What Is the Masters Golf Tournament?

By Steve Silverman

The Masters, played every year in April, is one of four major golf tournaments played in the world. The Masters is the first of those tournaments and it is often the first tournament mentioned by professional golfers when asked which tournament they would like to win before the end of their career. The Masters has seen legendary performances by great golf champions like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tiger Woods, but the tournament also has had its own controversies.

Major Tournament Status

The Masters, along with the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, is recognized in professional golf as one of the four major tournaments for male professionals. Major championships are considered one of the top measuring sticks for a professional golfer's talent, skill and standing within the game because of the difficulty of the course and the elevated level of talent in the field. Both Jack Nicklaus, the all-time leader in major championships, and Tiger Woods, his closest challenger, have said that winning major championships has been their top competitive goal. Since the Masters is the first of the majors, it often sets the tone for how a golfer performs in those majors.


Augusta National consistently ranks near the top of many "best-of" lists of golf courses, including GolfLink.com, which has it rated No. 2. The condition of the fairways and the greens are 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 course that challenges the best golfers in the world with its distance and demanding shots. The course has many famous landmarks, including the trio of holes at No. 11, 12 and 13 known as Amen Corner. Many of the championships won at the Masters have been determined by how the winning golfer performed at those three holes on the final day of the tournament. One of the other famous landmarks 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.

Most victories

Jack Nicklaus, whose 18 major titles is unrivaled, also won the most Masters crowns. Nicklaus has claimed six titles, the last of which came in 1986. All tournament victors get a famous "green jacket" that is only allowed to be worn on the grounds of the Augusta National Club. Champions get to take the jacket home for one year, but then must return it to the club, where it is stored and available for use when the champion visits. It does not leave the premises after the first year.

Origins of the course

Building the Augusta National Club was the dream of Hall of Fame golfer Bobby Jones following his retirement from the sport in 1930. Jones hired Dr. Alister Mackenzie of Scotland as the architect of the course. Construction on the course 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 except for playing yearly at the Masters.


No African-American ever participated in the Masters Tournament until Lee Elder broke the color barrier in 1975, a watershed moment in the history of golf in general and the tournament in particular. Tiger Woods' initial victory in the tournament in 1997 is also considered one of the most significant moments in tournament history.

Famous finishes

Some of the most famous finishes in Masters history include 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, never won 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.

About The Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

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