In just a few short days the top golfers in the world will converge upon Augusta, Georgia for what many consider the greatest golf tournament of the year. As they turn off Washington Road and head down Magnolia Lane they are seemingly transported to another world, the golf sanctuary that is Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters.
Unlike the other major tournaments that are played on different courses from year to year, The Masters has its own home. The brainchild of Augusta National co-founder Bobby Jones, The Masters has been played on the same course since 1934. Players aren’t invited by the PGA Tour or the USGA, but rather are sent an invitation directly from Augusta National. From the Green Jackets to the prized crystal, from the par three contest to the Champions dinner, The Masters has no rivals when it comes to tradition.
The course itself is a masterpiece. Designed by Bobby Jones and Alister Mackenzie, Augusta National was opened in 1933. The course measures just under 7500 yards and works within the natural rolling landscape that its placed on. The fairways are wide and the rough is cut low, but the greens are some of the most difficult to navigate on tour. With over 80,000 plants in more than 350 varieties adorning the course, you would be hard-pressed find a golf course more visually appealing than Augusta National.
So who is going to win the Green Jacket this year and have his name added to the trophy that sits in the clubhouse? We’ll save the predictions for another day, but there are the usual suspects. Phil Mickelson is the defending champion and owns three total Green Jackets. Tiger Woods has won four times and despite recent struggles always manages to find his way toward the top of the leader-board at Augusta. Martin Kaymer is the number one ranked player in the world and winner of last year’s final major, the PGA Championship. Lee Westwood is the world’s second ranked player and he is coming off a runner-up finish in last year’s Masters. Reigning U.S. Open champ and Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell is ranked fourth and has the game necessary to survive Augusta National.
There are also a host of young players who appear ready to take the step and win their first major. Players such as Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, and Hunter Mahan all have multiple wins on tour. Matt Kuchar, last season’s winner of the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average on Tour has been playing as consistently as anyone over the last year. You should not count out Jim Furyk, winner of the 2010 FedEx Cup, either. There is also little doubt in anyone’s mind that Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler both have the game to contend at Augusta National.
Whoever ends up winning the 2011 edition of The Masters will have definitely deserved it. The combination of driving, ball-striking, and putting required to win are unmatched. All questions will be answered on that Sunday evening when the Green Jacket is presented to the champion. So for now, sit back, relax, and enjoy The Masters, a tradition unlike any other.