There are no guarantees in sports, except one. The azaleas will always be in bloom in Augusta, Ga., during Masters week. The club makes sure of that.
Well, as long as the Masters is held in April, which is where it returns in 2021 after a COVID-interrupted 2020.
It is the week that inspired the lyrics, “Augusta, your dogwoods and pines, they play on my mind like a song. Augusta, it’s you that I love, and it’s you I will miss when I’m gone.”
It is the week every young golfer dreams of… It’s Masters week!
Since 1934, Bobby Jones’ dream tournament has been conducted with Augusta National Golf Club, the most iconic location in golf, as the backdrop. It is considered, with no dissenting opinions, to be the ultimate test of Championship Golf.
Professional sports may not have a greater symbol of athletic success than the green jacket, awarded to the Masters Champion every year. It is a legacy-creating and a legacy-changing event. An exclusive field of elite golfers from more than 20 countries who met the rigorous qualifications for a Masters invite will exhaust every muscle fiber of their body, as well as every neural pathway of their nervous system in an attempt to stand atop the Sunday leaderboard and reach the pinnacle of sports achievement.
Perhaps more than most years, this year’s Masters field is replete with succulent storylines. There’s Jordan Spieth, who finally returned to the winner’s circle in San Antonio. Would a second green Jacket TRULY close the circle on what – until this past weekend – was three-year nightmare for the former Golden Child of golf?
Then you have Rory McIlroy, the 31-year-old superstar from Northern Ireland, who is just a green jacket short of an astounding career grand slam, something that has only been achieved by five men in golf’s long, rich history. Yet, it will be McIlroy’s sixth attempt to close on the “slam,” and he’ll be entering Augusta in his poorest form since hoisting the Claret Jug (the third leg) on that magical Sunday at Royal Liverpool in July, 2014.
Of course, there’s Justin Thomas, the reigning PLAYERS Champion, who could become just the third 15-time winner (and two-time major champion) before the age of 28, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
What about world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who also seeks to join Tiger and Jack (and Nick Faldo) as the only back-to-back Masters’ winners? Or Lee Westwood, who was for the longest time one of THE best players YET to win a major, but whose time seemed to have passed… now at nearly 49, he’s playing his best golf.
The collection of potential storylines is as rich and deep as any in memory. It’s almost too exhausting to take in, and yet, every golf fan — every sports fan, really — knows there is likely to be another unreal chapter added on Sunday, April 11, 2021.
The answers await us all, beginning on Thursday. It’s bound to be magic.
The 2021 Masters Primer
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The Masters Tournament
Dates: April 8-11, 2021
Where: Augusta, Ga.
Course: Augusta National GC
Distance: Par 72, 7435 yards
Architect: Alister McKenzie, Bobby Jones
Format: 72-holes, Stroke play
Field: 88 players by invitation
Winning Share: $2,070,000
Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
How To Follow The Masters
Television – Thu, 3-7:30 p.m. (ESPN); Fri, 3-7:30 p.m. (ESPN); Sat 3-7 p.m. (CBS); Sun 2-7 p.m. (CBS)
Simulcast – Thu, 3-7:30 p.m.; Fri, 3-7:30 p.m.; Sat 3-7 p.m.; Sun 2-7 p.m.
Featured Groups – 4 Groups (two morning, two afternoon), 18 holes
Holes Nos. 4, 5 & 6 – Thu, 9:25 a.m.-6:45 p.m.; Fri, 9:25 a.m.-6:45 p.m.; Sat 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Amen Corner – Thu, 10:45 a.m.-6 p.m.; Fri, 10:45 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat 11:45 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun 11:45 a.m.-6 p.m.
Holes Nos. 15 & 16 – Thu, 11:45 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fri, 11:45 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat 12:30-6:30 p.m.; Sun 12:30-6:30 p.m.
On The Range – Mon, 12-2 p.m.; Tue, 9-11 a.m.; Wed, 9-11 a.m.; Thu 8:30-10:30 a.m.; Fri, 8:30-10:30 a.m.; Sat, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sun, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
The Masters History
Believe it or not, The Masters has not always been called The Masters, at least not officially.
Tournament co-founder Clifford Roberts wanted that name to be attached to the tournament right off the bat, but he was overruled by the legendary Bobby Jones, a paragon of humility, thought the name sounded boastful and pretentious.
