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Masters of none

Golf

IT’S MASTERS WEEK! So to celebrate, we have an extra-special newsletter for you to get up to speed on the good, the bad and the ugly of the biggest week in men’s golf. Golf fan or not, you’ll want to stay tuned for this.

April 07, 2021
Source: Augusta National
Source: Augusta National

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“If the Masters offered no money at all, I would be here trying just as hard.”

—Two-time Masters champion Ben Hogan, summing up the pricelessness of Masters glory.

⛳️ How it works

SOURCE: ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/ THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE

The Masters Tournament is the first of four majors in men’s golf, and is held annually during the first full week of April (with the exception of last year when it was held in November because, well, 2020).

  • Unlike other majors that are held at different courses each year, the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia is the permanent host of the Masters, and has been since its inception in 1934.
  • Augusta National was born out of a plant nursery and is famous for its lush landscapes and rolling hills. Flowers like magnolias and azaleas are so synonymous with the course that 2017 Masters winner Sergio Garcia named his daughter Azalea after the 13th hole.

There are 19 ways players qualify for the Masters, including winning other majors, being a previous Masters champ, winning Olympic gold and qualifying for the season-ending Tour Championship. This year, 88 golfers are expected to participate.

💚 The traditions

SOURCE: FRED VUICH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

The Masters maintains some of the most steadfast traditions of any global sporting event. For example, Augusta National is so committed to keeping things status quo that they haven’t changed concession menu items or prices in ages: an egg salad or pimento cheese sandwich will still only set you back $1.50. ’Bout it.

The green jacket, awarded to the tournament champ (alongside a $2-million check), is a Masters icon. The winner also walks away with a lifetime invitation to play in the event and an honorary membership at the super-exclusive club.

Wednesday’s Par-3 contest typically happens before the tournament kicks off, with players participating on Augusta’s nine-hole course with kids as caddies, but the fun round was canceled yet again due to COVID-19.

Considering the Masters were created by an amateur, the legendary Bobby Jones, the tournament continues to highlight amateur golf. Typically five amateurs are invited to lodge at the course’s Crow’s Nest while competing at the Masters, and the lowest scoring amateur is awarded the Silver Cup.

  • The reigning U.S. Amateur champ also gets to play his first two rounds with the defending Masters champ, meaning the 2020 U.S. Amateur Tyler Strafaci will tee off tomorrow with 2020 Masters winner Dustin Johnson. Lucky!

Finally, the Champions Dinner, which is held on the Tuesday night of Masters week. All past Masters champs — and only past Masters champs — gather at the course for a dinner chosen by the most recent winner.

  • This year, Johnson chose a feast of pigs in a blanket, lobster, filet mignon and peach cobbler. It’s no haggis (served to everyone’s chagrin in 1989 by Sandy Lyle), but it’ll do.

🏆 Returning champions

SOURCE: THE MASTERS/TWITTER

Because Masters winners are invited to play in every future Masters tournament, nearly every living past champion will tee off tomorrow. And while it might just be “a good walk spoiled” for some older players like Lyle or Larry Mize who both won in the ’80s, others, like 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, could actually be in contention to win again.

  • The aforementioned Garcia missed last year’s event due to a COVID-19 diagnosis but will be in it to win it again this year, as will defending champ Johnson, and Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and golf’s favorite villainPatrick Reed.
  • A surprise contender is 2015 champ Jordan Speith, a former wunderkind without a PGA tournament win in four years until Sunday, when he won the Valero Texas Open.

One notable omission from this year’s field is Tiger Woods, who last won in 2019. Though the five-time champ had big plans to return to Augusta after back surgery in December, he’s still recovering from injuries sustained in February’s car accident. We’ll miss him.

☝️ The contenders

SOURCE: DAVID J PHILLIP/AP

The green jacket has proven elusive for some of golf’s greats. Brooks Koepka (pronounced KEPKA) has won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship twice, but has only ever come in second at the Masters. Despite having knee surgery just three weeks ago, Koepka feels confident this could be his year.

  • Rory McIlroy has won all three of the other majors, but has never placed better than fourth at the Masters. And there are other major winners — Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa — who are also looking for their first wins at Augusta.

Watch out for the new kids on the block, though. The 2019 low amateur Silver Cup winner Viktor Hovland, last year’s runner-up Cameron Smith and new dad Jon Rahm (who said he’d pull out of the tournament immediately if his wife went into labor) are all PGA Tour winners who have solid chances at becoming major winners this weekend.

💪 Canadian contenders

SOURCE: PGA TOUR/TWITTER

Only one Canadian has ever won the Masters: Mike Weir in 2003. And his win spurred a golf boom. Kids across Canada took up the sport in droves and that catalyst is finally paying off.

  • Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes, who both cite Weir as their childhood idol, will join him at the Masters once again this year. Last year, Conners broke Weir’s record by shooting the lowest round ever recorded by a Canadian.
  • Conners finished seventh at the recent Players Championship and Hughes made it to the round of 16 at the World Golf Championships. Both are heading into this event with strong seasons so far.

😒 The good, the bad and the ugly

SOURCE: AUGUSTA NATIONAL

The history of the Masters is steeped in racism, sexism and classism. We actually covered some of Augusta National’s major issues in today’s episode of our podcast: The GIST of It.Organizers of the Masters plan to use this year’s event to address the tournament’s racist history and make some important first steps for reconciliation.

  • Tomorrow’s opening ceremony is dedicated to Lee Elder, the first Black man to ever play in the Masters in 1975 (back when caddies still had to be Black) and Augusta National will fund two Lee Elder scholarships.
  • Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley also announced a fully-funded women’s golf program at Paine College, a HBCU in Georgia.

But in light of recent legislative changes to voting rights and processes — reminiscent of Jim Crow era voting laws — in the state of Georgia, the Masters are once again in the hot seat.

  • In response to the controversial rulings, the MLB announced last week that they would move the upcoming All-Star game and amateur draft out of its planned location in Atlanta, with many expecting golf to take similar action.
  • But because the tournament is organized by the Augusta National Golf Club and run by three international golf tours, it’s not as easy as moving the event to another course out-of-state. Instead, many have called for a complete boycott of the tournament.

The PGA Tour has remained silent so far, and TBH, we don’t see the Masters going anywhere but Georgia. And like politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams says, boycotts will only do harm. Instead, we hope the world’s biggest golfers use the sport’s biggest platform to call for change.

🏌️‍♂️ The first tee

SOURCE: ANDREW DAVIS TUCKER/THE AUGUSTA CHRONICLE

The Masters officially starts tomorrow morning and coverage on CTV in Canada and CBS and ESPN in the US begins at 3 p.m. ET. TSN will also have bonus coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET. Check out all the tee times and groupings here, and follow the full leaderboard here. Get your cushions fluffled.