Masters 101: A guide to the year's first major

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 3, 2017, 1:00 pm

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions of the Masters Tournament:

Who created the Masters?

The Masters was the brainchild of legendary amateur golfer Bobby Jones and investment dealer Clifford Roberts, who co-founded the Augusta National Golf Club in 1933.


When did it begin?

The tournament began in 1934.


Who was the first winner?

Horton Smith. One of the better players of his day, Smith also won the Masters in 1936.


Why is it called the Masters?

When the tournament began it was called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament. Roberts suggested it be called the Masters, a reference to the "masters of golf" who played in it, but Jones thought the name immodest. Roberts finally got his way in 1939.


How did it become so popular?

Jones was one of the most famous and most admired sports figures of his day, especially after he accomplished the unprecedented feat of winning a "Grand Slam" - capturing the U.S. and British Open and Amateur titles. It was only natural that a tournament he established would inherit his popularity.


Why is it a major?

Unlike the other three majors - the U.S. Open, The Open, and the PGA - the Masters isn't the "championship" of anything. But majors have historically been determined by popular opinion, and between Jones, the fact that it is an early spring tournament and the quality of players who have won at Augusta, the tournament just naturally became regarded as a major.


Why does the winner get a green jacket?

In 1937, Augusta National members began wearing green sportcoats so that they could be recognized if fans had questions about the tournament. The tradition was expanded to winners being presented with green jackets in 1949. Sam Snead was the winner that year, so he got the first jacket, and all the previous winners were retroactively ordered jackets.


Does the winner keep the green jacket?

Technically, no. He is supposed to return it at the following year's event. But he can have a replica made for him to keep.  


Who is eligible to play each year?

There are currently 19 categories for invitation to this year's Masters. Ready? 1. Previous Masters winners; 2-4. Winners of the five most recent U.S. Opens, British Opens and PGA Championships; 5. Winners of the three most recent Players Championships; 6. The current Olympic gold medalist; 7. The current U.S. Amateur champion and runner-up; 8. The current British Amateur champion; 9-11. The current Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, Latin America Amateur champion and U.S. Mid-Amateur champion; 12. The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year's Masters; 13. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's U.S. Open; 14. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's Open; 15. The first four players, including ties, in the previous year's PGA Championship; 16. Winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from the previous Masters to the current Masters; 17. Those qualifying for the previous year's season-ending Tour Championship; 18. The 50 leaders on the final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year; 19. The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters.


Who are some of Augusta National's better-known members?

Augusta  does not comment on its membership or reveal the identities of its members, but these public figures are reportedly members: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer was a member of Augusta National before he died last September. 


Why are holes named after flowers?

This is an homage to the property's former use as a nursery containing thousands of flowering plants and trees imported from various countries. Each hole was named after and adorned with one of these plants. Click here to view a hole-by-hole gallery with the flowery names.


Why do I keep hearing about azaleas in connection with the Masters?

Azaleas are arguably the most spectacular looking of Augusta National's plants. The 13th hole is named for them. They bloom for only a few weeks out of the year, however, and the club tries to make sure that is during the tournament.


Who designed the course?

The original architect was Alister MacKenzie, a British surgeon who later became a golf course architect. Jones had met him in 1927 at St. Andrews, a course they both revered, and Jones also admired MacKenzie's work in California at Cypress Point and Pasatiempo. MacKenzie died in January 1934, after the construction work had been finished but before Augusta National was fully covered with grass.


What is Amen Corner?

Amen Corner is holes 11, 12 and 13, which are located - literally - at a corner of the property. The name comes from a 1958 Sports Illustrated article by legendary golf writer Herbert Warren Wind. Wind later explained that he was looking for a catchy phrase - a la baseball's "hot corner" or football's "coffin corner" - to show where some of the most crucial action had taken place that year. He said he took the name from a jazz record he had heard, "Shouting in That Amen Corner."


What is Magnolia Lane?

