From a troubled past to a promising future, Deputy Sports Editor Róisín Lambe explains the Augusta National Masters!

Every year, the world of golf turns its gaze to Augusta Georgia, where the lush fairways and pristine greens of Augusta National Golf Club set the stage for one of the most iconic and prestigious tournaments in sport.

The Masters is the first Major Championship of the golfing calendar, taking place annually in the first week of April, opening the season in style. The Masters hosts the smallest field in golf; taking place over four days, professional golfers compete for a chance to win the iconic green jacket and a place in Masters’ history.

A Legacy of Racism:

The Masters was founded by amateur golfer Bobby Jones and investment banker Clifford Roberts. The tournament was first played in 1934 and is independently run by Augusta National Golf Club. The tournament has a proud but at times controversial history.

Co-founder Clifford Roberts is quoted as saying, “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.” Black golfers were banned from the tournament until 1975 and players were required to hire a local black caddie until 1983. To this day, caddies still wear the white boiler suits previously worn by the Club’s black caddies, reminiscent of the tournament’s controversial past.

In 1937, Augusta National’s members began wearing green sports jackets so that they could be recognised at the tournament. From that point forward, the winner of the Masters is presented with the iconic green jacket.

The green jacket can only be removed from the clubhouse by a first-time champion but they must return the jacket the following year, where it is stored in a special Champions’ locker room.

Not only does the Champion receive the green jacket; but they also win a replica trophy of the clubhouse, lifetime membership of Augusta National and an annual invitation to the tournament. This year’s winner will also take home a staggering $3.2 million.

One of the most unique traditions of the Masters is the annual par 3 contest. The event takes place on the Wednesday before the tournament where players are joined by their families for a fun and relaxed round before the main event. However, a superstition surrounds the par 3 tournament, as no winner of the event has gone on to win the Masters in the same year.

The Course

The course itself is looked after with meticulous care. In addition to the army of green keepers, the lakes are artificially dyed, ice is placed around the azaleas to prevent them from blooming too early, and artificial bird music is piped into the TV broadcasts. Additionally, there is no on-course advertisement and the spectators are referred to as “patrons”, adding to the exclusivity of the tournament.

Notably, the length of the course was substantially increased in 2005 to ‘tiger-proof’ it, following Tiger Woods’ back-to-back wins. Woods is set to make a highly anticipated comeback, having only played one competitive round since he suffered severe leg injuries in a car crash in 2021.
The Masters stands out among golf’s 4 major championships, as the only event played on the same course every year. Despite its controversies and elements of tradition that some might deem “cheesy,” the tournament holds a unique place in the hearts of golfers. Through its profound sense of familiarity, both with the tournament and the course itself, the Masters cultivates an unparalleled anticipation and excitement, ahead of the golfing season.

Our Masters Predictions:

Scottie Scheffler:

It will come as no surprise that the 2022 Masters’ winner and current World number 1, is a frontrunner for this year’s tournament. Scheffler has shown impressive form in his recent wins at the Players Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational, setting a promising stage for the Masters.

Rory McIlroy:

The Masters remains the sole major title standing between McIlroy and a coveted grand slam title. After finishing runner-up in 2022 and suffering a missed cut in 2023, McIlroy will be going into this year’s tournament with more determination than ever to secure the elusive green jacket. While the tournament hasn’t been overly kind to McIroy, he has secured 7top-100 finishes in the last decade.
Jon Rahm:

The reigning Champion finds himself in a distinctive position as he competes for the first time since his shock move to LIV Golf. Rahm is a formidable competitor and with a point to prove, will not hand over the green jacket too easily. Spanish golfers have enjoyed great success at the Masters, contributing 5 out of Europe’s 9 winners.

Viktor Hovland:

Hovland stands out as a strong competitor for this year’s Masters. As a former Masters’ Leading Amateur in 2019, Hovland is always a prominent contender, frequently featuring near the top of the leaderboard. Hovland has dedicated a significant amount of time to developing his short game and the effects are sure to be seen around Augusta.