The Masters A Historical Perspective

With just a short time before the first Major of the season, let’s take a historic look at The Masters tournament, the traditional first major of the season.

Foundation

The Masters owes its existence to one of the biggest names in golf in the early 20th century. When Bobby Jones retired from the playing golf as an amateur, he sought out Clifford Roberts (who later became the chairman of the club) to help him find a suitable piece of land upon which to build Jones vision of a top quality golf course.

The land they found was on a former indigo plantation situated between Atlanta to the west and Myrtle Beach to the east.

Augusta_National_Golf_Club,_Hole_10

At the time Jones famous quotation when they found the land that the current course is built upon was “Perfect! And to think this ground has been lying here all these years waiting for someone to come along and lay a golf course upon it.”

Work began on constructing the course in 1931 and Alister MacKenzie was drafted in to help design the look of the course. The course opened in 1933, but MacKenzie died before he saw the first tournament take place on his design.

Bubba Watson Masters Win

Winners

The first tournament was played in March 1934 and was known as the Augusta National Invitational Tournament, a name it held until it adopted the name of The Masters five years later in 1939.

For the first two years of the tournament, the back nine were played first, with the front nine played second. However by 1935, these had been switched around and the revised order of the holes has remained ever since.

The first ever Masters winner was Horton Smith and a year later he was succeeded by Gene Sarazen, who hit “the shot heard around the world”, a double eagle (or albatross) on the par 5 15th hole on his way to victory.

Most of the biggest names in golf have won the trophy and many have won the trophy several times. Jack Nicklaus has won the most Masters tournaments, with a total of six (1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986). Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have both won four apiece, while five players have won on three occasions, Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson.

Nine players have won the trophy on two occasions, Horton Smith, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal and most recently current champion Bubba Watson who won in 2012 and again last year.

Jack-Nicklaus-golf player

Traditions

Although the Masters has been running since 1934, and adopted that name in 1939, it was not until the 1949 tournament that a green jacket was awarded to the winner, who must return the green jacket to the clubhouse a year after their victory.

Another tradition, the Champions Dinner, was first held in 1952 after Ben Hogan’s idea that it would be nice for past champions and board members of Augusta National Golf Club to dine exclusively before the event.  Over the years, it has become the privilege of the current champion to select the menu for the dinner.

The first Par-3 competition, the annual precursor to the Masters starting in earnest and held on the Wednesday before the first round, came into being in 1960 and the tradition of having eminent golfers hit a ceremonial first tee-shot first took place three years later in 1963.

Other less well known traditions include inviting the five amateur champions that qualify for the event the opportunity to stay in ‘the Crow’s Nest” on course during the championship,

All 18-holes on the course are named after the tree or shrub that is most closely associated with the hole.

Tiger-Woods-Rolex

Tiger Woods – This is NOT me

Masters Records

  • Most wins – Jack Nicklaus 6
  • Oldest Winner – Jack Nicklaus (46 years of age in 1986)
  • Youngest Winner – Tiger Woods (21 years of age in 1997)
  • Youngest Competitor – Guan Tianlang (14 years and 168 days old when he played in 2013)
  • Most Appearances in The Masters – Gary Player – 52 appearances
  • Most Consecutive Cuts Made – Gary Player and Fred Couples (23)
  • Course Record (in Masters competition) – 63 by Nick Price (1986) and Greg Norman (1996)
  • Most Birdies in a Single Round – Anthony Kim – 11 in his 2nd Round in 2009

Rory PGA Claret Jug

The 2015 Tournament

Bubba Watson will defend his title for the second time in three years, Watson won in 2012 and again in 2014, sandwiching Adam Scott’s win in 2013 and the likeable American big-hitter will certainly be amongst the favourites again on a course that he seems to love.

Much of the focus in the build up has been on Rory McIlroy. The Irishman, winner of the last two Major championships of 2014, would complete a career-slam with victory at Augusta in April and would also secure the third leg of a consecutive major grand slam, albeit in consecutive seasons.  After a few concerns over his game leading up to the event, McIlroy seems to be finding his form at the right time to make a real challenge this year.

Tiger Woods chances of making the first tee on the first day are only rated at 50/50 by some of his closest friends, and given his lack of form when he has played, Woods’ chances of securing a fifth green jacket look very slim.

Others who could contend include Adam Scott (who won in 2013), Lee Westwood (who has a superb historical record at Augusta without ever winning), three-time champion Phil Mickelson, former US Open champion Justin Rose and perhaps America’s most talented duo of young golfers, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

The action begins on Thursday 9th April with the ceremonial first tee-shots due to be played by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer.

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