It’s one of golf’s longest traditions, and the most prestigious tournament in the sport. Professional golfers live for The Masters. When golf season gets underway, it’s the first major of the year, and it’s the only major to be played on the same course year after year. When we hear the word “Augusta,” we think The Masters.
It started with Bobby Jones in 1934. Jones founded Augusta National Golf Club, and came out of retirement at the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Today, the club has an exclusive membership with just over 300 members. It wasn’t long ago that one tradition was slightly altered, and the club admitted its first female members. The rules are strict at Augusta, for golfers and for patrons. There is no running, no lying on the grass, and no electronic devices allowed on the premises. Even during the biggest tournament of the year, there is no branding on the course.
Without running, we see the patrons walking briskly to catch the action throughout the course. And then there’s the caddy suits. Caddies are not permitted to wear anything other than a white jumpsuit, white shoes, and a green hat. But what traditions have lived in the history of the tournament and provide the players with something other than “just business.”
Par 3 Contest. Every year, on the Wednesday before The Masters begins, the par-3 course at Augusta hosts a relaxing, fun contest. The course was added in 1958 with a design by Clifford Roberts and George Cobb and the traditional started in 1960. It’s a way for the players and former Masters’ champions to let loose before the 72-hole grind. The tournament is open to the field for that year’s tournament and honorary invitees. Players typically have kids or wives caddy for them to get their family and friends involved in the action.
Honorary Starters. Every year, honorary members and former Masters legends open the tournament with ceremonial opening drives. This year, the starters were Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Gary Player. There have been nine golfers as honorary starters, and the traditional continues.
Skipping the Pond at 16. With their strict rules, the Masters still want the field to have fun while playing. In practice rounds at the par-3 16, players skip their balls over the pond, responding to the cheers and rants of patrons who have come to see them practice. Almost every golfer nowadays will attempt to skip the pond and land on the green on the other side. About half are successful.
The Crystal. Throughout the tournament, crystals are handed out for various accomplishments. When tallying the lowest score of the round, that player will receive a crystal vase. A crystal bowl is awarded to a player who hits a hole-in-one or an albatross (a double-eagle). Carding an eagle will reward the player with a crystal goblet.
There are many other unique facets associated with The Masters. Since its inception, it has become a ‘tradition unlike any other.’ Here’s a little about the history of the play and the most spectacular performances in our eyes.
What’s the most special part of winning The Masters?
Winners traditionally are fitted into a Green Jacket, one that spells achievement and pride. They are allowed to wear the jacket at their leisure and wherever they’d like for one year, until the next tournament. At that time, they are required to hand it back to club to be displayed and stored on the club’s grounds.
What are some of the most memorable moments of The Masters?
Tiger Woods in 1997. It was his first major, and at 21 years old, was one of the most highly anticipated tournaments in recent memory. Still just an amateur with a few tournament wins under his belt, Tiger got off to a shaky start, four-over par at the turn of his first round. He caught fire after nine, shooting six-under par and positioning himself in fourth place after play on Thursday. Tiger never took his foot off the pedal, tying a 54-hole record after shooting a 66 on Friday and 65 on Saturday to take a nine-stroke lead into Sunday. A 21-year-old stepping onto Augusta for the first time with tremendous pressure showed his skill with mammoth drives and pinpoint putting to put his name on the map. His 72-hole score of 270 broke a club record; he was the youngest to ever win the Green Jacket; and he won by 12 strokes.
Ben Hogan in 1953. Hogan was determined for victory. Before Tiger Woods came onto the scene, Hogan’s performance was one for the ages. He broke the scoring record at Augusta by five strokes, and won the tournament by the same margin. The 72-hole performance was one the most consistent of his entire career, and it propelled a season where he saw victories at the British Open and U.S. Open. Winning all three majors in the same year has yet to happen since Hogan accomplished the feat.
Jack Nicklaus in 1986. Jack was one of the all-time greats, especially at Augusta. In his first five attempts, he walked away with three victories. He compiled tremendous achievements with 24 eagles, 506 birdies, and was the oldest player to ever win the event at age 46 in 1986. His final nine holes of the tournament showed why his legacy will live forever. The leaderboard saw five different names at the top during the final round in 1986, and Nicklaus dropped five birdies and an eagle in his last nine holes to win his sixth Masters.
Phil Mickelson in 2004. His first career major win, the well-liked lefty was in a battle with Ernie Els throughout the final round of the tournament. With a 31 on the back nine, and five birdies in his last seven holes, Mickelson sealed the win with an 18-foot birdie putt on 18 where he jumped for joy as his eyes filled with tears. The come-from-behind victory was one for the ages, and is comparable to Jack’s victory in 1986.
There is always drama at The Masters. The tournament will come to the wire with memorable finishes on golf’s biggest stage. Who will emerge with a Green Jacket this year? Rory McIlroy is #1 in the world, and Rickie Fowler finished top-5 in all four majors a year ago. Will we see a newcomer like 21-year-old Jordan Spieth hoist the trophy, or will a previous winner stand tall once again?