Magnolia Lane is the main driveway leading from Washington Road to the clubhouse. It is flanked on either side with 60 magnolia trees, which were planted in the 1850s.


What is the  Crow's Nest?

The Crow's Nest is living space available to amateurs on the top floor of the clubhouse. There are three cubicles, each with one bed, and one cubicle with two beds.


Who is Rae, of Rae's Creek fame?

The creek, which comes into play on the 12th and 13th holes, is named after former property owner John Rae, who died in 1789.


Who is Butler, of Butler Cabin fame?

Built in 1964, Butler Cabin was named for club member Thomas B. Butler. It is where the winner conducts his interview with CBS.


What is the Par 3 Contest?

The Par 3 Contest is a nine-hole competition held on the club's par-3 course the Wednesday before the Masters. It's extremely informal, with players' spouses and children often acting as caddies and even hitting occasional shots. No one has ever won the Par 3 Contest and the Masters in the same year.


What is the Champions Dinner?

The Champions Dinner is a gathering to which all former Masters winners are invited. By tradition, the previous year's winner suggests the menu, although options are provided for anyone who considers the menu not to their taste. It was started in 1952 by Ben Hogan.


Who has won the most Masters titles?

Jack Nicklaus won six Masters titles, two more than anyone else.


Who is the youngest Masters winner?

Tiger Woods became the youngest Masters champion when he won in 1997 at age 21.


Who is the oldest Masters winner?

Jack Nicklaus became the oldest Masters champion when he won in 1986 at age 46.


Who holds the 72-hole scoring record?

The record, 18-under 270, is shared by Tiger Woods (1997) and Jordan Spieth (2015).


Who holds the 18-hole scoring record?

The record, 9-under 63, is shared by Greg Norman (first round in 1996) and Nick Price (third round in 1986).


Has an amateur ever won the Masters?

No amateur has ever won the Masters, but a few have come close. In 1947, Frank Stranahan finished T-2, two shots behind winner Jimmy Demaret. In 1954, Billy Joe Patton finished one stroke out of the Sam Snead-Ben Hogan playoff. In 1956, Ken Venturi lead after 18, 36 and 54 holes, but he shot 80 on the final day and finished one shot behind Jack Burke Jr.


Did Jones ever play in the Masters?

Jones played in the Masters 12 times - every year it was held between 1934 and 1948 (because of World War II it was not held in 1943, '44 or '45). His best finish came in his first appearance, when he shot 6-over 294 and finished T-13.


What is the most famous shot in the history of the Masters?

Gene Sarazen's "Shot Heard 'Round the World, a 235-yard 4-wood shot that he holed for an albatross on the 15th hole in the final round. That helped him get into a 36-hole playoff the next day with Craig Wood, which Sarazen won. 


How does the Masters purse compare to the other majors?

The Masters purse is in line with the purses for the other two majors played in the United States - the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. The 2016 winner's share was the same for each: $1.8 million. The winner's share for The Open was slightly less, about $1.53 million when converted to U.S. funds.


When was Augusta National "Tiger-proofed," what did that consist of, and why was it done?

For most of its existence, Augusta National has played at slightly less than 7,000 yards. When Woods won in 1997, he effectively transformed the par-5 holes into par 4s by easily reaching their greens in two shots, sometimes with as little club as a wedge. Club officials decided to make changes - primarily adding length - after Woods won his second green jacket in 2001. Even with the changes, Woods won again in 2002. And again in 2005. More changes were made before the 2006 event, including the addition of trees and the narrowing of fairways. Woods has not won since.


What was the Eisenhower tree?

The Eisenhower tree was a tall loblolly pine whose branches hovered over the left side of the 17th fairway. It got its name from the efforts of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was an Augusta National member, to have it removed because he hit it so often. Nature finally did what Clifford Roberts refused to. The tree suffered extensive damage during a 2014 ice storm and was taken down in February of that year.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)