Masters 2015: 18 reasons to love Augusta

Augusta adoration is a yearly ritual - Paul Mahoney gives it his unique spin.

Golfmagic Staff's picture
Paul Mahoney
Thu, 2 Apr 2015
Masters 2015: 18 reasons to love Augusta

The Masters is a spring rite of passage and a dreamlike portal into a summer of golf.

History, tradition, drama and mystique have built up over the years making the sum greater than the not inconsiderable parts. 

Here are 18 reasons why we love the Masters.

The Green Jacket

Yes, it’s a bit naff and old-school golf but because it’s not a trophy, the Green Jacket has become iconic. Augusta members first wore them in 1937 so that spectators could spot an expert if they had any queries. Sam Snead was the first champion to be awarded a Green Jacket in 1949. Pour yourself a Georgian mint julep cocktail if you knew the cloth for the jackets is cut and dyed in Yorkshire and made in London’s Savile Row.

Amen Corner

To be precise, it’s the approach to the 11th green, the whole of the par-three 12th over Rae’s Creek and the drive off the 13th tee around the dogleg of the par five. It was Christened by American golf reporter Herbert Warren Wind in 1958 when Arnold Palmer won his first major after disagreeing with an official at the 12th and playing a second ball and then being proved correct, signing for a three instead of a five. His prayers came true and it effectively won him the Masters. Amen to all that.

Spring is in the air

April showers in Blighty. A glimpse of Heaven on our television sets from Georgia. There is a kind of Walt Disney magic about watching the Masters from the sofa in the UK. Spring is arriving here but over there, spring already looks like summer as the first major of the year is played out on a perfect landscape of blooming flowers framed by an electric blue sky, giant swaying trees and the colour green greener than any green you’ve ever seen.

The rules

Normal rules don’t apply at Augusta National. It is the only tournament of the year where the only people allowed inside the ropes are the players, caddies, officials and some TV cameramen. So reporters, photographers, coaches, WAGs, and celebrities hold no sway at the Masters. Outside the ropes they must go to jostle for a view with the paying fans, sorry, patrons. There are no spectators; only patrons. Patrons like at the Royal Albert Hall, rather than at the King’s Head. Also beware: no telephones, no cameras, no running, no slouching against trees, no laughing or clapping. Not all of those are true. But the no running rule is.

The history

Ah yes, the fabled history of the Masters. Players and commentators are always waxing lyrical about the great history of the first major of the year. Wait a second, it’s only been held since 1934 and that’s only just past half past seven. The Open Championship has been going since 1860, just the 74 years before the Masters. But what the Masters does better than any other tournament is create myths and legends. You watch the Masters each year and it looks like it has been there forever. They have made us believe in the history. They are dream makers. And the dreams have become true.

The honorary starters

This year at a time no senior citizens should be out in the early morning dew, the great triumvirate, the holy trinity of golf, or the "Big Three" if you prefer of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will again get the show on the road. Shortly after breakfast, or perhaps during or before, they will each whack a drive hopefully up the first fairway without killing anyone in the galleries then head back indoors for coffee and donuts. All they are playing for is bragging rights for the longest drive. But thousands will be there to bear witness. What a shame they don’t continue and play 18 holes.

The returning champions

Win the Masters and you have a Green Jacket and membership for life at the world’s most exclusive club. You can play, too, as long as you don’t embarrass yourself or the tournament. Billy Casper failed to break 100 a few years ago, which was the last straw for the committee. So this year, Ben Crenshaw will play his last two rounds because he won’t make the cut. The Over-50s Club know they can’t win any more in this age of Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy. But bet the farm on Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer making the cut, and Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam giving it a good run.

The champions’ dinner

A Masters tradition like no other. A phrase, which in itself is a Masters tradition. For some reason, in the propensity to build history and myth, the golfing world becomes obsessed with the need to know what the defending champion will serve as he hosts the champions’ dinner on Tuesday of Masters week. It’s crackers of course. And crackers with cheese. Nick Faldo has served up fish and chips, and streak and kidney pie. Ian Woosnam put Welsh lamb on the menu. Sandy Lyle offered haggis. “I hope they like it,” said Jack Nicklaus. The house menu is also available.

The Butler cabin

It looks like a Hollywood movie set from White Christmas. All that’s missing is Bing Crosby singing at his piano and tapping the sleigh bells with his pipe. Its mahogany-clad hokeyness and stone fireplace provides the bizarre setting for the outgoing champion to fit the new champion into his Green Jacket before the sugary Jim Nantz lobs sugary questions at the startled golfer. It’s the inner sanctum of golf’s Masonic lodge. A reporter hid in the toilets there once and was banned from the Masters.

