Champions Dinner at the 2017 Masters Tournament. Augusta National

The Champions Dinner conundrum: Where do I sit?

By Rex HoggardApril 3, 2018, 1:00 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bubba Watson mulled nervously in a relatively nondescript room tucked into a corner of the iconic Augusta National clubhouse.

Watson was two years removed from his first Masters victory in 2012, and even though this was his second Champions Dinner he found himself asking a familiar, and awkward, question – where do I sit?

For a place with as much tradition as Augusta National, the Champions Dinner – which was originally called the Masters Club when Ben Hogan hosted the first gathering in 1952 – has a surprisingly relaxed seating format.

In 2013, Watson hosted the dinner as the defending champion, offering a menu that included Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast, green beans, mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese.

As the host of the dinner, Watson sat between Billy Payne, the club’s chairman, who is the only member of the Masters Club who has not won the tournament, and Ben Crenshaw, who has become the evening’s de facto emcee, at the head of the table. But the year after hosting is when things get a little interesting.

Although there’s no assigned seating at the dinner, there is a generally understood hierarchy. The head of the table includes the chairman, now Fred Ridley, the defending champion and Crenshaw.

Photo gallery: Champions Dinners through the years

Masters Tournament: Articles, photos and videos

“I asked Zach Johnson, ‘What do I do? Where do people sit?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, but sit by me,’” Watson recalled. “There are a few seats, three or four, they sit in the same area, you can pick the names. They sit where they sit and you just kind of fill in.

“For me, being a young guy, I let everyone sit down and I figured it out from there. I stand back and let everybody go.”

How the table fills in for the game’s most exclusive soiree is something of an evolving tradition.

“You sit up at the head the first year when you host, and then the next year, you're like, it's jostle for a seat,” Adam Scott said. “Basically, the head half of the table is the same seats every year. No one is touching [Tom] Watson, Jack [Nicklaus], Tiger [Woods], Ben [Crenshaw], Arnold [Palmer] was up there, [Phil] Mickelson, he's kind of mid-point.”

Which makes a champion’s sophomore turn at the dinner something of a lottery.

Scott, like Watson, lingered the year after he hosted the dinner in 2014, waiting for everyone to take their seats before Angel Cabrera and Jose Maria Olazabal pulled the Australian to their side of the table.

Nick Faldo, who won back-to-back Masters in 1989 and ’90, made a point of finding a spot next to Sam Snead following his years of hosting.

“I tried to get close to Sam, that was really cool,” Faldo said. “Sam would say, ‘They hated me because I holed every putt, and I did.’”

Faldo has since settled between Gary Player and Trevor Immelman, “our tradition,” he smiled proudly.

“There’s no rules, it’s a free-for-all, pretty much,” Bubba Watson said. “There’s a pecking order. You let the greats of the game sit first and then you fill in after that.”

The veteran members of the club normally step in to help the uninitiated find a spot at the massive table. Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize guided Johnson the year after he hosted and Mark O’Meara helped Scott find a seat.

Last year it was Johnson who helped Jordan Spieth, who hosted the dinner in 2016.

“I didn’t know what the protocol was, so they just kind of helped me, sit with us, do this, don’t do that,” Johnson said. “So, Jordan [Spieth] asked me last year. It’s awkward, you’re used to hosting and if you’re not hosting you don’t know what to do.”

But then last year’s dinner was different for a number of reasons, the most glaring being the absence of Palmer, who died in September 2016. It was an emotional evening for all of the club members, particularly Crenshaw.

“What was really emotional was Arnold speaking the year before and then we reflected on what we’d heard, he was so much a part of the place,” Crenshaw said. “It’s just not the same.”

Crenshaw, who usually prepares some remarks and then opens the floor to whoever wants to speak, said Palmer will again be a topic on Tuesday following the King’s last dinner in 2016.

“Two years ago, when Arnold was there, he stood up and said his peace and it was phenomenal,” Johnson said. “You could tell it was significant.”

Most of the speaking is handled by the legends, with both Nicklaus and Player normally taking a few moments to reminisce along with Crenshaw.

This year’s dinner will also mark the first for chairman Fred Ridley, who took over for Payne last October. It’s tradition to give the defending champion a locket as the newest member of the Masters Club, and on Tuesday Ridley will also be welcomed into the group.

“It’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. It’s a locket that opens three ways. It’s actually a necklace for your wife,” Crenshaw explained. “It’s a gold locket and you open it and it has a dark silhouette of the clubhouse and Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts and on the back it says, ‘Ben Hogan, founder of the Masters Club.’”

Welcoming two new members into the club will be somewhat out of the ordinary, but there will be one tradition that endures – Danny Willett, the 2016 champion, will spend the early part of the evening trying to figure out a familiar question – where do I sit?

Getty Images

More sun, dry conditions expected early at Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 9:14 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – An atypically dry Scottish summer is expected to continue this week at The Open.

There’s a possibility of a few showers Thursday and Friday, but otherwise conditions are expected to remain dry with temperatures around 70 degrees and winds in the 15-20 mph range.

The forecast for the opening round at Carnoustie is sunshine with clouds developing later in the day. The high is expected to be around 70 degrees, with winds increasing throughout the day, maxing out at 18 mph.

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

There’s a chance of rain overnight Thursday and into Friday morning, but it’s not expected to slow down the fiery conditions.

It’s been one of the driest summers in recent memory, leading to fairways that are baked out and fescue rough that is lighter and thinner than in previous years.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

Getty Images

The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 8:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.