Every year, just as the first brisk hit of winter arrives, golfers will drag themselves from bed, still draped in their doonas, fumble for the remote and flick on the idiot box to bask in the warm and unmistakable glow of another US Masters.
My childhood brims with memories of the Masters: I cried when Greg Norman choked and vomited all over himself whilst leading by six shots in 1996; and – on the inside – I cried every year after brutal tongue-beatings from my mother for missing the school bus. Again.
Every year we dream it might be a fairytale for Freddy Couples, who always seems to find himself in contention despite his wretched back and lack of lead-up golf; or perhaps this year it will be Australia’s turn, until Adam Scott laid that ghost to rest in 2013.
Well, it all starts again tomorrow with the Par 3 tournament and then the real deal on Friday morning (our time). Tune in and you’ll be amazed at the spectacle of the Augusta National Golf Club – not a blade of grass out of place, perfectly orchestrated ambience, traditions, and the smooth tones of the best sports broadcasters in the game.
It’s such a magical game, full of traditions, a few of which I’ll share with you just now. For more depth on this topic, though, I suggest you read The Majors, by John Feinstein, perhaps the best tome on offer to describe the event in detail.
Fact No 1: TV wires were laid throughout the course in the 1950s, but it has only been since 2002 that the front nine has been televised. Prior to that, TV viewers had no idea about the landscape or slope of the front nine. The club refused to allow the front nine to be televised arguing that an earlier start on TV would diminish the coverage throughout the day.
Fact No 2: Every champion gets a green jacket. A tradition which began in 1949, but actually has its roots from the inaugural event in 1937, when course officials wore green jackets so visitors could easily identify them to ask questions. Player’s began receiving green jackets from 1949 which identified them as master’s champions and now in an exclusive club.
Fact No 3: You really have to watch your mouth at the Masters. The club owns the TV rights and they are brutal about enforcing their code of conduct. Jack Whitaker in 1966 referred to the Masters galleries as a “mob scene” and in 1994 Gary McCord said the greens were smoothed with “bikini wax.” Both were immediately dumped from the coverage.
Fact No 4: This year’s winner will choose the menu for next year’s Champion’s Dinner, which is held on the Tuesday night before the opening round. Adam Scott’s menu for the 2014 dinner was as follows: Surf-and-turf on the grill, including Moreton Bay ‘bugs’ (lobster). Started with an appetizer of artichoke and arugula salad with calamari. Main course of Australian Wagyu beef New York Strip steak, served with Moreton Bay lobster, sauteed spinach, onion cream mashed potatoes. Desserts of strawberry and passion fruit pavlova, Anzac biscuit and vanilla sundae.
Fact No 5: There’s a meeting point on the Back Nine of the course where players seem to congregate, known as Amen Corner. This is where the tournament is often won or lost during the final round and is essential viewing. There is also another little feature here called Rae’s Creek which is actually named after a land-owner John Rae who’s house was built on the creek in 1765. The official website of the Masters notes that ‘’Rae’s house … was the farthest fortress up the Savannah River from Fort Augusta.
Fact No 6: Also known as the “Eisenhower Pine”, a loblolly pine was located on the 17th hole, approximately 210 yards (192m) from the Masters tee. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Augusta National member, hit the tree so many times that, at a 1956 club meeting, he proposed that it be cut down. Not wanting to offend the president, the club’s chairman, Clifford Roberts, immediately adjourned the meeting rather than reject the request. In February 2014, the Eisenhower Tree was removed after suffering extensive damage during an ice storm. (thanks Wikipedia)
Fact No 7: Every hole on the course has its own unique name. Here they are: No. 1 – Tea Olive; No. 2 – Pink Dogwood; No. 3 – Flowering Peach; No. 4 – Flowering Crab Apple; No. 5 – Magnolia; No. 6 – Juniper; No. 7 – Pampas; No. 8 – Yellow Jasmine; No. 9 – Carolina Cherry; No. 10 – Camellia; No. 11 – White Dogwood; No. 12 – Golden Bell; No. 13 – Azalea; No. 14 – Chinese Fir; No. 15 – Firethorn; No. 16 – Redbud; No. 17 – Nandina; No. 18 – Holly.
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Fact No 8: There’s more elevation than it appears on television. TV footage of the course flattens what is a surprisingly hilly layout. To get an understanding of the scale of elevation change click here.
Fact no 9: The New Daily believes Queenslander Jason Day will have a breakthrough win this year. And it could be a year Tiger Woods finally climbs back to the top with a 15th major. Here’s a video to relive some of the most glorious golf shots ever hit on the course.
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