Masters USAThe Masters is the first of the four major championships in professional golf. It takes place during the first full week of April at Augusta National Golf Club, Georgia. The event is invitational and has the smallest field of players of the four majors. Masters champions gain automatic qualification to the other three majors for the next five years (the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship). They also receive membership on the PGA Tour for the following five seasons and invitations to The Players Championship for five years.

 

Augusta National

Bobby Jones created Augusta National under the guidance of first Club Chairman Clifford Roberts. Jones hired Alister MacKenzie to help design the course and the course opened in 1933. The course was formerly a plant nursery and every hole on the course is named after a tree or shrub. It is famous for it’s beautiful setting and lightning fast greens.

 

Qualification

The top 50 players in the Official World Rankings are automatically invited. Past champions have lifetime qualification and the winners of the other majors qualify for five years. Also invited are the top 16 players in the previous year’s Masters Tournament plus top 4 (British Open & PGA) and top 8 (US Open). Winners of the Players Championship are exempt for three years. The leading 30 players on the Final Official PGA Tour Money List for the previous season plus various other amateur and professional qualifiers make up the 90-strong field. Most of the world’s leading players will meet the criteria for invitation but the Masters Committee has the discretion to invite any golfer not otherwise qualified.

 

Past Champions

The inaugural “Augusta National Invitational” Tournament was held in 1934 and was won by Horton Smith. Gene Sarazen famously hit a double eagle in 1935, holing out from the fairway on the 15th before winning a playoff against Craig Wood. The event became known as the US Masters in 1939 with the earliest winners including Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.

 

Through the 1960’s and 70’s, the event was dominated by the so-called “Big Three” of Nicklaus, Palmer and Player. Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most Masters victories with six. When he won in 1966 he became the first player to win consecutive Masters. With his final victory in 1986, he became the oldest player to win a major championship, then aged 46. South African Gary Player became the first non-American to win the Masters in 1961. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have won the tournament on four occasions and Phil Mickelson is one of five players to have won the event on three occasions.

 

When the late Seve Ballesteros became the first European to win the Masters in 1980 he started a golden era for European golfers in the event. The Spaniard won again in 1983 and was followed by Bernhard Langer 1985, Sandy Lyle (1988), Nick Faldo (1989, 1990 and 1996) and Ian Woosnam (1991). Langer would claim a second victory in 1993 with Jose Maria Olazabal winning in 1994 and 1999.

 

In 1997, Tiger Woods won the Masters by a staggering twelve shots, breaking the tournament scoring record that had stood for 32 years. In 2003, Mike Weir became the first Canadian golfer to win a major tournament and the first left-handed player to win the Masters. A year later, Phil Mickelson became the second left-hander to do so, beating Ernie Els with a birdie on the final hole. The most recent winners were Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Bubba Watson (2012).