The rise to prominence of the Masters golf tournament is one of the relative miracles in modern American sport. In just about a score of years, the Masters, which started out in 1934 as just a notable competition, has grown so inexorably in prestige and honest glamour that today it has come to eclipse the National Open in the stir it arouses, and this stir is sufficient to place the event in just about the same category as the World Series (inaugurated in 1903) and the Kentucky Derby (first run in 1875) as a full-fledged national sports classic. During the first full week in April when the tournament annually takes place over the great green meadowland slopes of the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., millions of Americans who ordinarily can go right on living even if they confuse Hogan with Hagen and Little with Littler suddenly become interested in golf, golfers and Augusta, very much in the way they perennially become aware of horses, horsemen and Churchill Downs as the Derby approaches.
As for died-in-the-cashmere golf fans, a consciousness of the Masters is in the air every day the year round. It is tacitly assumed by the men and women intimately connected with the game that all of their friends in golf, regardless of how many other major events they have to pass up due to private or business pressures, are jolly well going to see to it that they make the Masters. In any month of the year, when these far-flung inhabitants of golfdom bump into one another at banquets or tournaments or when they meet by chance on the street or in a parlor car, one phrase naturally and invariably accompanies the parting handshake: "Well, I'll see you at the Masters." They usually do.
The fact that we live in an age of publicity and wildfire communication explains to a large degree the "overnight" progress of the infant tournament into a vital tradition, but it could never have happened even in this age unless the Masters were—as it is—just about all you could ask of a golf tournament and then some. (Perhaps it should be stated right here before proceeding any farther that it is still a higher honor for a golfer to win the National Open than the Masters, but the Open by its very nature changes its venue every year and consequently never acquires quite the especial patina that seems to affix itself to those events which have the advantage of taking place year after year in the same, ever-more-familiar locale.)
It takes four elements, really, to make a great tournament: a superb course; a strong field; competent and imaginative (if invisible) administrative organization; and, most important of all, the true and unmistakable spirit of golf at its best. The Masters has all of these requisites because it was born right and brought up beautifully under the twin talents of two men who could not be less alike and who have, almost because of their disparate abilities, dovetailed into an unbeatable combination. The better known of the two is Robert T. Jones Jr., the one and only Bobby, the best-loved Southerner since Robert E. Lee and a man of such sensitive general intelligence that you wonder, when you look back, how he managed to harness it under the stress of competition when that kind of brains usually gets in an athlete's way. The other member of the team is Clifford Roberts, a 61-year-old, Chicago-born New York investment banker, a relentless perfectionist with one of the best minds for management and significant detail since Salmon P. Chase.
April 4, 1955
Jones's and Roberts' paths first crossed late in 1930 when Jones, a tired warrior of 28, had announced his retirement from tournament golf after completing his epochal Grand Slam. That autumn, at the invitation of Roberts and two other wintertime Augusta regulars, Jones came to that city from Atlanta to inspect a plot of land they were recommending as a possible site for the "dream course" he had frequently remarked he would like to build when circumstances were hospitable. The plot was part of an ancient indigo plantation which had been purchased in 1857 by a Belgian nobleman, Baron Berckmans, who converted Fruitlands, as the estate was named, into one of the South's leading nurseries. Jones was driven down Magnolia Lane, a double row of magnolias leading to the antebellum manor house, today the heart of the Augusta National's rambling clubhouse. "I stood at the top of the hill before that fine old house," Jones has since described that Balboa-like occasion, "and looked at that wide stretch of land rolling down the slope before me. It was cleared land, for the most part, and you could take in the vista all the way down to Rae's Creek. I knew instantly it was the kind of terrain I had always hoped to find. I had been told, of course, about the marvelous plants and trees, but I was still unprepared for the bonus of beauty Fruitlands offered. Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the exciting possibilities of the golf course that could be built in such a setting."
Each year the view from the hill, the view that instantly sold Jones, is breathed in by the thousands who journey to the Masters. There are few first-timers who, upon experiencing that view, do not exclaim either aloud or to themselves, "Yes, it's all it's cracked up to be and more." There are few "repeaters" who, after hurrying to the brow of the hill, do not affirm to themselves, "It's just as lovely as I remember it. I hope it always stays the same because of what it personally means to me."
