The first major championship in golf is nearly here, the 2015 Masters Tournament. It is the tournament most looked forward to by golfers without a doubt, marking the coming of spring and the golf season. For many of us who have dealt with long, cold winters, it is the first truly green grass we see and gets us excited for the coming season.
Augusta National Golf Club is the home of the Masters Tournament. The course was the dream of Bobby Jones and designed by Alister MacKenzie with the help of Jones. Par for the course is 72 with a total yardage of 7,435. While normal golf courses may occupy 180 acres of land, Augusta National sprawls out on 360 acres. The unofficial course rating is 78.1 and unofficial slope is 137. There are no “official” ratings for this course.
The course record of 63 is held by two players, Nick Price (1986) and Greg Norman (1996).
The golf course features extreme elevation changes, most which are not easily seen on television. The greens at Augusta are mostly small, severely sloped, and run extremely fast during the tournament. It is said that green speeds during the Masters run at around a 14 on the stimpmeter, but once again no “official” data is provided to the public. 14, for those who don’t know the rating system, is frighteningly fast.
The course features many landmark spots, often named after golfers or past presidents. Some include the Hogan Bridge, Sarizan Bridge, Ike’s Pond, Eisenhower Tree.
Perhaps the most famous landmark on the course is “Amen Corner,” the stretch of holes 11-13.
The Masters and its huge crowds provide an amazingly vibrant golf atmosphere. The layout of the course is great for spectators and the “roars” heard from crowds echo throughout the entire course. A great shot on the par-3 16th and the subsequent crowd roar, can easily be heard clear up to the first tee.
The record for most wins at the Masters Tournament goes to Jack Nicklaus, with six. Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods have won the event four times. Several players have won the tournament three times, including Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson.
Returning champion Bubba Watson has won the tournament two times. Other two-time winners include Ben Crenshaw, Ben Hogan, and Seve Ballesteros.
Players To Watch
Rory McIlory comes into the Masters as the favorite to win. The Masters is the only major championship McIlory has not won and doing so would give him the “career grand slam.” Long hitting left-handed players do well at Augusta, making Bubba Watson a favorite to win again, along with Phil Mickelson. Mickelson has not had a great 2015 season, but always seems to gear his game up for the Masters.
Other favorites for the Masters include 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, who has yet to win a major. Big-hitter Jason Day has been at the top or near the top of the leader board for several years and should be a favorite. Adam Scott always plays well at the Masters, and does have one victory in 2013. Dustin Johnson is back from a leave of absence and has the length and skills to contend at Augusta, if his mental strength is up to the task.
At press time Tiger Woods was still undecided as a competitor at the 2015 Masters.
UPDATE: Tiger Woods officially announced participation in the Masters Tournament, as well as the par-3 contest.