The Masters: A Brief History of the PGA Tour's First Major
The 2018 Masters is just a few days away and it really is "A Tradition Unlike Any Other".
Each year, during the first full week in April, the entire world - golf fan or not - carves time out of their everyday life to watch the world's best golfers compete for a chance to win the $1.9 million first-place prize, but more importantly etch their name in history and become a member of one of the most prestigious clubs in the world - A Masters champion. The 2018 Masters Tournament comes with a little more excitement this year than in the past few despite its rich history. Maybe it's due to the return of Tiger Woods or maybe it's because a handful of the PGA's young guns are ready to burst onto the scene. One thing is a certainty, though, and that's no matter which golfer finishes atop the leaderboard on Sunday that they will need to be dialed in for all 72 holes and be the beneficiary of one or two lucky breaks along the way.
For those wondering, the Masters odds have been posted for some time now, so I suggest getting in your bets immediately in order to get the best odds possible.
The tradition of the Masters began in 1934 after Bobby Jones, a noted amateur champion, purchased the former plant nursery and co-designed Augusta National with the help of architect Alister MacKenzie. The inaugural Masters Tournament was an "invite only" event, and because of that the field was much smaller than other tournaments. Consider that the first tournament took place in 1934 the prize pool was just $5,000. Back then that was a small fortune, so when Horton Smith won the inaugural "Augusta National Invitational" he received the first-place prize of $1,500.
The "Augusta National Invitational" would be renamed to the name we know today "The Masters" in 1939. The tournament was not contested from 1943-1945 due to WWII. Instead, to assist the war effort, Augusta National helped raised cattle and turkey on its prestigious land.
Many readers of this article will likely have their first Masters memory from some time in the 1960s. That's when the trio of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus took over the golf landscape and beat everyone in their path. Those three legends combined for 11 Masters titles between the years of 1960 and 1978.
Palmer would finish his illustrious career as a four-time Masters Champion (tied with Tiger Woods), second only to the great Jack Nicklaus, who has six Green Jackets to his name. Player would finish with three career Masters wins, which puts him in the company of Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Sir. Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson. A handful of players have two Masters wins to their name, including Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal and Bubba Watson. As of writing this, you can get Watson at +1600 to win this year's tournament.
Another interesting note to point out is that there has been only two men in the history of the tournament to defend their Masters title. Jack Nicklaus did it in 1965-66 and Tiger Woods did it in 2001-02. Sergio Garcia is the defending champion and currently sits at +2500 to repeat.
As I mentioned above, the land that Augusta National sits on was purchased in 1934 by Bobby Jones, and the original layout has been changed serval times. Among the changes are reshaped greens, the inclusion of both bunkers and water hazards, new tee boxes, hundreds of newly-planted trees and several mounds that make for a very undulating course.
For those of you who like specifics, the greens measure 65 square feet, which is right around the Tour average. There is a grand total of 41 bunkers in play and six water hazards to avoid. The greens are "Bentgrass," which is a big change from the Bermuda and POA greens the players have to deal with the weeks prior. The fairways are rye grass; and to be completely honest with you, there isn't that much rough to contend with. The biggest issue with missing the fairway will be hitting off the pine straw, hopefully without a tree in your way.
Another interesting tidbit you may want to keep in mind this that each hole at Augusta has a name that coincides with the former plant nursery.
1. Tea Olive - 445-yard Par-4
2. Pink Dogwood - 575-yard Par-5
3. Flowering Peach - 350-yard Par-4
4. Flowering Crab Apple - 240-yard Par-3
5. Magnolia - 455-yard Par-4
6. Juniper - 180-yard Par-3
7. Pampas - 450-yard Par-4
8. Yellow Jasmine - 570-yard Par-5
9. Carolina Cherry - 460-yard Par-4
10.Camellia - 495-yard Par-4
11.White Dogwood - 505-yard Par-4
12.Golden Bell - 155-yard Par-3
13.Azalea - 510-yard Par-5
14.Chinese Fir - 440-yard Par-4
15.Firethorn - 530-yard Par-5
16.Redbud - 170-yard Par-3
17.Nandina - 440-yard Par-4
18.Holly - 465-yard Par-4
This 18-hole masterpiece totals 7,435 yards, which has been the yardage for the last eight years. Between 2006 and 2009, the course played 7,445 yards, and prior to that checked in at 6,985 yards in the year 2000.
Now that we've gotten the details and appearance out of the way, we can focus on who plays well at the course and what kind of numbers have been posted.
Nick Price and Greg Norman share the course record of 63. Price accomplished the feat in 1986 while Norman did it 10 years later in 1996.
The highest winning score is 289 (+1), and it has occurred three times - Sam Snead in 1954, Jack Burke Jr. in 1956, and Zach Johnson in 2007.
Anthony Kim holds the record for most birdies in a single round with 11. Kim accomplished the feat during the second round of the 2009 tournament.
The lowest winning score (-18) has occurred twice in Masters history. Tiger Woods accomplished this feat in 1997, and by doing so won the tournament by a record 12 strokes. Jordan Spieth also hit the (-18) mark when he captured his only Green Jacket in 2015.
You can't have a catchphrase like "A Tradition Unlike Any Other" without having an excessive number of traditions. The tradition I want to start off with is the thing synonymous with The Masters -- the Green Jacket.
The tradition of the Green Jacket was introduced in 1949 and has been given to the winner of The Masters tournament each year since. The winner may then take the Jacket off the premises for one year - until the next Masters - before having to leave it in a specially-designated cloakroom inside the clubhouse. The defending champion must also be present at the awarding of the Green Jacket to the new winner, since he is the one who helps slip the jacket on and congratulates the player. In the odd case that there is a repeat winner, the chairmen of Augusta National will put the jacket on them, just like what happened in 2002 when Tiger Woods defended his title.
Another tradition synonymous with The Masters is the Champions Dinner, which takes place on the Tuesday before each tournament. It's up to the defending champion to select the menu, and it's only open to past champions and select Augusta National board members.
The Par-3 contest is a tradition that was introduced in 1960 and has grown increasingly popular over the years. Sam Snead won the inaugural Par-3 contest in 1960, and it is typically played on the Wednesday before the tournament.
And lastly, starting in 1963, legendary golfers - usually past champions -- have been given the opportunity to hit an honorary tee shot to signify the start of the tournament. Past players who have had the honor of doing so include Fred McLeod, Jock Hutchinson, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Jack Nicklaus.
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