The vista that Jones took in and the vista of later beholders is somewhat different if topographically the same. Since 1931, the cleared meadowland and its interrupting stands of giant pines and its banking clumps of southern flora have been articulated into 18 golf holes. The course that Jones designed in collaboration with Alister Mackenzie, the Scottish architect whose best-known other American course is Cypress Point, is very probably the most visually appealing inland course ever built anywhere and, architecturally, perhaps the only truly important course constructed since 1911 when the National golf links at Southampton, Long Island, was completed. These two courses, so dissimilar in appearance, are actually blood brothers. The Southampton links, featuring adaptations of classic British holes, first enunciated for Americans the beauty of strategic design. The Augusta National, coming after a period of wholesale infatuation with penal design, reaffirmed the superiority of the strategic and did it so well that a reversion to the penal has never since occurred. Instead of instantly penalizing the player whenever he strays from the straight and narrow and appointed, a golf hole of strategic design offers a player several lines of attack, permitting him, as he judges his capacities and how the hole is playing that day, to choose conservative, mildly aggressive or audacious tactics. A successful strategic hole rewards each shot fairly—that is, in proper proportion to the type of shot attempted and how well it was played. For example, the hole is prepared to bestow a worthwhile advantage on the golfer who attempts the shot that requires more skill and nerve than the safe shot and pulls it off. It is also prepared to make him pay in the same definite terms if he overassesses his shot-making ability.
A MATTER OF JUDGMENT
At Augusta, the 13th and 15th holes probably offer the simplest illustrations of this strategic concept, although it is present in varying degrees of subtlety in all of the holes. Both the 13th and 15th are par fives, rather shortish ones, 470 and 505 yards respectively, in keeping with Jones's thesis that a par five should not be so lengthy that it cannot be reached with two absolutely first-class shots. At the same time, on each of these holes, a receptive water hazard lurks just before the green, a winding creek on the 13th, a small pond on the 15th. If a golfer has poled out a fine drive on either hole, then, if the wind is not against him, he has a decision to make: should he try to clear the water hazard and set himself up for a birdie or even an eagle, or should he play short of the hazard and accept the prudent probability of a par? Billy Joe Patton, who in last year's Masters was in no mood to accept the probability of a par when there was the remotest possibility of a birdie, elected on that pressureful last round to "go for" the green on both these holes. In both instances he was pressing the percentages; neither of his drives, the first pushed, the second pulled, afforded him a really good lie and a comfortable stance for that big second shot. On the 13th, though he lashed a terrific spoon shot from a side-hill lie, the ball drifted a shade and caught the upper creek, and before he was finished, Billy Joe had himself a seven. Quite similarly, trying to crack a spoon all the way from a close lie in the rough on the 15th, he was unable to get enough of the ball. The ducking shot eventually skidded into the pond before the green, and Billy Joe had a six that settled his fate once and for all. To be sure, the same all-out tactics were responsible for the slew of birdies Billy Joe picked up on his four adventurous rounds, but in most cases the odds were more in his favor than on the 13th and 15th in the final round, and this is the point of strategic architecture.
At the Masters, the course is the star of the show, and since it is, a few more observations on its manifold merits would seem to be in order. They are old stories to veteran Augusta hands.
1) While testing a pro for all he is worth, the course, as was the aim of its co-designers, is the friend of the average golfer. He has a minimum of lateral rough to worry about and no rough to clear in order to reach the start of the fairway. He has to contend with only 30 functional traps—Oakmont at its peak had well over 200. He generally scores three or four shots lower than on his far less lengthy and lordly home layout.
2) No golfer who is not an excellent putter can hope to win the Masters. The greens are immense, and their contours weave and roll like a young ocean. It is noteworthy that the one dark horse ever to win the tournament, Herman Keiser, is an extremely fine chipper and putter.
3) Power by itself cannot win at Augusta. As Jones has put it, "A long driver has a definite advantage over a short driver if he hits his long drive in the right direction."
4) The second nine at Augusta, while totalling the same yardage as the first nine—3,475 yards—is considerably more perilous. There is water in front of or skirting the green on the 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th. This places a golfer under a sizeable strain, the penalty for a missed shot being so conclusive. At the same time, a hot golfer can score lower on this second nine than on the first. On his first round in the 1940 event, Jimmy Demaret galloped around it in 30.
