THE MOMENT: COURSE CHANGES
Few golf courses have undergone as many changes through the years as Augusta National, and few other courses get the amount of scrutiny the home of the Masters does.
So you can imagine the outcry when Augusta National underwent a major facelift before the 2002 Masters.
Augusta National Chairman Hootie Johnson implemented the changes, saying, "Our objective is to keep this golf course current." Advances in golf technology were cited as the primary factor.
Nine holes - Nos. 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 and 18 - were lengthened, stretching the course to 7,270 yards. Tees on four holes (Nos. 8, 10, 11 and 18) were shifted slightly, and bunkers on Nos. 1, 8 and 18 were enlarged.
A stand of 30 to 40 trees was added to the right of the ninth fairway, and six trees were planted near the bunker complex on the 18th hole.
Six holes were tweaked for 2006, adding 155 yards to the course and bringing the overall length to 7,445 yards.
"We are satisfied that the changes made this year, together with those made in recent years, are appropriate for today's game," Johnson said in 2006. "I think we met our objective of maintaining the integrity and shot values of the golf course as envisioned by Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie."
Shortly after becoming the sixth chairman in Augusta National and Masters history in 2006, Billy Payne said getting young people involved with golf and using technology to spread the word were among his top goals.
Payne, who oversaw the club and tournament from 2006-2017, stepped down in August 2017 and was replaced by Fred Ridley. Payne has assumed the title of chairman emeritus.
Billy Payne accomplished a lot in his 11-year tenure as Augusta National Golf Club and Masters chairman, including these highlights:
- Admitted club's first two female members, Condoleeza Rice and Darla Moore, in 2012
- Established two new amateur tournaments, Asia-Pacific Amateur and Latin America Amateur, to help grow the game
- Worked with golf’s governing bodies to create Drive, Chip and Putt National Championship for boys and girls ages 7-15.
- Reinstated honorary starters tradition, with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player all hitting ceremonial tee shots during his tenure.
- Increased digital offerings for tournament and the use of new technology (3D, 4K) in tournament broadcast.
- Worked with Augusta government officials to realign Berckmans Road and create new parking lots on the club’s western border.
- Oversaw construction of several new facilities, including Berckmans Place hospitality house, Press Building, Tournament Headquarters and South Patron Village
- Tournament Practice Facility, begun under Hootie Johnson’s tenure, is finished and includes 18-acre area for practice and caddie building.
He has created a Junior Pass Program to enable patrons to bring youngsters to the course for free, and he has helped establish an Asian Amateur Championship that grants the winner an exemption into the Masters.
He also pushed for the Par-3 Contest to be televised, and under his watch the tournament was shown live in 3-D on television and the Internet.
A former football star at Georgia, Payne successfully campaigned for the Olympics to be held in Atlanta. He also tried to get golf back into the Olympics, and he wanted the venue to be Augusta National. That plan unraveled when Atlanta City Council members, led by Mayor Bill Campbell, openly objected.
"Jack Stephens, who was then chairman, and I thought it would be a great idea," Payne said. "And yet when petty politics and others intervened, it became clear that in order for it to work would be a long, prolonged battle. And while I thought we could win, it was only about one out of 50 that we were fighting."
Payne became an Augusta National member, and shortly after he became chairman of the media committee. He also developed a close relationship with Chairman Hootie Johnson.
"I think Hootie taught me, and accelerated, my love and appreciation for Augusta National," Payne said.
Payne oversaw the completion of the tournament's new practice facility, which started under Johnson's leadership, and the club authorized a video game that will bring the course to life for millions who have never seen it.
Proceeds from the club's portion of the video game will go to the newly created Masters Tournament Foundation, which is designed to invest in development programs for the game of golf worldwide.
In 2009, more than 40 years after fellow Argentinian Roberto De Vicenzo missed out on a Masters playoff because of a scorecard gaffe, Angel Cabrera became the first South American to win at Augusta National.
Cabrera defeated Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in a sudden-death playoff for his second major title.
Phil Mickelson had played in 46 majors without a victory. He had his share of close calls, but he could hear the whispers that labeled him the best player to never win a major.
So when he made the turn in the final round of the 2004 Masters, Mickelson knew he was in the mix. Birdies at Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 16 put him into a tie with Ernie Els, who had already finished.
Mickelson came to the 18th hole needing a birdie for the outright win. His approach finished 18 feet past the hole, but playing partner Chris DiMarco was on a similar line and putted first.
With a good look at how the putt would break, Mickelson stepped up to his putt. His putt caught the lip of the cup and fell in, giving Lefty his first major victory and sending him skyward as he jumped for joy.
"I had a great look at his entire putt, every inch of break," Mickelson said of DiMarco's putt. "I gave it about six inches of break and it just hung on the edge."
The victory took the pressure of winning a major off Mickelson, and he added a PGA Championship in 2005 and another Masters win in 2006.
In 2010, after a difficult year with his wife and mother battling breast cancer, Mickelson played some his best golf in winning his third Masters. His weekend rounds were highlighted by consecutive eagles in the third round and a heroic shot on the 13th in the final round.
"This has been a very special day and a very special week," Mickelson said. "And to have Amy and my kids here to share it with, I can't put into words."
Most players who win the Masters succeed on the par-5 holes, usually hitting the green in two shots to set up easy birdies.
Not Zach Johnson in 2007. He laid up on the par-5 holes every time, but with a stellar short game he played the long holes in 11-under fashion.
That enabled him to win by two shots in cold and windy conditions with a 1-over 289 total that matched the highest in Masters history.
Vijay Singh left Augusta National in disgust after missing the cut in 1998. His streak of 53 consecutive cuts made was history, and his confidence on the greens was shattered.
Singh brought a new attitude in 2000, and he jumped to the front. He was one of eight players who had to complete the third round Sunday morning because of weather, but Singh played his remaining four holes in even par to complete a 2-under 70. Later that day, Singh carded a final-round 69 for a three-shot win over Ernie Els.
An assist from Mother Nature was helpful, he said, as he needed only 30 putts in the final round.
Trevor Immelman displayed a steady, all-around game in 2008 in joining Gary Player as the only South Africans to win the Masters.
Immelman either shared or held the lead after each round, and a closing 75 in windy conditions didn't keep him from winning by three shots.
Canadian Mike Weir affirmed in 2003 that you don't need to be a long hitter - or play the game right-handed - to win the Masters.
Weir rolled in a clutch par putt on the final hole, then defeated Len Mattiace on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to become the tournament's first left-handed winner. He also became the first Canadian to win a major championship.
Augusta National caddies are known for their white jumpsuits, green caps and vast knowledge of the course.
Carl Jackson, Ben Crenshaw's longtime looper, is the dean of caddies. He joined forces with Crenshaw in 1976 and guided him to a pair of Masters wins, including the memorable 1995 finish when he comforted Crenshaw after his emotional win.
Fred Ridley, a former U.S. Amateur champion and past president of the U.S. Golf Association, was elected chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament to succeed Billy Payne.
The Florida native resides in Tampa and is the seventh chairman in the club and tournament’s history. Ridley is the first chairman to have played in the Masters: he played three consecutive years, 1976-78, and missed the cut each time. Ridley is the last U.S. Amateur champion to not turn professional.