As a result, the initial tournaments were given the prosaic name, Augusta National Invitation Tournament, but after five years, the tournament had become such a resounding success that Jones finally relented and allowed the event to officially be called The Masters.
The Masters began as an idea in the mind of Jones, who had achieved basically everything that could be achieved in golf. He wanted to build his own course, and hold his own tournament. He wanted to create the ultimate golf experience.
After Jones made the decision to build the course in Augusta, Georgia, he and Roberts found an old tree nursery that they felt would be the perfect place. Augusta National was created at that very spot, with help from renowned golf architect Alister MacKenzie.
The inaugural Masters teed off in 1934, with Horton Smith becoming the first champion. What helped the Masters really take off, however, was Gene Sarazen’s double-eagle on 15 on Sunday in 1935, known today as “the shot heard around the world”.
Sarazen would go on to win that Masters in a playoff, and it soon built a reputation for being a high-end tournament worthy of the best of the best.
Over the years, the course and tournament format have been frequently updated, and many traditions were adopted. One such tradition, the green jacket, was originally just for club members, but the decision was made to make each year’s tournament winner an honorary Augusta member, and award them their own green jacket.
Other traditions include medals for winners and runner-ups, honorary tournament starters, the annual par-3 tournament and the Champion’s dinner, a feast hosted (and paid for) by the previous year’s winner.
Tournament winners have included many of the all-time greats, including Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Tiger Woods, among many others. Nicklaus holds the tournament record with six green jackets, followed by Palmer and Woods with four apiece.
Woods’ first Masters win (1997) was by an unfathomable 12 strokes, a tournament record. Jimmy Demaret, Snead, Player, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson are three-time winners, while Horton Smith, Nelson, Hogan, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ben Crenshaw, Jose Maria Olazabal, and Bubba Watson have won twice. The winner is famously given a lifetime Masters exemption.
Masters History: Recent Winners
2020: Dustin Johnson (-20)
2019: Tiger Woods (-13)
2018: Patrick Reed (-15)
2017: Sergio Garcia (-9)
2016: Danny Willett (-5)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-18)
2014: Bubba Watson (-8)
2013: Adam Scott (-9)
2012: Bubba Watson (-10)
Masters History: Records
268 (-20) Dustin Johnson (2020)
6 – Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1965-66, 1972, 1975, 1986)
5 – Tiger Woods (1997, 2001-02, 2005, 2019)
4 – Arnold Palmer (1958, 1960, 1962, 1964)
3 – Jimmy Demaret (1940, 1947, 1950)
3 – Sam Snead (1949, 1952, 1954)
3 – Gary Player (1961, 1974, 1978)
3 – Nick Faldo (1989-90, 1996)
3 – Phil Mickelson (2004, 2006, 2010)
The Course: Augusta National
Augusta National Golf Club, located in the Georgia town of the same name, is one of the most famous golf clubs in the world.
Founded by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts on the site of the former Fruitlands Nursery, the course was designed by Jones and Alister MacKenzie, and opened for play in January 1933.
Since 1934, the club has played host to the annual Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf, and the only major played each year at the same course.
Lengthened in recent years because of the increasing number of big hitters, the course still makes mortals of most.
Amen Corner – The second shot at the 11th, all of the 12th, and the first two shots at the 13th hole at Augusta are nicknamed “Amen Corner”. This term was first used in print by author Herbert Warren Wind in his April 21, 1958, Sports Illustrated article about the Masters that year. Wind said he wanted a catchy phrase like baseball’s “hot-corner” or football’s “coffin-corner” to explain where some of the most exciting golf had taken place. Thus “Amen Corner” was born.
Famous Moments: In 1958 Arnold Palmer outlasted Ken Venturi to win the tournament with heroic escapes at Amen Corner. Amen Corner also played host to Masters moments such as Byron Nelson‘s birdie-eagle at 12 and 13 in 1937, and Sam Snead‘s water save at 12 in 1949 that sparked him to victory.
On the flip side of fate, Jordan Spieth‘s quadruple bogey on No. 12 during Sunday’s final round in 2016 cost him his 2-stroke lead and ultimately the championship.
Rae’s Creek – Cutting across the southeastern corner of the Augusta National property, Rae’s Creek flows along the back of the 11th green, in front of the 12th green, and ahead of the 13th tee. This is the lowest point in elevation of the course.
