The Masters, Arnie, Jack & Tiger - Transforming The Game We Know Today
The Masters in Augusta, Georgia, is the tour’s most iconic tournament. The competition has signaled the beginning of spring and the true start of the PGA Tour season since it was first played in 1934. The stunning landscape captures the imagination, inspires wondrous memories, and its unique beauty must be seen to be believed. It is simply, and remarkably, more beautiful in person than when viewed on television. However, for most of the first 25 years the Masters was played, golf was considered a second-tier sport. Then, Arnold Palmer appeared on the scene and nothing was ever the same.
All you need to know about Augusta National Golf Club
The King - Arnold Palmer
Starting with his first green jacket win in 1958, Arnie captured the hearts of fans everywhere with his swashbuckling style and catapulted golf to the forefront as a major sport. In the next 5 years he reeled off another 3 victories and made The Masters experience special. Just watching Arnie slip his massive shoulders into the winner’s green jacket added to the mystique and the aura of the tournament. In his career Arnie would go on to win 62 times on the tour, generate millions of dollars of endorsements and almost single-handedly create the modern athletes marketing platform. His so-called army grew in size and scope and he dragged golf along with him to newfound heights. He truly earned his nickname of “the king”.
The Golden Bear - Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus burst onto the golf scene in 1962 after an impressive amateur career. He won the first of his 4 US Open titles in a playoff with Arnie at Oakmont. That began a remarkable rivalry that would encompass the next 10 years. Jack, the “golden bear”, would rule at the Masters 4 times in that span, complete a career grand slam, and supplant Arnie as the game’s dominant personality. He would go on to win 2 more Masters, for a total of 6, the last rousing victory at age 46, amass 73 Tour wins and become one of the most significant course designers in the world. He holds the major championship record with 18 wins and, he completed the career grand slam 2 more times. Amazingly, he competed at an incredibly high level at Augusta well into his 50’s.
1997 - Who's Next?
It’s now 1997. Golf was searching for that next transcendent star. On cue, after a scintillating amateur career as 3-time US Amateur Champion, Tiger Woods took center stage at the Masters and demolished the competition with a record setting total of 270 (18 under par) and 12 shot victory margin performance, that catapulted him center stage. Since that seminal moment, he has simply been THE golfer. He not only has moved the needle, he has been the needle. At Augusta, tournament officials began altering the course, hoping to make it “tiger-proof”. He destroyed the course with his remarkable length and forced those officials to add yardage, reposition tees and greens, and, over time insert trees and other hazards to iconic holes, to counteract Tiger’s assault. The changes didn’t deter Tiger. He would go on to win 3 times in a 4-year span and never finish worse than T6 through 2011. On tour, in an 11-year span from 1999-2009 he won an amazing 64 times, an average of 6 wins per year. Consider that only 4 golfers, Woods, Snead, Nicklaus and Hogan, have that many wins all-time. And in that same span he won 13 more majors. And, like Jack, he completed the career slam 2 more times. He's made the cut in 92% of his 351 events played, made the cut a record 142 times consecutively, finished in the top 10 56% of the time, and won 1 out of every 4 times he teed it up for 80 total wins to date. Tiger has earned an astounding $116 million in purse money. He’s made golfers fitness conscious, and expanded the reach of the game to new and diverse demographics. His sensational shot making, clutch putting and on course persona has helped push purses to stratospheric levels.
What will all that translate to in 2019?
Since his return to competitive golf last year from the back surgeries that cost him nearly 3 full year’s on course, Tiger has shown flashes of his shot-making brilliance, culminating with his electric win at the year-ending tour championship. He appears healthy, fit and in control of his game. His when-it-counts putting, which separated him from everyone when he was at his best, has been sporadic. But Augusta always seems to bring out the best he has to offer.
Will that best be enough to claim his 5th green jacket, move him one win closer to Sam Snead’s career total of 82, and Jack’s 18 majors?
Tune in to The Masters on Sunday afternoon the 14th, around 5 pm to find out. If the ground is shaking and the roars are in the air, we’ll have our answer.