It is the first week of April and the azaleas are blooming, which can only mean one thing: The Masters is here! It is the week all sports fan circle on their calendars and feign illness/injury so they can spend Thursday-Sunday on the couch.
Since 1934, Bobby Jones’ dream tournament has been conducted at Augusta National Golf Club, the most iconic location in golf, as the backdrop. It is considered to be the ultimate test of championship golf.
The field teeing it up this week in northern Georgia will feature all the top LIV Golf stars and top-ranked tour players.
As we do each week, let’s take a look at the history, field, stats and other factoids as we prepare for the season’s first major.
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Dates: Apr. 6-9, 2023
Course: Augusta National GC
Where: Augusta, GA
Distance: Par 72, 7545 yards
Architect: Alister McKenzie, Bobby Jones
Field: 88 (by invitation)
Format: Stroke, 72 holes
Cut: 36 holes
Winning Share: $3,600,000
FedExCup Pts: 600
OWGR Pts: 100
2022 Champion: Scottie Scheffler
How to Follow The MASTERS
TELEVISION: Thu-Fri: 3-7:30 p.m. (ESPN); Sat: 3-7 p.m. (CBS); Sun: 2-7 p.m. (CBS)
STREAMING: Thu-Fri: 8:30 a.m.; Sat-Sun: 11 a.m. (ESPN+, MASTERS.COM)
RADIO: Thu-Sun: 2-7 p.m. (CBS Radio, Sirius 208, XM 92)
All times Eastern
LINKS: Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook
History of The MASTERS
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,Phil Mickelson, and Tiger Woods, among many others. Nicklaus holds the tournament record with six green jackets, followed by Woods with five, and Palmer with four.
Woods’ first Masters win (1997) was by an unfathomable 12 strokes, a tournament record. Jimmy Demaret, Snead, Player, Mickelson and Nick Faldo 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
2022: Scottie Scheffler (-10)
2021: Hideki Matsuyama (-10)
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 2023 Masters’ Field
The Masters has the smallest field of the major championships, generally limited to 85-90 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 60 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are all invited.
This year’s field has 89 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.
Headlined by five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, the field will also feature superstars like Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth. This group – particularly Smith, Rahm, DJ, Thomas, Scheffler, Cantlay, Morikawa, and McIlroy – are always the top betting favorites, no matter where they tee it up.
Other top-ranked stars include Viktor Hovland, Max Homa, Sam Burns), Louis Oosthuizen, and Hideki Matsuyama.
Next you have a strong group of players who could easily win the Masters but are a bit of longer shots: Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Shane Lowry, 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 ranking but are still at a world-class level and could easily win this week: Adam Scott, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, and Gary Woodland.
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 63-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 Tom Watson will officially open the tournament with tee shots at 7:45 a.m. Thursday. From there, let the drama unfold!
Top-5 Betting Favorites
1. Scottie Scheffler 7-1
1. Rory McIlroy 7-1
3. Jon Rahm 10-1
4. Jordan Spieth 14-1
5. Patrick Cantlay 20-1
Money Pick: Brooks Koepka 35-1
Full Field: Odds To Win
Augusta National | Augusta, GA | Apr 6-9, 2023
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, Wikipedia, Masters.com, Bovada