A SPECTATOR'S COURSE
5) Whenever a hole at the Augusta National has revealed that some key feature, perfect on the drawing board, doesn't "play," that feature has been corrected or remodeled. These modifications have been undertaken on the average of one or two features a year under the direction of Bob Jones. Bob now thinks that most of the really necessary adjustments have been made, and this past year no changes were made save for recontouring the 13th green.
6) The Augusta National is in a class by itself when it comes to making provision for spectators. Just behind the second green, for instance, what was originally a mild slope has been bulldozed into a mound large enough to accommodate 2,000 people. From the crest of this mound it is possible to take in the approach and the putting on the 2nd, the drive on the 3rd, the approach on the 7th, and the drive and second shot on the 8th. There are any number of such choice vantage points, natural and man-made, for the spectator to use when he is not walking the holes with a favorite player or contender.
Because of the strategic come-hither of its holes, the Augusta National evokes the spectacular. Almost every Masters has either been won or roused to life by some dramatic shot or some burst of outrageous brilliance. This precedent was set back in 1935 in the second Masters when Gene Sarazen made his celebrated double eagle, a stroke less impressive financially and less final than Lew Worsham's wedge into the cup on the last hole in the 1953 Tarn O'Shanter, but probably still the most sensational shot ever uncorked in a major event, double eagles being rarer birds than eagles. Playing his second on the par-five 15th (or 69th), aware that he needed a three-under-par finish on the last four holes to tie Craig Wood, Gene rode into a four-wood. The ball carried the pond, hit the green, ran headlong for the cup and dropped. Sarazen went on to tie Wood and eventually to defeat him in the play-off. This April, it being the 20th anniversary of the double eagle, a new bridge spanning a narrow width of the pond and commemorating Gene's exploit will be unveiled.
The Masters is never won until it is literally won, so suddenly can fortune shift for or against you at Augusta. In 1937, for instance, Ralph Guldahl, then the best medal player in the country, appeared to have the tournament all wrapped up when he entered the last nine with a lead of four strokes over the nearest man, Byron Nelson. Guldahl ran into trouble on the far bend, going two over par on the short 12th with a five and one over on the 13th with a six. Nelson came along and played the two holes in two and three and not only obliterated Guldahl's lead but went in front by two strokes, his eventual margin of victory. The shoe was on the other foot for Guldahl two years later. He needed a 34 home on the last day to catch Sam Snead and came in in 33, due chiefly to a wonderful eagle on the 13th where he gambled on clearing the creek with his second and stuck his spoon six feet from the cup. You can go on and on—Snead's final round in '49 when he picked up eight birdies; Nelson's six-under-par sprint over 11 holes in his play-off duel with Ben Hogan in '42; Hogan's four flawless rounds in '53; and so on and on. The great names have always dominated the Masters, and their doing so has brought new substance to the ivied adage that a great course will produce a great champion.
While it takes considerable yardage even to begin to describe the sheer and organic beauty of the course, to explain the atmosphere of golf at its best that has always pervaded the Masters requires only one word: Jones. When the first Masters was held in 1934, its principal attraction was that the tournament marked Bob's return to competition. Until 1948, when illness forced him into final retirement, Bob annually played in the Masters but in no other tournaments. He was never truly a factor, but as the host and the president of the club, he endowed (and endows) the Masters with its thoroughgoing distinction and its sporting flavor. Bob used to play the first round with whoever was the defending champion. This role is now filled by Byron Nelson, the perfect choice. At the presentation ceremonies held on the Brobdingnagian putting green, Jones acts as the master of ceremonies—though that is hardly the word for the charming way he reviews the tournament and introduces the winners in his soft and eloquent Georgia drawl.