The (Ben) Hogan and (Byron) Nelson Bridges cross the creek after the 12th and 13th tee boxes, respectively. The creek was named after former property owner John Rae, who died in 1789.
Rae’s Creek has a tributary evident at No. 13 tee, and flows at the back of No. 11 green. It was Rae’s house which was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta. The house kept residents safe during Indian attacks when the fort was out of reach.
Ike’s Pond – During a visit to Augusta National, then-General Eisenhower returned from a walk through the woods on the eastern part of the grounds, and informed Clifford Roberts that he had found a perfect place to build a dam if the club would like a fish pond.
Ike’s Pond was built and named, and the dam is located just where Eisenhower said it should be. This is also the location where Roberts committed suicide by gunshot in 1977. At age 83, he had been in ill health for several months with cancer and had a debilitating stroke.
Augusta National Facts
Front: 4, 5, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4, 5, 4
Back: 4, 4, 3, 5, 4, 5, 3, 4, 4
Amen Corner: Nos. 11-13
View PGW’s hole-by-hole course preview here.
The Masters Defending Champion
Dustin Johnson came into the final round with a four stroke lead, and barely blinked on Sunday, shooting a 4-under 68 to reach 20-under and set a new tournament record, while tying a major record. It was the 24th career victory of his stellar career, but shockingly, just his second major championship and his first green jacket.
Normally, The Masters is a staple of April, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused mass reshuffling that pushed it to November. In addition, instead of a plethora of fans, there were none. The event well-illustrated the uncertain current era, not just of sports, but of the world. The absurd amount of fans that should have there were watching from home.
Johnson, referred to often as “DJ”, was nowhere near a surprise winner. He came into the week as the No. 1 golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings, and in his last six starts had two victories, three runner-ups, and a T6. He had been the best version of himself.
Final Top 5 Leaders
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Dustin Johnson -20 (-4)
2. Cameron Smith (-3)
2. Sungjae Im -15 (-3)
4. Justin Thomas -12 (-2)
5. Rory McIlroy -11 (-3)
5. Dylan Frittelli -11 (E)
The Masters’ Field
The Masters has the smallest field of the major championships, generally limited to 85-100 players. Unlike other majors, there are no alternates or qualifying tournaments. It is by invitation only, with “invitations” issued to players who meet published criteria. For instance, the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are all invited.
This year’s field has 88 participants, but the players who can realistically entertain hopes of being swathed in a new green jacket on Sunday evening is limited to about 30.
Breaking them into categories, we have about six “superstars” who are basically favored whenever and wherever they tee it up: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, and Bryson DeChambeau. You can now add a seventh in Jordan Spieth, particularly at Augusta National.
Then you have a group of seven more players who are considered second-level superstars: Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson, and Viktor Hovland. They are generally top-ranked names but not quite tournament headliners, per se.
Next you have a strong group of players who could easily win the Masters, but are a bit of longer shots: Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Sungjae Im, Webb Simpson, Lee Westwood, Cameron Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Scottie Scheffler, Tyrell Hatton, Billy Horschel, and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Then you have a group of big name former major winners, who’ve fallen some in terms of form and world ranking, but are still at a world-class level and could easily win this week: Adam Scott, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Bubba Watson, and Gary Woodland.
Finally, there are a few former Masters winners, who are not serious threats, but who could string together a few good rounds and make a run: Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Danny Willett.
Those are just the headliners. There are so many directions this tournament could go, often frequently thrown in less familiar directions by the strong international contingent that is always part of the mix. (Heck, can you ever totally rule out 61-year-old Fred Couples, the former Masters champ who has finished in the top 20 six times since 2010?)
Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Elder will officially open the tournament with tee shots at 7:45 a.m. Thursday. From there, let the drama unfold!
The Masters Field: Odds To Win
Dustin Johnson is the tournament favorite at 8-1. The 36-year old is looking to become the first since Tiger Woods (2001-02) to win back-to-back green jackets.
Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas round out the top-5 betting favorites.
Top-5 Betting Favorites
1. Dustin Johnson 8-1
2. Bryson DeChambeau 11-1
2. Jordan Spieth 11-1
4. Justin Thomas 12-1
4. Jon Rahm 12-1
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, Wikipedia, Masters.com, Bovada