge
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.
T Is For Tiger Woods
You can’t talk about the Masters without mentioning Tiger Woods, who based on his prior record at Augusta and the way he has performed so far this season, is the heavy favourite to win his fifth green jacket. In addition to those four wins, he’s got eight other top-10’s and he’s only missed the cut once, way back in 1996. Since he moves the needle so much, he is always the guy to watch, but with the way he’s playing right now, nothing would shock people more than if he wasn’t at least in the mix at the end of the tournament. He finally looks ready to win his first major championship since 2008.
U Is For Undulations
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.
V Is For Venturi’s Vitriol
Arnold Palmer won the 1958 Masters for his first major championship, but did he deserve the green jacket? Ken Venturi doesn’t think so. Palmer was ahead by one shot as the two players teed off on the 12th hole, when Palmer’s ball was lodged in a bank on the edge of a bunker. Palmer asked an official if he could lift his ball without penalty, and he was told that he wasn’t. He lifted the ball, dropped it, hit his chip and missed the putt before tapping in for a five. Venturi made a three and carried a one-shot lead, or so he thought. Before they walked to the 13th, Palmer dropped another ball with an official nearby as a provisional, chipped and made the putt for a three.
While the round was still going on, it was decided that Palmer would be awarded a three, a fact that both players were made aware of on the course. Venturi was understandably angry, and later said that his mentality was shot after that. Palmer would go on to win by one shot over Doug Ford and Fred Hawkins, and two over Venturi. To this day, Venturi thinks the ruling was incorrect, but Palmer insists he did nothing wrong.
W Is For Woods
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.
X Is For X Marks The Spot
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 last year, 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.
Y Is For Young Golfers
Tianlang Guan will be the youngest golfer ever to participate in the Masters this year, as he’ll be 14 years, 5 months and 17 days old when he tees off on Thursday, and he’ll be joined by a large group of up and coming players. Fourteen players will start the tournament at 25 years of age or younger. The youngest player to ever make the cut at the Masters was Matteo Manassero at 16 years and 355 days old in 2010, while Tiger Woods was the youngest to ever win at Augusta when he won in 1997 at 21 years, 3 months and 14 days old.
Z Is For Zoeller
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 17 first-time players this week.