CARER AND FEEDER
Behind the scenes, metaphorically digging away to build a better sand trap so that the world will continue to beat a path to the Masters, is that one-man gang, Clifford Roberts, "the works" in the interior administration of the club and chairman of the tournament committee since the inception of the Masters. Along with Jones, Roberts devised the inspired system of determining which players receive invitations to the tournament, and to him belongs the credit for the planning and operation that distinguishes a big-time affair from merely a big one: having the course in perfect condition, handling the improvement of such facilities as the parking area, making certain the players are treated as welcome guests and, above all, trying to anticipate the every need of the spectators. In this last connection, for example, on arriving at the grounds, each spectator receives (gratis) the day's program. It is simply a sheet of typewriter-paper size, the names of the players and their starting times on one side, a map of the course on the reverse. This data is all a spectator needs to orient himself immediately, something he can never get from the high-priced, ad-filled programs put out by most tournament committees for commercial profit and which emerge so bulky that lugging them around is a burden, particularly since there is nothing to be gained by trying to read them. To enable the spectators to keep abreast of the scoring as it unfolds on so many corners of the course, Roberts has installed a permanent telephone-communications system which feeds the news to scoreboards set up at six junctions on the course. To mention only a few of the sundry "little touches" that spring from Roberts' passion for efficiency and order, the caddies, marshals and trash squads are decked out in standardized uniforms, a pamphlet on how to watch the tournament is available to spectators on request, the tall pines are protected by lightning rods, and the brown water in the hazards is touched up into a bright blue by adding a Calcozine dye.
THE FEEL OF AUGUSTA
When the weather is cooperative—and it usually is, though technically it is beyond Roberts' control—few pleasures in sport can compare with being at the Masters. Most of the drama, of course, is reserved for the last two days, when the tournament "shapes" and builds to a climax, but there are a lot of us who have at least an equal fondness for the first two days, before the big crowds and the heavy pressure set in. Then the air of a happy country fair hangs over the green, green grass, and as you follow at the elbow of your favorite players of this year and yesteryear, golf takes on the quality it used to have in the 20s—the quality of a game, an ageless game.
THE AUGUSTA NATIONAL A HOLE-BY-HOLE STUDY
Each of the 18 holes of the Augusta National Golf Course bears the name of the predominant flower, shrub or tree that fringes its fairway or green area. Contrary to legend, none of the holes is a copy of a famous predecessor in Great Britain or the United States. In planning them, Bob Jones attempted to duplicate only the general spirit of the great courses he had played, and the design of each hole springs from the natural features of the terrain—depicted in these charts with the contour lines (indicating the rise and fall of the land) set at 10-foot gradations. There are few golfers, pro or amateur, who do not consider the Masters course that Jones built the sturdiest and most provocative test of championship golf in the country.
White Pine: 1. 400 YARDS PAR FOUR. Requires a fairly accurate drive and a fairly accurate second but is not too demanding. Excellent warm-up hole for both expert and duffer.
Woodbine: 2. 555 YARDS PAR FIE. Can be reached in two some days by an extremely long hitter. A well placed second will set up possible birdie for average pro. Green is trickier than it looks, replete with disturbingly subtle breaks.
Flowering Peach: 3. 355 YARDS PAR FOUR. A Scottish-type drive-and-pitch hole that requires a perfectly gauged second. For all of its shortness, this is a tough nut and one of the most unyielding pars.
Palm: 4. 220 YARDS PAR THREE. Key hazard is Redan-type trap at front center of elevated green.
Magnolia: 5. 450 YARDS PAR FOUR. A very rough customer that usually calls for a drive and a long iron, sometimes a wood. On the severely contoured green, Snead once misstroked putt from 45 feet and ended up 50 feet away. Sank it.
Juniper: 6. 190 YARDS PAR THREE. Patton started his spectacular rush in 1954 by holing fie-iron here.
Pampas: 7. 365 YARDS PAR FOUR. The nest of traps around the small green puts the premium on a long drive that sets up a comfortable pitch. Most players are entirely happy to settle for their par.
Yellow Jasmine: 8. 520 YARDS PAR FIE. Uphill all the way to a sharply mounded punch-bowl green. When pin is situated at back of the green, approach shot must be placed perfectly for player to successfully get down in two.
Carolina Cherry: 9. 420 YARDS PAR FOUR. Approach to plateau green often must be played from downhill lie. In doubt, keep right.
Camellia: 10. 470 YARDS PAR FOUR. Probably the most beautiful and redoubtable par 4 in the country, with the 8th at Pebble Beach its only true challenger.
Dogwood: 11. 445 YARDS PAR FOUR. Tee was originally to the right of the tenth green. It takes considerable courage to go for the pin on the approach, for Rae's Creek hugs close to left side of green.
