photo courtesy Augusta National Golf Club
The Masters Tournament is one of the biggest and most prestigious golf tournaments in the world. Along with the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the British Open, the Masters is one of the four major championships in golf. The Masters takes place at the very exclusive Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA each year. The 2018 edition will be held April 5-8, though there will be events throughout the whole week as Augusta turns itself into the center of the golf universe. All the world’s top golfers will be in town hoping to be the next man wearing the iconic green blazer given to each year's winner.
The 2018 edition is shaping up to be an intriguing tournament. All eyes will be on a suddenly resurgent Tiger Woods, who is playing in his first Masters since 2015. Add in Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Jon Rahm and world no. 1 Dustin Johnson and the field looks mouthwatering. Other storylines include Rory McIlroy chasing his career grand slam while Phil Mickelson looks to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of oldest Masters winner.
Augusta National Golf Club
Augusta National consistently ranks near the top of many "best-of" lists of golf courses, including GolfLink.com. Golf legend and Hall of Famer Bobby Jones built Augusta National Club as his dream club following his retirement from the sport in 1930. Jones hired Dr. Alister Mackenzie of Scotland as the architect of the course. Construction began in 1931 and the formal opening came in January 1933. At the age of 28, Jones, who played as a amateur his entire career, retired from competitive golf with the sole exception of playing yearly at the Masters on his famed home course.
Augusta National has long been the standard-bearer in American golf. The fairways and the greens are always pristine and the course is in full bloom when the top pros gather there every year. The course is a 7,435-yard, par 72 that challenges the best golfers in the world with its distance and demanding shots. The Amen Corner, the trio of holes at No. 11, 12 and 13, may be the most famous on the course. Many of the championships won at the Masters have been determined by how the winning golfer performed at these three holes on the final day of the tournament. Another famous landmark is the Eisenhower tree, which is located 210 yards from the tee at the 17th hole and often comes into play. The 34th president played the course often and hit that tree so regularly that he campaigned to have it removed. He was overruled and the tree remains in play.
There are many famous golfers to play the Masters and it is no surprise that record-holders at the Masters are all legends of the game. Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 major titles are unrivaled, also won the most Masters crowns. Nicklaus has claimed six titles, the last of which came in 1986. Next is Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer with four. Not a bad top three.
The greatest margin of victory at a Masters is also held by Woods, a feat he completed during his first major championship win at the 1997 Masters. Woods shocked the field by winning the championship by 12 strokes over Tom Kite. Woods also set the record for the lowest score during that tournament, with an astonishing -18. Compare that to Sam Snead and Jack Burke, both of whom can claim the highest winning score of +1.
There have been many famous finishes in Masters history. An early example is Gene Sarazen's 1935 championship. Sarazen holed a double-eagle on the par-5 15th hole allowed him to tie Craig Wood in the final round. Sarazen went on to win a 36-hole playoff against Wood by five strokes.
In 1968 Bob Goalby was awarded the championship when Roberto De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard on the tournament's final day that gave Goalby the title by one shot. De Vicenzo shot a birdie 3 on the 17th hole but his scorecard indicated a par 4. Had the score been marked correctly, De Vicenzo and Goalby would have settled the tournament in a playoff.
Augusta native Larry Mize holed a chip shot on the second playoff hole to defeat Greg Norman in a 1987 playoff. Norman, one of the great golfers of his era, would never win a Masters title.
Phil Mickelson won his first major title in 2004 when he birdied on the final hole. Mickelson became only the fourth golfer to win the Masters title with a birdie on the 18th.
Augusta National Golf Club is not without it's share of controversy, particularly over the issue of race. No African American had ever participated in the Masters Tournament other than as a caddy until pro golfer Lee Elder broke the color barrier in 1975, a watershed moment in the history of golf in general and the tournament in particular. Augusta National, built during the height of Jim Crow segregation in the South, had no African American member until 1990 and remained a male-only club until 2012.