When you combine the most beautiful 365 acres in America and the most prestigious sporting tournament in American sports, you get the Masters. Among the blooming azaleas and dogwoods, the “tradition unlike any other” is held every April at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.
Located on a former indigo plantation, the club was founded in 1933 by legendary golfer Bobby Jones and has been played there every year since 1934. The Masters is the only golfing Major tournament – the others are the British Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship – that is played in the same place every year. There’s a familiarity, a sense of pageantry about Augusta that is unrivaled.
While the course is world-renowned for its lush beauty and excellence, the club itself hasn’t been able to avoid controversy. The ways of the “Old South” are still present in Augusta, but the times are slowly changing.
This year’s 77th playing of the tournament comes with two new members – the first female members in the history of the club. South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were inducted last fall and finally played their first round on the course during “Masters Week” as full members. Rice has a 16-handicap – an enviable one for any golfer – and she just so happened to sink a 40-foot putt on the 18th hole during her round with Phil Mickelson on April 7.
Before Rice’s stint as Secretary of State, she was the Provost of Stanford from 1993 to 1999, and the most prominent athletic alumnus during her tenure was Tiger Woods. He too is a member at Augusta. Not because he was invited, but because he’s won the Masters four times.
Woods hasn’t won a “Major championship” – the four annual tournaments that are the highest accomplishments in golf – since 2008. And with 14 total Majors, Tiger has to start winning if he wants to catch Jack Nicklaus’ 18. Tiger is a 2 to 1 favorite in Augusta and has already won three of the four tournaments he played this year. He’s not “back” from the deep slump that occurred after his extra-marital affair, but he’s close.
The 77th Masters with the club’s checkered past have already made history by inducting Rice and Moore into its exclusive society, but this week in Augusta, Tiger Woods can etch some more of his own history and inch closer to becoming the greatest golfer of all time.