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History of The Masters Tournament

Masters champions Horton Smith (1934, 1936), Byron Nelson (1937, 1942), Gene Sarazen (1935), Henry Picard (1938) and Ralph Guldahl (1939)
Masters champions Horton Smith (1934, 1936), Byron Nelson (1937, 1942), Gene Sarazen (1935), Henry Picard (1938) and Ralph Guldahl (1939)

Looking to provide a service to golf by hosting a tournament, Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts decided to hold an annual event beginning in 1934. The final decision was made at a meeting in New York at the office of member W. Alton Jones. Roberts proposed the event be called the Masters Tournament, but Bobby Jones objected thinking it too presumptuous. The name Augusta National Invitation Tournament was adopted and the title was used for five years until 1939 when Jones relented and the name was officially changed. An early decision was whether Jones would play or serve as an official. Jones preferred not to compete but was persuaded by the Club’s members to join the field. In the 12 Tournaments that Jones played, his best finish was 13th in 1934.

Many decisions made in the early days of the Tournament remain today. Among these are the four-day stroke playing of 18 holes each day instead of the then customary 36 holes on the third day, eliminating qualifying rounds, roping the fairways, and denying permission for anyone except the player and caddie to be in the playing area. A complimentary pairings sheet and a spectator booklet were provided, and commercialization in any form of the Tournament was limited.

The first Tournament was held March 22, 1934, and beginning in 1940, the Masters was scheduled each year during the first full week in April. Horton Smith won that first Tournament, and in the fall of 1934 the nines were reversed. In 1935, Gene Sarazen hit “the shot heard ‘round the world,” scoring a double eagle on the par-5 15th hole, tying Craig Wood and forcing a playoff. Sarazen won the 36-hole playoff the following day by five strokes. In 1942, Byron Nelson defeated Ben Hogan 69-70 in an 18-hole playoff and the Tournament was not played the following three years, 1943, 1944 and 1945, during the war. To assist the war effort, cattle and turkeys were raised on the Augusta National grounds.

The 1950s included two victories by Ben Hogan, and the first of four for Arnold Palmer. Palmer’s 1958 win began the tradition of Amen Corner. In 1960, the Par 3 Contest was begun, and in 1965-66, Jack Nicklaus became the first Masters champion to defend his title successfully. During the decade of the 1970s, the two Founders of the Masters Tournament passed away. Both Jones and Roberts left indelible impressions on the Masters and on the world of golf. The following decade, Spaniard Seve Ballesteros won twice and Tom Watson captured his second title. In 1986 at age 46, Nicklaus donned his sixth Green Jacket. And in 1997, Tiger Woods broke the Tournament’s four-day scoring record that had stood for 32 years. In 2001, Woods won his second Masters and fourth consecutive professional major victory. He would go on to win his third and fourth Green Jacket in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Phil Mickelson collected his third Masters title in 2010 to begin the decade, followed by wins by another left-hander – Bubba Watson – in 2012 and 2014 and the Tournament’s first Australian champion, Adam Scott, in 2013. In 2015, in only his second appearance, Jordan Spieth became the first Texan to win the Masters since 1995. His 18-under-par 270 matched Tiger Woods’ 72-hole scoring record set in 1997. Sergio Garcia became the third Spaniard to win the Green Jacket in 2017 and set the record for the most starts by a Masters champion before his first victory with 19. Woods won his fifth Masters title in 2019, 14 years after his fourth victory, and became the champion with the second-most Green Jackets, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (six).

In 2020, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Tournament was postponed from its traditional April dates to November and conducted without patrons. Dustin Johnson became the first player in Tournament history to reach 20 under par and set a new Tournament scoring record with his 268-total to win his first Masters by five strokes. Five months later at the 2021 Masters, Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, became the first Japanese player to win a Green Jacket.