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A Bluffer's Guide to ... the US Masters

Got lots of questions about the Masters but don’t know who to ask? We’re more than happy to help you out.

Spectators flock to the US Masters at Augusta National annually.
Spectators flock to the US Masters at Augusta National annually.
Image: Charlie Riedel/AP/Press Association Images

THE COMING DAYS mark one of the great weekends in the annual sporting calendar as the US Masters and the Aintree Grand National festival coincide.

We’ll get to the horsies in due course, but first we thought it might be nice to clear up a few of the queries surrounding the Masters.

What’s the Masters?

The US Masters is a four-day golf tournament which takes place at the famous Augusta National course in Georgia, USA.

It is one of the sport’s four “Major” tournaments – the others being the US Open, the USPGA and the British Open. It is always the first to be held in the annual golfing calendar and, therefore, there’s quite a bit of buzz as it’s the first time that most of the sport’s big names come together at the same event.

When’s it on and how does it work?

It’s on this weekend, starting today and finishing up on Sunday. Because of the time difference, it’s on slightly later in the day for Irish viewers than a European-based tournament would be.

The first competitive group of Jonathan Byrd, Ross Fisher and Sean O’Hair will tee off at 12:45 Irish time this afternoon with the rest of the three-man groups teeing off at 11-minute intervals thereafter, finishing up with the final group (Quiros, Vegas and Woodland) who tee off at 6:59 this evening.

The field of 99 players will all play two rounds of 18 holes each, after which the field will be “cut” on Friday afternoon. Unless a player is in the top 44 positions or within ten shots of the leader, they are eliminated and do not get to play the final two rounds on Saturday and Sunday.

For the final two rounds, the players are paired off in new two-man groupings depending on their position in the field. The individual with the lowest score after the four rounds (or after a playoff if there is a tie) is declared the winner.

Why is it such a big deal?

Ask any golf fan and they will tell you that the Masters is more than a tournament. It has so much history and tradition behind it that one cannot help but be amazed. What would be seen as frivolous quirks elsewhere – the invitation-only field, the pre-tournament par three contest, the fabled green jacket – are all deemed to be part of the tournament’s charm.

Add in the fact that it is hosted at Augusta National, the most famous (and possibly the most beautiful – check out those azalea-lined fairways) golf course in the world and you begin to get some sense of why the Masters is golf’s biggest Major.

What does the winner get?

A cool $1,350,000 – but believe it or not, at Augusta, the money’s not the important part.

The winner also gets to wear the famous green jacket, which has traditionally been presented since 1949. Winners get to keep the jacket for the first year after their Masters victory, but thereafter it is returned to the golf club and can only be worn on course grounds. That’s just how it goes.

Traditionally, the winner of the previous year’s Masters puts the jacket on the new champion. When Jack Nicklaus became the first man to win back-to-back Masters in 1966, he put the jacket on himself. Since then, the two players who have won consecutive titles (Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods) have had the jacket put on them by the chairman of Augusta National.

Is it on TV?

Yes. The four days of the Masters are traditionally broadcast on BBC, but this year, Auntie has only stumped for the final two days. It will be interesting to see how many resources they devote to the tournament as the Beeb is traditionally (there’s that word again) the golf fan’s channel of choice.

But what about Thursday and Friday? Setanta Ireland – which is available free of charge to Irish UPC customers – have rights for the four days of coverage. Their live programme kicks off at 8pm this evening.

And for Sky customers, the broadcasting behemoths have managed to get into Augusta for the first time ever this year. Expect Jamie Redknapp to show up at some stage for a “top, top weekend of golfing action.” They kick off an hour earlier at 7pm tonight.

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Are there any Irish players playing?

Yup – Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy are Ireland’s three representatives this time around. None of them have ever won at Augusta before, but they will all fancy their chances to go close.

Earlier today, we had a more in-depth preview of the Irish trio. Have a read of it here >

Who’s going to win?

Realistically, it could be anybody. Well, not absolutely anybody – but there is a group of about 20 players who have every chance of taking the title come Sunday.

The Masters usually favours players with certain attributes: big hitters from the tee, consistent with the putter, decent course form at Augusta.

All of the talk at the moment is about last year’s winner Phil Mickelson. He won well at the Shell Houston Open last weekend and he’s a relatively short-priced favourite with the bookies to retain his crown.

I have a fiver in my pocket and there’s a bookies around the corner – who should I bet on?

The first piece of advice I can give you is not to listen to anything we say (Nick Watney and Bubba Watson for what it’s worth).

Rather, have a listen to Today FM bookie-botherer John Duggan. He wrote a pretty detailed guide for us earlier today. Follow his tips and you might have enough for a new car by the week’s end.

Read more of TheScore.ie’s Masters 2011 coverage here >

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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