The amateurs

They love their amateurs at Augusta National. Hardly surprising since one of their founding fathers was the finest amateur of them all, Bobby Jones. This year will see Gunn Yang of South Korea, the US Amateur champion, and Scotland’s Bradley Neil, the British Amateur champion, take their place among the world’s greatest golfers. They won’t win but silverware and kudos is available for the best-placed amateur. Making the cut is their first target. They will at least for the first day enjoy the thrill of seeing their names writ large on the leaderboards around the course regardless of their score. Another great Augusta tradition.

The mystique

Of course, if you don’t have a long history, create a mystique. For years, no one who wasn’t at the Masters ever knew what the front nine holes even looked like. The tournament committee wouldn’t allow them to be broadcast. Then there is the fabled drive up Magnolia Lane to the colonial style wooden clubhouse with the flag in front adorned with that yellow logo that even non-golfers recognise as Augusta National. Then create a bunch of rules that no one else has and make it almost impossible to get a ticket and there you have it. Mystique. And you can’t buy it. Or buy into it. Ask Bill Gates, who was refused membership.

The caddies

Those white boiler suits are synonymous with Augusta National and the Masters. The earliest caddies there were mostly poor local black men; the club gave them this uniform to make them look smarter. It was these caddies who were employed by the pros right through the 1970s, as private caddies were not allowed. It was only in 1983 that players could start bringing their own bagmen. The caddie of the reigning champion wears No.1. The others are allocated numbers in order of when they register. Don’t confuse them with the bin men, who wear orange boiler suits.

The par 3

Masters Wednesday is Par 3 Day. Tucked away in a corner of this glorious Georgian real estate is the cutest and most aesthetically pleasing par-three course that has ever been created this side of Eden. Patrons (remember, they are not fans or spectators) swarm around these short iron-shot holes to coo at the pros, many of whom employ their cute kids as caddies, who look even more adorable in oversized white boiler suits. For many patrons, it’s their only chance to pay homage to Palmer, Nicklaus and Player. This would never work in the UK. A suspension of cynicism is required. And don’t forget the Par 3 Curse. No winner on Wednesday has ever won on Sunday.

No sponsors’ logos

It’s not that they don’t love money at Augusta or need it; it’s just that they view it as vulgar to flaunt it. Hence you will not see flashing neon signs of sponsors’ logos here that we have been accustomed to at every other sporting event. This is not the Coca Cola Masters brought to you by MasterCard. Crisps, beer, ice creams, coffee are all made by multi-national corporations but you will never know it. The only logo on view at Augusta is that iconic yellow one. And it’s an old-school refreshing change.

The course

A lot of American parkland courses all look the same. Raised tees, multi-tiered greens, pretty ponds, pristine fairways and flora and fauna. Except Augusta National looks like no other. They have created a unique appearance. It is unmistakably Augusta National and it is never out of the top three in world rankings. Those lucky enough to play it marvel at its beauty and devilish character. Indeed, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson is so in love with it, he said that it is the home of golf. You can see what he means but he may have to answer an awkward question at the Open in St Andrews in July.

Washington Road

The freeway strip that runs alongside the front gates of the golf course is the venue for the daily Masters after-party. The Masters wouldn’t be the Masters without John Daly hawking his T-shirts from his Winnebago in the parking lot of Hooters no more than 400 yards from the entrance to Augusta National. Then there are the cover bands and bluegrass beat combos playing in tents attached to bars with names like Somewhere at Augusta and chain restaurants like T-Bonz where the caddies hang out or Fishbones were the agents do deals. The street is lined with memorabila – signed this, framed that – and people holding up one finger like a cricket umpire. It means they are looking for one ticket. Looking for two tickets looks rude.

The back nine on Sunday

The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday. Another phrase, another tradition like no other. Because the risk and reward holes of the back nine include two par fives and water everywhere, and because they all wind around Rae’s Creek in an amphitheatre at the lowest point of the valley, the roars accompanying birdies and eagles echo around the giant trees and are wafted to all corners of the course on a Georgian breeze. Ian Poulter admitted recently that it all plays tricks with your mind and adds to the pressure as you try to work out which rival is on a charge. Pressure that proved too much for Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1986 as Jack Nicklaus was roared home in just 30 strokes to win the Masters aged 46.

Stuff always happens

Sarazen’s shot heard around the world in 1935, that four-wood from 235 yards that went in the hole at the 15th. Arnie's Army, Seve’s breakthrough for Europe in 1980, Jack’s charge in 1986, Sandy’s bunker shot at the 18th and Scottish jig in 1988, Faldo back-to-back in 1989 and 1990, Woosie on his knees in his Rupert Bear trousers in 1991, Norman’s meltdown in 1996.

Tiger winning by 12 shots in 1997, his red shirt, the Tiger roar and air punch, the Tiger Slam in 2001. Phil’s star jump in 2004, birdie at the last to beat Els. Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th in 2005, Rory’s collapse and tears in 2011, Bubba’s miracle wedge shot in 2012, Scott and his long putter in the rain of 2013 and Bubba blasting away in 2014.

Stuff will happen again this year. How about the Rory Slam?