The Masters Constantly Changes

By George WhiteApril 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
Were he returning to earth today from a 70-year voyage in outer space, Alister Mackenzie would probably react with a sudden start. The acreage upon which he and Bobby Jones collaborated to build Augusta National is only faintly recognizable. The location of the 18 holes are all the same. But little of the golf ' or the golf course - is.
Augusta has had to change ' continuously. Golf itself has been in a constant state of flux the past century, and Augusta National has been swept along with it. Some of the changes have furthered the Mackenzie-Jones concept of golf as being a game of ultimate strategy. Others, sadly, havent, a victim of space-age metals, vastly improved ball construction, and a total change in agronomy. Yes, this is a far different place than what Augusta National was in 1934 when Horton Smith won the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament.
The course had opened for play late in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, and two years later, only 76 members were on the rolls. Augusta National was in danger of going under before the first Masters was ever played.
In 1934 Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to have a tournament. Nothing so grandiose as a major was envisioned then. In 1934, the two nines were the opposite of what they are today, play ending where the ninth green presently sits. But early-morning frost repeatedly delayed play on the first few holes for the membership, so the nines were reversed after the tournaments first year. The change has resulted in an untold number of great Masters finishes on the newer back nine ' though Mackenzie would be bewildered were he to see it today.
Gene Sarazens double eagle on Sunday at the 15th the second year of the tournament (1935) may still be the greatest single shot in golf history. Immediately wiped away was Craig Woods three-shot lead and Sarazen claimed the title in a 36-hole playoff Monday. The 4-wood shot from 235 yards wouldnt have been possible today, though. The lake fronting the green has been enlarged and the area where the ball hit has been shaved drastically. Sarazens magnificent poke, alas, probably would have ended up in the water.
Jones steadfastly refused to call the tournament the Masters, though everyone else did after the inaugural in 1934. Jones believed the Masters was much too pompous and held out until 1939, when he finally relented.
The course was closed in the World War II years of 1943, 44 and 45. Turkeys were raised on the property, and cattle were allowed to roam the fairways, keeping down the mowing expense.
Magnolia Lane, the 330-yard path from the street to the clubhouse, wasnt even paved until 1947. That was the year that the tournament first had field scoreboards on the course. And Sarazen didnt win a green jacket. That didnt happen until 1949, with Sam Snead earning the first winners coat. Incidentally, no one felt the need to rope the fairways until 49, when the 11th fairway was roped.
In 1952, Ben Hogan inaugurated the first champions dinner after his win in 1951. Hogan had suggested the meal, and he began the tradition of the winner paying for the grub. Of course, when Hogan initiated the dinner, there was far fewer invitees than there is now. It has mushroomed with each year so by the time Phil Mickelson serves the lobster and ravioli this year, there will be three times the number of winners there as was at Hogans soiree.
The first time the Masters was broadcast was in 1956, when play was described on four holes (15-18). And in 1957, they finally got around to instituting the 36-hole cut ' the low 40 and ties was the rule. Today, it has been amended to include the low 44 and ties, plus anyone 10 shots of the leader at the end of 36 holes.
In 1958, writer Herbert Warren Wind first used the term Amen Corner to describe the green at 11, the par-3 12th, and the tee shot at 13. Augusta National introduced the scoring method of over- and under-par in 1960, now used at golf tournaments around the world. And in 1963, when Jack Nicklaus won his first of six Masters titles, attendance was limited for the first time.
Roberto de Vicenzo committed the most monumental blunder in golf history in 1968, signing for a 4 on the 17th hole instead of the correct birdie 3 and thereby forfeiting a chance at a playoff with Bob Goalby. In 1972, the Masters finally instituted a waiting list for tickets.
The Masters had a Monday playoff until 1976, when the present-day sudden-death playoff was instituted. And in the fall of 1980, perhaps the most monumental change in Augusta National history occurred when the course was planted with bentgrass. The previous 40 years, play was on the slower Bermuda. But with the advent of the bent, Augusta Nationals greens became the slippery surfaces that they are today.
In 1983, players were finally allowed to use caddies of their choice instead of utilizing caddies from Augusta Nationals barn. In 1999, the list for qualification into the Masters was changed - no longer did winning a PGA Tour event guarantee a spot into the Augusta field. And in 1999, another huge change to the course was instituted ' rough was allowed to grow (Augusta National referred to it as the second cut.)
Through it all, the club has been open for play only from October to May, with the summer months reserved for course conditioning. But that has done nothing to change the desire for inclusion ' Augusta National is the most sought-after membership in the world.
Yes sir, Alister Mackenzie would blink his eyes in wonderment at the course he and Jones created. Thursday, for the 69th time, they gather to play the Masters once again. Conditions change, features change, but the Masters is always The Masters. It is timeless as the sport of golf itself.
Email your thoughts to George White
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Course Tour - Augusta National
  • Getty Images

    Golf's Olympic format, qualifying process remain the same

    By Rex HoggardMarch 19, 2018, 6:25 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Potential Olympic golfers for the 2020 Games in Tokyo were informed on Monday that the qualification process for both the men’s and women’s competitions will remain unchanged.

