History of the Masters Golf Tournament

By John Lindell

The Masters Golf Tournament is an annual event held in April at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The Masters quickly became one of golf's major tournaments and some of golf's biggest stars have won this event. It is famous for the kelly green blazer given out to the winner of the annual tournament. 

Augusta National

Augusta National Golf Club is home to what is considered to be one of the greatest courses in golf. Founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts at the site of a former plant nursery in 1933, the course quickly rose to prominence. It was designed by Jones and famed British course architect Alister MacKenzie. 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. After the course opened in 1933, Jones and Roberts decided to host an inaugural tournament the following year. 

Early years

Horton Smith won two of the first three Augusta National Invitational Tournaments, holing a long putt to secure the initial one in 1934 before pulling out a narrow win in the 1936 version. In 1939, the tournament became known as the Masters.

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.


In a matchup of two of the best golfers of their era, Byron Nelson eclipsed Ben Hogan by one stroke in an 18-hole playoff. This gave Nelson the 1942 Masters title; World War II then forced the cancellation of the Masters until 1946.

Demaret and Palmer

Jimmy Demaret was the first three-time Masters champion, taking his third crown in 1950. In 1958, Arnold Palmer scored the first of four wins; the last came in 1964.

Gary Player

The first man born outside the United States to win the Masters was Gary Player in 1961. Player would go on to win twice more, the last in 1978.

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 46 in 1986, was the oldest man ever to win the Masters. His come-from-behind victory was his last in this tournament and his sixth overall. Nicklaus is also the holder of six Masters titles, the most of any golfer.


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

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.

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