THE FIELD It is much smaller than a week-to-week tournament, usually around 90 players, because it is an invitational. Although there are qualification criteria, such as being in the world&aposs top 50, you do not play without the invitation from Augusta National. Past champions get a start, and many of them take up the offer. They can play only a few holes if they choose. Many like Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player don&apost take up the invitation any more; but they will play in the par-three contest on Wednesday. Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Craig Stadler are among those champions who still compete. THE COURSE Was designed by Scot Dr Alister Mackenzie, by repute the best architect in the world. Augusta National is in the top handful of golf courses on the planet, and almost certainly the best to host a tournament. It is much more hilly than it looks on television, the fairways are wide and there is little rough other than the pine straw beneath the soaring trees. Players will tell you that the strategy is crucial; you must keep the golf ball under the hole, otherwise putting on the glassy greens is near-impossible. The par-three 12th is the signature hole, but the twisting par-five 13th is probably the best par-five in the world. The par-four 10th and ninth are both magnificent golf holes. In recent years, movement of the tees has made the course very long. OFFICIAL STARTERS This is one of Augusta&aposs traditions, where a famous past winner will hit the first shot off the tee to start the tournament early on the Thursday morning. This year, as it was in 2012, it will be Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. In the past the likes of Byron Nelson did it; Gene Sarazen had his last crack at the job in 1999 at 99 years of age. HISTORY When it started in 1934, the tournament was known as the Augusta National Invitational. Bobby Jones, the co-founder with businessman Clifford Roberts, initially thought the name &aposMasters&apos pretentious, but he acquiesced several years after the tournament began. The fact the event is played on the same course every year distinguishes it from the other majors, which rotate around venues. This means the famous moments are celebrated and remembered every year — Larry Mize&aposs chip-in to win a playoff in 1987, Fred Couples&apos tee shot trickling down but staying out of Rae&aposs Creek in 1992, Tiger Woods&apos amazing chip on the 16th in 2005, Phil Mickelson&aposs six-iron threaded between two pines on the 13th in 2010, and Bubba Watson&aposs astonishing snap-hook with a wedge at the 10th to win last year. THE GREEN JACKET The distinctive jacket with the famous logo was created for members of the club in 1937, and had a purpose. The bright colour was meant to assist for purposes of identification at the tournament, so that patrons could seek out a member to ask a question. Ultimately it became a symbol of the most exclusive club in the world; from 1949 the green jacket was slipped on to the winner&aposs shoulders as well. THE AUSTRALIANS No Australian has won the Masters. Greg Norman was second three times, and Jack Newton, Bruce Crampton, Jim Ferrier, Adam Scott and Jason Day all were runner-up in the past. It is a hoodoo that has only grown. This year&aposs hopefuls are: Marc Leishman missed the cut in 2010, his only previous appearance. Leishman has not been in his best form. Adam Scott went top-10 for the third time last year after finishing runner-up in 2011. The Queenslander is warming to this course and is our best hope. John Senden is one of the game&aposs best ball-strikers, but his putting will be tested on Augusta&aposs difficult greens. Jason Day is rediscovering his form after a poor 2012. He tied for second at Augusta in 2011 on debut, and is not without a chance. RECENT WINNERS 2012 Bubba Watson (USA) 2011 Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) 2010 Phil Mickelson (USA) 2009 Angel Cabrera (Argentina) 2008 Trevor Immelman (South Africa) 2007 Zach Johnson (USA) TELEVISION COVERAGE Channel 10 and One HD from 5.00am Thursday-Sunday.
Author: Martin Blake / Golf Australia