    According to a memo sent to PGA Tour players, the qualification process begins on July 1, 2018, and will end on June 22, 2020, for the men, with the top 59 players from the Olympic Golf Rankings, which is drawn from the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a spot in Tokyo (the host country is assured a spot in the 60-player field). The women’s qualification process begins on July 8, 2018, and ends on June 29, 2020.

    The format, 72-holes of individual stroke play, for the ’20 Games will also remain unchanged.

    The ’20 Olympics will be held July 24 through Aug. 9, and the men’s competition will be played the week before the women’s event at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

    Getty Images

    Webb granted special exemption for U.S. Women's Open

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Karrie Webb's streak of consecutive appearances at the U.S. Women's Open will continue this summer.

    The USGA announced Monday that the 43-year-old Aussie has been granted a special exemption into this year's event, held May 31-June 3 at Shoal Creek in Alabama. Webb, a winner in both 2000 and 2001, has qualified for the event on merit every year since 2011 when her 10-year exemption for her second victory ended.

    "As a past champion, I'm very grateful and excited to accept the USGA's special exemption into this year's U.S. Women's Open," Webb said in a release. "I have always loved competing in the U.S. Women's Open and being tested on some of the best courses in the country."

    Webb has played in the tournament every year since 1996, the longest such active streak, meaning that this summer will mark her 23rd consecutive appearance. She has made the U.S. Women's Open cut each of the last 10 years, never finishing outside the top 50 in that span.

    Webb's exemption is the first handed out by the USGA since 2016, when Se Ri Pak received an invite to play at CordeValle. Prior to that the two most recent special exemptions went to Juli Inkster (2013) and Laura Davies (2009). The highest finish by a woman playing on a special exemption came in 1994, when Amy Alcott finished sixth.

    Getty Images

    Notah: Driver is Tiger's No. 1 pre-Masters concern

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 5:49 pm

    Tiger Woods mounted a Sunday charge at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sending shockwaves through Bay Hill when it looked as though he might finally claim PGA Tour victory No. 80.

    But the charge came to an end at the par-5 16th, where Woods had missed wide-right three days in a row before going OB-left on Sunday en route to bogey.

    Woods’ API performance featured just a handful of drivers each day, as firm and fast conditions allowed him to make frequent use of a 2-iron off the tee.

    That strategy led to a second top-5 finish in as many weeks, but if Woods wants to win again, if he wants claim another major, he is going to sort out his issues with the big stick.

    A guest Monday morning on the Dan Patrick Show, Golf Channel’s Notah Begay believes the driver will be a focus for Woods in his pre-Masters preparation.

    “Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver. … Any time he has to turn a shot right to left with trouble on the left, he struggles a little bit,” Begay said.

    “Off the sixth tee, off the ninth tee, there was some errant shots. And then we saw the really horrible tee shot yesterday at 16. He talked about in the post-round comments. He just didn’t commit to a shot, and the worst thing that a professional athlete can do to themselves to compromise performance is not commit.

    “And so he made a terrible swing, and that’s the miss that is really difficult for him to recover from, because the majority of his misses are out to the right. So, when you eliminate one half of the golf course, you can really make your way around … a lot easier. When you have a two-way miss going, which sometimes creeps into his driver, it really makes it difficult to take out some of the trouble that you’re looking at when you’re standing on the tee box.

    “So he has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

    Getty Images

    McIlroy trails only Woods in Masters betting odds

    By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 5:47 pm

    After rallying for victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy is once again among the betting favorites for the upcoming Masters.

    McIlroy was available at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook last week, listed behind six other players. But after his three-shot win at Bay Hill, his odds were trimmed to 10/1, leaving him behind only betting favorite Tiger Woods.

    Next month will mark McIlroy's fourth opportunity to close out the final leg of the career Grand Slam by slipping into a green jacket. Here's a look at the current betting odds, with the first round only 17 days away:

    8/1: Tiger Woods

    10/1: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas

    14/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose

    16/1: Jason Day, Jon Rahm

    18/1: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson

    25/1: Paul Casey, Bubba Watson

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama

    40/1: Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman

    50/1: Alex Noren

    60/1: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Tyrrell Hatton, Thomas Pieters

    80/1: Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Tony Finau, Charley Hoffman, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay

    100/1: Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner