The First Look: Masters Tournament
April 03, 2015
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
- Rory McIlroy is a Masters victory away from achieving the career Grand Slam. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
• FIELD: Click here and see who's set to tee it up at the season's first major.
• SEE HOW THEY QUALIFIED: Click here to find out how players earned their coveted invitation to Augusta National.
• COURSE: Augusta National Golf Club, 7,435 yards, par 72. One of the world’s most visually stunning layouts had its origins in 1930, as Bobby Jones and co-designer Alistair Mackenzie transformed the onetime tree nursery into a stage for some of the game’s most memorable drama. An expansion era that saw yardage added four times from 1999-2006 has given way to stability, allowing both players and club officials to understand the nuances of the revamped layout. The club’s signature magnolia trees and azaleas are holdovers from the Fruitlands nursery operation that once occupied the site.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
• CHARITY: Masters Tournament Foundation, which produces some $3.5 million in annual giving for local projects and larger golf initiatives. The Community Foundation of the Central Savannah River Area receives the largest sum, with additional gifts to the World Golf Foundation, The First Tee, PGA TOUR Charities, the PGA Foundation and U.S. Golf Association. A year ago, the foundation announced a $6 million gift to Georgia Regents University (formerly Augusta State) to build a cancer facility.
• FIELD WATCH: World No.1 Rory McIlroy, seeking a third straight major title, and defending champion Bubba Watson top a 98-man roster that boasts 54 of the top 60 players in this week’s world rankings. … Four-time winner Tiger Woods returns following last year’s injury absence, announcing Friday he’s set to make his first start since withdrawing after just 11 holes at Torrey Pines. … One more slot is open for the winner of this week’s Shell Houston Open, if not already qualified. India’s Anirban Lahiri, twice a European Tour winner in 2015, is among four men who got in at last Monday’s final cutoff for the rankings’ top 50.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 270, Tiger Woods (1997).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Nick Price (3rd round, 1986), Greg Norman (1st round, 1996).
• LAST YEAR: Watson donned his second Green Jacket in three years, using a two-shot swing on consecutive holes to end the front nine to overtake rookie Jordan Spieth on the way to a three-shot triumph. Spieth, bidding at age 20 to become the youngest Masters winner, led by two as they approached the eighth tee, but stumbled with bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9 while Watson drained back-to-back birdies. Spieth’s hopes sank further after finding Rae’s Creek at No.12, removing any drama as Watson’s 3-under-par 69 required just one birdie over the back nine. Spieth (72) shared runner-up honors with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt (71).
• STORYLINES: McIlroy, who swept the Open Championship and PGA Championship during a dominant four-week run last summer, seeks to add a third straight major at a place that has proven elusive in the past. He blew a four-shot lead on the final day in 2011; now a victory would make him just the sixth man to complete the career Grand Slam. … Watson has the chance to become just the second man to win three Green Jackets in four years, joining Jack Nicklaus (1963, ‘65-66). Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Woods (2001-02) are the only others to win back-to-back. … Woods’ curious saga starts up again at Augusta, fully 63 days since departing Torrey Pines amid perplexing talk about his glutes “shutting off.” A full decade has now passed since his last Masters win, beating Chris DiMarco in a classic Sunday duel.
• SHORT CHIPS: This marks the final Masters for two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, 20 years after his emotional 1995 victory came days after longtime mentor Harvey Penick passed away. The gentle Texan ends his run at 44 Masters. … Twenty of this year’s entrants will make their Masters debuts, following a 24-man rookie class last year. Among this year’s debutants: world No.19 Brooks Koepka and double heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton. … Watson once again is staying mum about the fare for Tuesday night’s champions dinner, reprising his cat-and-mouse approach from two years ago. That menu wound up featuring grilled chicken breast and Caesar salad.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), highlights show 11:35-11:50 p.m. (CBS). Saturday, 3-7 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 2-7 p.m. (CBS).
• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, 2-8 p.m. ET (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).