If I had a choice between world peace and this week’s winning lottery numbers, one of the first things I’d buy with my jackpot money would be first class tickets to Augusta, Georgia and a prime spot in the hospitality section by the 1st tee at Augusta National. But whilst I continue to dream that one day I will be faced with such a simple dilemma, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about the world’s greatest golf tournament.
WHAT’S THE FUSS ALL ABOUT?
For the uninitiated, there are four major golf tournaments every year which bring together the two sets of players on both the European and US PGA Tours. First up on the calendar, and the most prestigious, is The Masters Tournament. More collectively known as The Masters.
The Masters is special, predominantly, for 3 reasons –
1. Location. Unlike the other major tournaments which are played at alternate courses each year, The Masters has always been played at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, USA. Augusta is steeped in tradition from the champion’s dinner, unique Caddie uniforms through to the atmosphere at Amen Corner on the final day. Augusta makes The Masters special.
2. The Green Jacket. The winner can look forward to becoming a life member of Augusta National and receive their very own Green Jacket which must be worn by all members of the golf club when they are in attendance.
3. The field. As the only invitational event amongst the major tournaments, the field is quite small, therefore, we are treated to the crème de la crème of world golf in the form of the top 50 golfers in the world, past Masters champions and a select few invited amateur players. This means we get to see a lot more of Tiger, Rory and big Phil et al on the fairways.
WHEN IS IT?
The Masters is usually scheduled so the final round is played on the second Sunday in April. This year the tournament starts on Thursday 11th April with the first of four 18-hole rounds of golf culminating in the final round on Sunday 14th April.
The build up to the tournament starts at the beginning of the week with the players arriving and playing at least two practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday followed by the marquee par 3 event on Wednesday before the competition proper starts on Thursday.
Sky Sports has live coverage of all four rounds in the UK with the BBC offering live, uninterrupted, coverage of the final two rounds over the weekend.
Beginning on Thursday for the 1st round – coverage starts at 3.45pm on Sky Sports 1/1HD for selected holes - typically Amen Corner – (via interactive) with full live coverage from 7pm.
This format is continued on Day 2 and 3 with selected holes coverage beginning at 4pm and full live coverage at 7pm. The final round coverage begins at 5pm with selected holes and full live coverage from 6pm until some lucky putter gets their mitts on that Green single-breasted beauty. All live coverage is on Sky Sports 1/1HD and selected holes coverage is via interactive red button.
For those jammy so-and-sos with 3D TV, Sky 3D has coverage from 9.30pm on Day 1&2 and from 9pm on Day 3&4.
Prior to the tournament proper, Sky Sports also has special ‘on the range’ coverage with access to the players as they complete their practice rounds on Monday at 5pm and Tuesday at 2pm (via interactive red button). On Wednesday you can see the Par 3 competition live from 7pm, repeated on Thursday morning at 11am – all of which is via Sky Sports 1/1HD.
BBC coverage starts with a review of the 2012 Masters on Tuesday 9th April at 2.15pm followed by a 2013 preview on Wednesday 10th April at 11.20pm – both programmes via BBC2.
BBC then has highlight programmes for the first two rounds – you can catch first day highlights at 7pm on Friday 12th April and the second day highlights on Saturday 13th at 2.15pm.
Full coverage of round three starts on BBC2 from 7.30pm through to midnight with the all important final round available from 6.30pm through to the finish, again on BBC2.
For those of you who prefer the good old fashioned wireless (really?) then BBC 5Live has uninterrupted coverage of each day’s action from 9pm right through to the finish.
( times quoted above are GMT)
Conceived by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, each hole is named after a plant or shrub associated with the course grounds (4th – Flowering Crab Apple, 9th – Carolina Cherry). The most famous part of the course is, undoubtedly , Amen Corner which encompasses holes 11,12 and 13. Sports Illustrated writer, Herbert Warren is credited with the name taken from an old jazz recording called “Shouting at Amen Corner”. On the final day of the tournament, Amen Corner stirs up one of the most electric atmospheres of the sporting year.
The course has undergone many modifications. In particular over the last ten years it has been lengthened by approximately 500 yards to a total length of 7,435yds making it a big hitter’s paradise.
The Masters is a stroke play event over four days with one 18-hole round of golf played each day - the player who manages to hack his way round the course over this period with the lowest number of shots wins the tournament.
After two rounds the number of players are reduced or ‘cut’. For a player to make it to the weekend and a chance to go for the green jacket they must typically be within 10 shots (or placed within top 44) of the leading score at the halfway point. If there is no clear winner after four rounds (as was the case last year) all players tied for the lead enter a sudden death round until there is an outright winner.
After Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player each strike a ball from the 1st tee, thus officially opening the 2013 Masters tournament (another tradition unique to The Masters), 93 players will do battle for the fabled green jacket.
Defending champion Bubba Watson, and proud owner of the original General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard (I’m not kidding), heads a strong field of US golfers with world No1 Tiger Woods fetching his lowest odds to win a major since he drove into a fire hydrant in 2009.
The European Tour is well represented with Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood all looking for their first major victory.
Also, keep your eyes peeled for 14 year old Chinese star – Guan Tianlang, youngest participant ever to appear at The Masters.
So, who’s going to win? Smart money says Woods is back on his game and will grab his 5th Masters title and 15th Major overall. The course suits a big hitter off the tee, thus, the likes of Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy (despite his recent troubles) cannot be discounted. Jason Day and Adam Scott have been close before. However, my money is on old lefty – big Phil Mickelson – to continue his storm back to form and claim his fourth green jacket.
Innnnnnn the hooooooolleeee!!!!!!!!