The Masters Tournament
The Masters Tournament, which is commonly referred to as The Masters or The Tournament, is one of four major championships in men's professional golf and the first of the four to be played each year. The final round of the Masters is always scheduled for the second Sunday in April.
The event gets underway with practice rounds on Monday, the Par 3 Tournamnent is played on Wednesday and the first competitive round gets underway Thursday morning. Tickets to the practice rounds are available to the public, by application, on a limited basis.
Unlike the other major championships, the Masters is played every year at the same location, Augusta National Golf Club, a private golf club in the city of Augusta, Georgia, considered by many as the most beautful golf course in the world. The Masters was started by Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones, who designed Augusta National along with legendary course architect Alister MacKenzie.
Winning the Masters and its coveted Green Jacket is considered the ultimate achievement in golf. Masters champions are automatically invited to play in the other three majors (the U.S. Open, the British Open Championship and the PGA Championship) for the next five years, and they earn a lifetime invitation to the Masters. They also receive membership on the PGA Tour for the following five seasons and invitations to the Players Championship for five years.
The first tournament in 1934, referred to as the more modest Augusta National Invitation Tournament at the insistence of Bobby Jones, was played with current holes 10 through 18 as the "first nine," and holes 1 through 9 as the "second nine." Although front and back are more commonly used, the Masters is well known for insisting on referring to the "first" and "second" nines. The course was reconfigured into its famous layout for the 1935 tournament. Jones finally agreed to call the tournmaent The Masters in 1939
As with many other courses, Augusta National's championship setup has been lengthened in recent years. In 1998, the course measured approximately 6,925 yards from the Masters tees. It was lengthened to 7,270 yards for 2002, and again in 2006 to 7,445 yards; 520 yards longer than the 1998 course. The changes attracted many critics, including the three most successful players in Masters history, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods. Woods claimed that the "shorter hitters are going to struggle."
The original grass on the putting greens was wide-bladed Bermuda. After the introduction of a healthier strain of narrow-bladed Bermuda in the 1970s, which thrived and grew thicker, the traditionally fast greens lost speed and forced a significant change. The greens on the Par-3 course were reconstructed in 1978 with bentgrass, a narrow-bladed species that could be mowed shorter, eliminating grain. After this test run, the greens on the main course were replaced with bentgrass in time for the 1981 Masters. The bentgrass resulted in significantly faster putting surfaces, which has required a reduction in some of the contours of the greens over time.
Just before the 1975 tournament, the common beige sand in the bunkers was replaced with the now-signature white feldspar. It is a quartz derivative of the mining of feldspar and is shipped in from North Carolina.
The Masters has the smallest field of the major championships with around 90 players. It is an invitational event, but invitations are largely issued on an automatic basis to players who meet published criteria. With the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings automatically invited, none of the leading current players in the world miss out. Past champions are eligible to play in any tournament for life, but in recent years the Augusta National Golf Club has discouraged them from continuing to participate at an advanced age.
The Masters Committee, at its discretion, can also invite golfers not otherwise qualified, although in practice these invitations are currently reserved for international players
In accordance with typical golf tournament formatting, the Masters Tournament is a 72-hole tournament played over four days. It is played under the rules of golf, as defined by the United States Golf Association and is also subject to special rulings and regulations set by the Masters Tournament Committee.
Because the Masters has a relatively smaller field compared to other golf tournaments, groups are set to three players for the first 36 holes (typically Thursday and Friday). After 36 holes have been played by all players, the field is reduced. Players who "make the cut" are in one or both of the following two categories: (1) Lowest 44 scores plus ties, or (2) Within 10 strokes of the lowest 36-hole score (set by the leader).
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