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More than the Indy 500, tennis’ US Open or the Kentucky
Derby, The Masters Tournament, simply put, is the most iconic, revered and
well-known sporting location in the United States.
People do not shout about Augusta National, they whisper;
they speak in reverent, hushed tones about its beauty, its history, its
champions and its challenges.
To even the most casual of golf fans, it is far more a
national monument than a golf course.
It is the only of the four Majors to have been played in the
same location every year of its existence, dating back to 1934, when it was
founded by legendary player Bobby Jones and investor/administrator Clifford
It’s also the smallest field of the four Majors. There
aren’t a lot of long shots winning the Masters, largely because they aren’t
good enough to get invited.
Prestige and tradition dominate the Masters, from the
Champions Dinner, now in its 62nd year, which happens the Tuesday before the
tournament and is only open to former champions and Augusta National board
members, to the green jacket, first used in 1949, and only removed from the
grounds if it is for a first-time winner.
It is the tournament of Jack Nickalus, who won it six times,
and Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods, who each own four titles.
Woods will not
have the chance to make it five as he is out with an injury, but Phil Mickleson
can shoot for his fourth, and Adam Scott, the 2013 winner, can try and become
the first man to win Augusta in back to back seasons since Woods in 2001 and
Only one thing has ever stopped the Masters - war.
tournament was not held 1943-1945 because of World War II.
When it returned in
1946, the prize money was upped to a then-record $2,500 (previously $1,500).
The first time Palmer won the Masters, he earned $11,250 for
When Nickalus took his first title in 1963, the prize was up to
By the time Woods won his first in 1997, shattering the
course record and the margin of victory records, he pulled in $486,000.
Even that number seems small compared to Scott’s $1.44
million collected in 2013.
It wasn’t until 1961 that a non-American won Augusta - that
being Gary Player of South Africa.
He would win two more before Seve
Ballesteros of Spain joined his company in 1980.
Currently, foreign players
have won four of the last six Masters - two for South Africa, one for Australia
and one for Argentina.
Sixteen times, the Masters has been decided by a playoff,
including each of the last two years.
The course itself was formerly a plant nursery, and each
hole bears the name of a tree or shrub that populates it - from No.1 Tea Olive
to No. 18 Holly.
CBS has broadcast the Masters every year since 1956,
remarkably through a series of 58 one-year contracts. In the first year, the
final four holes were shown live, but nothing else.
One old friend will be missing from the course this year,
the Eisenhower Pine, which got its name because former President Dwight
Eisenhower hit it so many times that he asked for it to be removed.
The tree suffered massive damage during an ice storm this
February and had to be removed.
While his request for the tree didn’t pan out,
Eisenhower did propose a dam to make a fish pond while visiting the course as a
general. The request was approved, the dam built and Ike’s Pond endures to this
Tiger Woods isn’t here, nor is the Eisenhower Tree, but the
Masters is always the Masters, and the first Major of the 2014 golf season is
finally at hand.
Defending champion Adam Scott will attempt to become the
first player since the aforementioned Woods in 2002 and 2003 to repeat as
Scott tees off at 10:41 p.m. local time in one of the
coolest pairings of the day, joined by PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and
US Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, just 19 years old.
The tournament officially gets underway at 7:40 a.m.when
honorary starters Gary Player, Jack Nickalus and Arnold Palmer tee off. The
three all-time greats combined to win the Masters 13 times in their careers.
Following the three legends, the first group will consist of
Stewart Cink and Tim Clark. Ninety-seven players are in the field this year,
including 24 first-timers.
Right after Scott’s group takes the course, Jordan Spieth,
Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy tee off at 10:52 a.m.
The other two defending 2013 Major winners, Phil Mickelson
and Justin Rose, are paired together along with Ernie Els, teeing off at 1:48
After bad weather early in the week, conditions should be
ideal, if a bit windy for The Masters. Highs will be between 76 and 80 degrees
with no chance of rain and wind between 6 and 12 miles per hour.
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