It’s hard to believe that it’s April already.  No doubt the incessant rain has left us thinking that we’re just exiting February, rather than March.  Early provisional Met Office statistics up to March 30, recorded that Northern Ireland had 137.4mm of rain which is 58% more than the average for this time of the year.

With April comes the first Major of the year and the hype that surrounds it.  Although Tiger Woods is currently ranked 995th in the world and has played in just one event since The Open in July 2022, it’s undeniable that he believes he has a chance at Augusta – after all, he did win his fifth green jacket in 2019 after major back surgery!  Twitter announced his arrival at Augusta on Sunday – his 25th Masters!

Rather than talk about how the 13th has been lengthened and how heating and cooling elements have been installed to improve agronomics at the tee, I thought I’d focus on the more basic facts, such as how much does a drink cost and how can a golfer qualify to play in The Masters?

The first Masters – the inaugural Masters Invitational tournament was held in 1934.

Magnolia Lane – the main driveway which leads from Washington Road to the course’s clubhouse is called Magnolia Lane as there are 60 magnolia trees which flank either side of the drive.

How can a golfer qualify to play in The Masters?  Technically speaking, players receive an invitation to play in the Masters. Unlike The Open or the US Open, there are no ‘open’ qualification events.  They invite

  • all previous Masters Champions,
  • everyone who finished in the top 12 the previous year,
  • the top 50 in the World Rankings on January 1,
  • any player who won a Major or a fully-sanctioned PGA Tour event the previous season,
  • the top four finishers in any of the previous year’s Majors,
  • plus any player in the world’s top 50 the week before the Masters who has not qualified by any other measure will also be invited.

The rest of the field is made up of the winners of the amateur game’s most distinguished events. The Masters is a smaller field than the other three majors, with around 90 players usually in attendance.

Champions’ Dinner on Tuesday evening – the previous year’s champion gets to choose a menu for a meal for all of the previous winners on the Tuesday night.  Ben Hogan hosted the first Champions’ Dinner in 1952. Over the years meals have included haggis from Sandy Lyle in 1989, paella from José María Olazábal in 1995, cheeseburgers from Tiger Woods in 1998 and elk and wild boar from Mike Weir in 2004. Fortunately the former champions aren’t forced to eat what the defending champion selects; if they don’t fancy it, they can choose off Augusta National’s normal menu.

The Par-3 Contest, has taken place on the Wednesday of Masters Week since 1960. The 9-hole, par-27 layout measures 1,060 yards. Winning the Par-3 Contest is seen as somewhat of a jinx as no winner has gone on to win the Green Jacket the same year.  Padraig Harrington has won it three times!

Caddies – players were only given the option of using their own caddies during the Masters in 1983. Before that they were allocated one of the club’s own caddies to use during tournament week. Famously, all Augusta National caddies wear white boiler suits and green caps.

Highest score on a single hole – 13, which has happened three times: Tommy Nakajima on the 13th hole in 1978, Tom Weiskopf on the 12th hole in 1980 and Sergio Garcia on the 15th hole in 2018.

Aces – there have been 32 holes in one that have taken place during the Masters event: one at the 4th, five at the 6th, three at the 12th and 23 at the 16th.

The cut – all players inside the top 50 (and any players tied) proceed to the last two days of competition.  The average cut is 148.4 (4.4 over). The highest cut was 154 (+10) in 1982 and the lowest was in 2020 when the event was played in November (due to Covid) and the softer conditions resulted in even par (144) being the cut.

Cheap refreshments – only 1.50 for a sandwich, $2 for soft drinks and $5 for beer!

MerchandiseThe Masters doesn’t sell any merchandise online — it’s only sold at the event, to badge (ticket) holders. Still, they reportedly do nearly $50 million in sales throughout the week. That’s roughly: $7M per day $700k per hour $11,600 per minute.  Bizarrely, there is a market for The Masters Garden Gnomes!

Winners – the first international (non-USA) player to win The Masters was Gary Player in 1961.

Defending Champions – there has only ever been three players to successfully defend their Masters title; Jack Nicklaus in 1966, Nick Faldo in 1990 and Tiger Woods in 2002.  In each case, the Chairman of Augusta National helped the winner into his green jacket, as normally the previous winner performs this role.

The Masters Trophy, a model of the Augusta National Clubhouse, was introduced in 1961. It was made in England and features over 900 separate pieces of silver.

How much cash?  Last year’s Masters purse totalled more than £12 million, with winner Scottie Scheffler taking home around £2.1 million.  That makes the Masters one of the most lucrative golf tournaments in the world, although the sums on offer pale in comparison to the exorbitant riches of LIV Golf.

The Green Jacket – arguably the most famous item of sporting clothing, was first presented in 1949.. The rules state that champions may only take it home with them for one year and it is to be used for “golf associated functions only.” When their 12 months is up as a current winner they are obliged to return it to Augusta where it will stay in the clubhouse. After winning in 1961, Gary Player refused to return his!

Rory McIlroy – I can’t talk about The Masters without mentioning Rory, since he needs to win this event to complete the Career Grand Slam, a feat achieved by Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.  Although he hasn’t won a Major since 2014, he finished in the top eight of all four Majors last year – coming second in The Masters.