The Masters Tournament (also known as the U.S. Masters outside of the United States) is a prestigious golf tournament held annually at August National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. The event is traditionally held at the end of the first full weekend of April and is the first of golf’s four major events in a calendar year. It’s also the only major to be contested at the same site each year. It also tends to have the smallest field of all majors, as it is an invitation-only event.
Legendary golfer Bobby Jones wanted to build a golf course after he retired from the game, and he happened upon the grounds in Augusta that would become Augusta National Golf Club. Work began on the course in 1931 and opened in 1933.
The Masters Golf was originally called the Augusta National Invitational Tournament, and it was won by Horton Smith in 1934. The first legendary moment at Augusta came in 1935 when Gene Sarazen hit the so-called “shot heard around the world,” which was holing his second shot on the par-5 15th for a double eagle and going on to win the tournament in a playoff.
Golf’s biggest early names have claimed victory at Augusta. Byron Nelson won twice, Sam Snead claimed victory three times, and Ben Hogan won in 1951 and ’53.
In the 1960s and ’70s, it was the trio of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player who dominated the Masters, winning 11 times in those two decades. Nicklaus has won a record six times while Palmer claimed four wins and Player three. The trio is so synonymous with the Masters that they would open the tournament each year with a ceremonial tee shot all the way until Palmer’s death in 2016.
Nicklaus’s sixth win came in 1986 at the age of 46, which was likely the most popular win at Augusta up until that time. In 1995, Ben Crenshaw won his second Masters in 1995 and sobbed after making his final putt, as his longtime teacher and mentor had just passed away before the tournament began.
The following year in 1996, Greg Norman looked like he was finally going to tackle Augusta, but he blew a six-shot lead heading into the final day and was outscored by Nick Faldo 67 to 78. In all, Norman placed in the top 5 eight times here but failed to win.
It felt like a new era began at the Masters when Tiger Woods, who was just 21 at the time, dominated the course and won by 12 strokes, breaking the 72-hole record by shooting an 18-under 270 in the process. Woods also won in 2001 and ’02.
At that point, the course went through a renovation that was referred to as “Tiger-proofing.” Augusta National had been 6,925 yards until it was extended to 7,270 in 2002 and then to 7,445 in 2006. The greens were also made more difficult from a 1981 renovation.
Woods is a five-time champion, one behind Nicklaus, as he was victorious in 2005 and again in 2019, which was his first major title in 11 years.
In recent years, Bubba Watson won two out of three in 2012 and ’14, Jordan Spieth became the second youngest winner and tied Woods’ course record in 2015, and Sergio Garcia finally won his first major with a playoff victory over Justin Rose in 2017.
In 2020, the event was postponed until November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dustin Johnson won that event and set a new course record in the process by shooting a 20-under 268.
Smith won $1,500 in 1934, and in 2021, Hideki Matsuyama took home just over $2 million for the win.
Since 1949, the master Golf tournament winner has also received a green jacket that is awarded in a post-match ceremony inside Butler Cabin. The winner is given his jacket by the previous year’s champion.
He can then keep it for a year until the following year’s tournament. At that point, the jacket remains at Augusta National, and former champions can wear it when they are on the club’s grounds.
There are playing privileges that are also given to Masters champions. They are given a lifetime exemption to play in any future Masters, as well as a five-year exemption to play in the other three majors along with The Players Championship. The winner also receives a five-year exemption to play on the PGA Tour.
The Masters field is generally consisted of around 90-100 golfers, and players are invited based on a number of criteria.
The process starts with the top-50 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings being invited along with the 30 golfers that reach the previous season’s Tour Championship.
Then, the list of invitees includes: former Golf Masters winners, other major winners for a five-year span, a three-year exemption for The Players Championship winner, the defending Olympic gold medalist, and several amateur champions from around the world.
Finally, the top 12 from the previous years’ Masters and the top four from the most-recent other three majors are invited to round out the field.
The Golf tournament format is a typical four-day, 72-hole event with a few wrinkles thrown in.
First, because the field is smaller than a typical tournament, competitors play the course in threesomes instead of foursomes. In addition, all players will play holes 1-18 in order instead of having half the field start on the 10th hole. The only exception to this rule is if weather is expected to be an issue.
After 36 holes, only players remaining in the top 50 on the leaderboard (including ties) remain. All other golfers are cut. Golfers are then paired together based on their position on the leaderboard for the final two rounds, with the top two on the leaderboard heading out last.
In the event of a tie following 72 holes of play, a sudden-death tiebreaker begins on the 18th hole and then goes to the 10th hole, if necessary. Players then repeat those two holes in succession as many times as needed until there is a winner.