CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 5, 2017 – When the azaleas bloom in Augusta, Georgia, it can mean only one thing: The annual rite of spring known as The Masters golf tournament.
For countless reasons, The Masters is unique in all of sports. For that reason alone, it seems only fitting that we devote today’s trivia column to this four-day spring golfing classic.
Originally, Augusta National, the tournament site, which became one of the most recognizable names in the world of golf, was the home of Fruitland Nurseries, one of the most successful horticultural businesses in the South.
Back in 1857 when Prosper Berckmans acquired half of the original 315-acre property from Dennis Redmond, Redmond had already begun construction on a large house on the grounds known as “Fruitland Manor.” Within a year Berckmans owned 100 percent of the property and occupied the manor as the new family home.
That property, which grew apples, grapes, strawberries and (of course) peaches, was sold in 1931 for $70,000. Today, the Berckmans’ former home is now the clubhouse at one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
It should be noted that Dwight D. Eisenhower is the only U.S. president who was ever a member of Augusta National. But perhaps more interesting is this Presidential tidbit: Ike once requested the club to remove a loblolly pine from the 17th hole. His request was denied.
Of the top-earning caddies at Augusta, Steve Williams has pocketed a cool $1.27-million for toting Tiger Woods’ bag. Vijay Singh has paid Chad Reynolds $510,236 and Jim Mackay has taken home $445,821 of Phil Mickelson’s winnings.
In 1986, Jack Nicklaus became the oldest player to win The Masters at at the age of 46, while Tiger Woods is the youngest to wear the Green Jacket, earning it at the age of 21 in 1997. By the way, Woods’ margin of victory in 1997 was 12 strokes, which is also a Masters’ record.
Nick Faldo has won The Masters on three occasions. But in his other 18 appearances, he never finished in the top ten. One other interesting fact about Faldo is that he is the only multiple Masters champion who never had the lead going into the final round.
Speaking of rankings, Art Wall is the only champion to start the final round outside the top ten. Wall, who began his day six-strokes behind in 13th place, went on to card a 6-under par 66 to beat Cary Middlecoff by a stroke in 1959. It was the only major tournament Wall ever won.
In 1986, Nick Price of Zimbabwe, and again in 1996, Australia’s Greg Norman both shot the record low score for The Masters at 63. Neither golfer has ever won the tournament.
Even more disheartening was the record set by Phil Mickelson. He has recorded the most birdies in Masters history with 25, yet he was only able to finish third behind David Duval and Tiger Woods.
The “Tin Cup” award goes to Tom Weiskopf. In 1980, he dumped five shots into the water on the shortest hole on the course, the 155-yard 12th. Weiskopf shot a record 13 strokes during this mini-disaster, which to this day ranks as the highest score relative to par in tournament history.
The 12th Masters at Augusta is part of the now famous “Amen Corner,” a phrase coined by Herbert Warren Wind who was writing for “Sports Illustrated” back in 1958.
Wind was looking for a catchy phrase similar to “hot corner” in baseball or “coffin corner” in football. Due to unpredictable wind currents in the tiny Augusta National cul de sac, the second shot at the 11th hole, the 12th hole and the first two shots at the 13th are what have become infamously known today as “Amen Corner” because some of the most exciting golf of The Masters often takes place there.
Throughout all of its history, the par-3 fourth hole at Augusta National has only given up one hole-in-one, an honor that belongs to Jeff Sluman.
Other quick nuggets of Masters trivia:
- One of the quirks of Augusta National’s azalea-lined fairways is that the 14th hole has no bunkers.
- The lowest final round in Masters’ history to win the tournament belongs Gary Player in 1978, who finished with a 64.
- Gene Sarazen is the only golfer to complete a career Grand Slam at the Masters (Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA)
- Mike Weir has the odd distinction of being the only champion to win the tournament in sudden-death with a bogey.
- Jack Nicklaus owns the most Green Jackets with six.
- The “shot heard ’round the world'” at Augusta National belongs to Gene Sarazen. In 1935, he holed out a three under par albatross from 235-yards on the 15th hole.
- Greg Norman blew the biggest final round lead (6 strokes) in 1996, losing to Nick Faldo.
- The last golfer to finish birdie-birdie to win The Masters by one shot was Mark O’Meara.
Finally, by today’s standards at least, concessions at The Masters are ridiculously cheap. In fact, a serving of beer went up a dollar last year to $4. If you purchased one of every item at a fairway concession stand, including hot dogs, sandwiches, drinks and chips, the total tab only comes to $48.
All the more reason to love The Masters, golf’s gift to itself.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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