The event was conceived by Bobby Jones, who had originally wanted to stage the US Open at Augusta. The oppressive Georgia summers meant a tournament in June was always going to be out of the question though and when the USGA refused to move the US Open to April, Jones decided to hold his own tournament and the Masters was born.
It started life as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament - a name that was to be changed five years after the first event in 1934. This will be the 76th staging of the US Masters and if it's anything like the last three we're in for a treat.
Eight different players held the lead on the final day last year, before Charl Schwartzel became the only man in history to birdie the last four holes to win. In 2010, Phil Mickelson secured an emotional win after his wife and mother's cancer scares and a year earlier three men, eventual winner Angel Cabrera, Chad Campbell, and Kenny Perry, fought out a dramatic playoff to decide the title.
Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia
Par 72, 7435 yards, stroke average in 2011 - 71.64
The brainchild of Rees Jones, Augusta National was founded by him and Clifford Roberts, a wealthy New York investment banker. Designed by Jones and Alister Mackenzie, Augusta National was built on the site of an old tree nursery and it officially opened in January 1933. It's now considered a national treasure and it's unquestionably one of the finest courses in the world and, in my eyes, it's the most beautiful.
The most famous stretch of holes is the run between the 11th and 13th, otherwise known as Amen Corner. There were just 19 birdies at the ultra tough par 4 11th hole last year and once again it ranked the hardest on the course. The par 3 12th is only 155 yards long but with water short and no easy second shot from long; this intimidating little hole always causes problems. Last year it ranked the third hardest. Once through 12 the players can relax a bit. The par 5 13th, measuring just 510 yards, is a genuine birdie/eagle chance and last year it was the easiest hole on the course.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, 7.30pm on Thursday, 7.00pm on Friday, 8.00pm on Saturday and 6.30pm Sunday.
Live on BBC 2 over the weekend. 8.30pm on Saturday and 7.00pm on Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2011 - Charl Schwartzel -14
2010 - Phil Mickelson -16
2009 - Angel Cabrera -12 (playoff)
2008 - Trevor Immelman -8
2007 - Zach Johnson +1
What does it take to win the Masters?
With a number of right to left doglegs, an ability to shape tee-shots from right to left is a distinct advantage. Driving it long is a big plus too but it's not crucial. Schwartzel only ranked 40th for Driving Distance last year and the 2007 champ, Zach Johnson, was ranked 57th for DD. How you play the long holes is still key though. Schwartzel and Johnson may not have bombed it off the tee but they still ranked in the top-10 for Par 5 Performance.
With trees everywhere, it looks like a tight track when you're watching on TV but that's not the case, there's actually quite a bit of space and driving accuracy isn't that important. Of more importance, is accurate iron-play - finding the correct part of the greens will set up birdie opportunities. Missing greens is inevitable though and when you do, first-rate scrambling is required but the most important skill-set by a long way is putting. The sloping greens are lightning-fast and you don't get to don a green jacket unless you putt brilliantly for four days.
The last five winners have all come into the event under the radar so if you fancy someone who isn't in scintillating form don't worry about it, and if they're a huge price that's all the better - four of the five started the week at a triple-figure price.
Course form is very important. Other than the first two winners of the event, Fuzzy Zoeller (in 1979) is still the only debutante to win the event and most winners have been round Augusta National enough times to get to know it's unique nuances.
And last but not least, a good start is crucial. Augusta National is NOT a catch-up course and the last six winners have been no worse than 7th after day one.
There isn't much to split the market leaders, with Tiger Woods at 6.2 just edging Rory McIlroy at 7.4 for favouritism. If I had to choose one of the two it would be Rory but neither appears to be trading at a value price to me.
After Tiger's cruise to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he's understandably popular and he has an outstanding record at Augusta. He already owns four green jackets and he's managed to finish in the top-four in each of the last two years, despite being out of form. But the fact remains that he hasn't won here since 2005 and he could easily find one or two outscore him once again.
Rory, on the other hand, has looked the real deal of late and he most certainly should have won last year. He didn't just blow it on day four either, he missed umpteen short putts early on in the event and in my eyes, he's the better bet of the two. That said, he will have to be at his best with the putter this week and that isn't a given. He only ranked 53rd for putting last time out at the WGC Cadillac Championship and if he putts that poorly here, he won't win.
Lefty has a great record at the Masters and he's won the event three times in the last eight years. He comes here fresh from a top-4 finish at the Shell Houston Open but I'd got him onside way before then. I'm a huge Mickelson fan and he's already won for me this year at the AT & T Pebble Beach. I was on Ernie Els when he won his first green jacket in 2004 but I was aboard in both 2006 and 2010 and given how well he's playing again this year, there was no way I was going to desert him.
I still have reservations about the world number one's ability to close out an event of this magnitude and he was one of those to hit the front on day four last year, but if he's ever going to bag a biggy, this could be the event, and this could be the year. A tiring but brilliant campaign in 2011 was followed by the birth of his second child and the sad death of his father and I wondered whether Luke might suffer a bit of a slump this year. He did. It lasted two months.
Lightly-raced so far this year, his last two tournament results have been a 6th placed finish at the WGC Cadillac Championship and a win last time out at the Transitions Championship. After opening up with a 68 on his event debut in 2005 he finished third, but he hasn't bettered 72 in any first round since. Last year he finished in a tie for 4th but it was a long slog up the leaderboard form a tie for 31st after day one and he'll need a better start this time around. If he does start well, he's sure to contend and I felt I had to get him onside.
With years of course experience under his belt, K.J Choi now plays Augusta superbly (8th last year and 4th in 2010) but the putter has ultimately cost him his chance of victory. Like Donald, he too hit the front on day four last year but too many missed short putts cost him dearly. He's putted quite well recently though, ranking 16th and 10th in his last two events, and given that he only secured his biggest career win (the Players Championship) last year, the likable Korean veteran might just surprise this year.
No Australian has won the Masters but Geoff could well be the man to break the hoodoo. A fast-finishing 4th last year, Ogilvy has a respectable event record. And as a US Open champion and a multiple World Golf Championship winner, he has the ability to pop up in the big events.
The 2009 champion also featured last year, playing in the final pairing with Rory, he dropped away to finish 7th. He found some form at last week's Shell Houston Open, clearly love Augusta and is a big price at triple-figures.
Trevor's another past champ with excellent course form at a huge price. 20th is the worst he's finished since he took the title in 2008, despite being dogged by injury and often woefully out of form. He comes here this year on the back of an 11th placed finish at the Arnold Palmer invitational, where he ranked 2nd for scrambling and 12th for putting. He's most definitely no forlorn hope.
Yang looked like challenging the day one lead last year before bogeying the last two holes to shoot 67. That disappointing finish seemed to throw him completely and he failed to better 72 in the last three rounds but his 8th placed finish in 2010 shows he can play the course. He was the only player to put up any sort of fight to Rory at last year's US Open and he famously out-battled Tiger to win the PGA Championship in 2009. He's as tough as teak, he can rise to the big occasion and he's too big at 200.0.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
The Spanish veteran has finished inside the top-12 on four occasions and he's in reasonably good order again this year. This is the first staging of the Masters since Seve finally succumbed to cancer and I know I'm a sentimental fool, but what a story it would be if Miguel were to win.
US Masters Selections:
Phil Mickelson @ 14.5
Luke Donald @ 18.0
K.J Choi @ 80.0
Geoff Ogilvy 140.0
Trevor Immelman @ 160.0
Angel Cabrera @ 180.0
Y.E Yang @ 200.0
Miguel Angel Jimenez@ 300.0
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