Golden Bell: 12. 155 YARDS PAR THREE. A touchy one-shotter generally made even touchier by gusty cross winds.
Azalea: 13. 470 YARDS PAR FIE, Can be reached with two excellent shots. Has frequently been dramatic turning point of tournament.
Spanish Dagger: 14. 420 YARDS PAR FOUR. Has the reputation for being a quiet killer. The drive has almost a sidehill feeling. Green is partially hidden by mounds, its surface wickedly contoured, hard to figure.
Firgthorn: 15. 505 YARDS PAR FIE. Scene of Sarazen's double eagle in 1935 tournament. A par is a relatively simple matter on a windless day, for most professionals can carry the pond before the green with their second. The green can be very slippery.
Red Bud: 16. 190 YARDS PAR THREE. Favorite hole for Eisenhower. Pond forms a veritable fairway of water.
Nandina: 17. 400 YARDS PAR FOUR. Placement of the drive is the key, as it is on so many holes at Augusta. Horton Smith beat Craig Wood in first Masters here by holing a 20-foot putt for his birdie.
Holly: 18. 420 YARDS PAR FOUR. Uphill all the way to a green that tilts from back to front. Some cautious golfers deliberately play their approach short of the green. The best miss putts here.
SAM SNEAD: MASTER OF THE MASTERS
Samuel Jackson Snead, who has probably won as many tournaments as any player in the history of professional golf, is, paradoxically, best known for the one he has never won—the U.S. Open—and specifically the Open of 1939 at Spring Mill, near Philadelphia, which he lost when he took his now legendary 8 on the final hole. But the Masters is another matter. Sam has won it three times, in 1949, 1952 and 1954. For years the longest hitter in golf, the country boy from the Virginia hills still hits the ball a country mile. On the relatively "open" Augusta National course, which is friendlier to the big hitter than the tight layouts on which the U.S. Opens are often played, Sam Snead is a hard man to beat. Sam reports from Florida that the back miseries that forced him out of competition last December have cleared up. "Ah feel wonderful," the Slammer drawls. He has been doing "sit-up" exercises every morning to get in shape, shed seven pounds in a week and is already practicing at Augusta. In recent rounds over various Florida courses, Sam has had several 65s, which would indicate that, for a veteran of 42, he is still close to the top of his game. During his career, which has been spectacular for both success and failure, Snead has overdriven a green 360 yards from the tee and holed out from ankle deep water 50 yards from the cup. He has also flubbed putts that would make a duffer blush. The late Grantland Rice saw him miss putts of 12, 18 and 12 inches on successive holes. In his 18 years of tournament play, Snead has used 250 putters trying to improve what just about everyone considers the only weak part of his game. By contrast, he has been belting them 300 yards with the same battered old driver ("Man, that's an awful piece of wood!") since 1937. He'll tee off with it at Augusta, where he is always in the mood to win. If he does, Sam Snead, the man who has been so frustrated by the Open, will become the only golfer who has won the nation's second most important tournament four times.
To qualify for an invitation to the Masters, a golfer must have gained one of several set distinctions. In terms of this year's events, the following players are eligible:
1. Former Masters champions
2. Former U.S. and British Open champions
3. Former U.S. and British Amateur champions
4. Former PGA champions
5. Members of the 1955 American Walker and Ryder Cup teams
6. The first 24 finishers in the 1954 Masters
7. The first 24 finishers, 1954 U.S. Open
8. Quarter-finalists 1954 U.S. Amateur
9. Quarter-finalists in the 1954 PGA
10. One amateur not on the invitation list selected by ballot by U.S. Amateur champions
11. One professional not on the invitation list selected by ballot by U.S. Open champions
12. Two professionals not on the invitation list with the best scoring records on the current winter circuit
13. The home club professional
BOB JONES. He designed the course and imparted to it his deep experience and love of golf.
CLIFFORD ROBERTS. He has been tournament committee chairman since its inception.
DISTRIBUTED to all spectators as they arrive, the Masters program delineates the layout of the course and the location of key facilities. The reverse side of the typewriter-paper size sheet lists the starting times for that day's play and earlier round scores.
* indicates stars locations where several scenes of action may be observed.
(x) indicates locations of concession stands.
[+] indicates relief stations for ladies.
Œîindicates relief stations for men.