The Masters Tournament 2019: Golfers to Watch, When to Tune In, and How to Plan a Last-minute Trip
Golfers speak of the Masters with the type of reverence usually reserved for occasions like a wedding or their child’s birth. I enjoy golf, so I have watched the annual tournament on T.V., but it took a day at last year’s Masters for me to fully appreciate the unique atmosphere and tradition of Augusta National and the Masters.
We were fortunate to secure transportation and badges (They’re not called tickets at the Masters), and when we entered the hallowed grounds along Magnolia Lane with the other lucky patrons (They’re not called spectators at the Masters), I truly felt the spirit, the history, and the profound respect everyone has for this special tournament.
History of the Masters
The first Masters Tournament was held in 1934, planned by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts; it was called Augusta National Invitation Tournament. After five years, the name was officially changed to the Masters Tournament, and since 1940 it has been scheduled each year during the first full week of April. Participation is limited, based on an extensive list of qualification categories.
The goal of Augusta National is, in their words, “to provide a first-class golf course in as beautiful and nearly perfect condition as effort can make it; and secondly, to show our player guests every possible courtesy. The chief objective of the Masters is to stage a golf show that is enjoyable to all — our members, patrons and player guests, and to interested golfers.”
Anyone who has been there or watched the tournament on television can attest to their success.
Augusta National Golf Club
First conceived by Bobby Jones in 1930, Augusta National was built on property originally called Fruitland Nurseries. The original 19th-century owners imported a great variety of flowering plants and trees, including magnolias and azaleas. Flowers and blossoming trees are now so much a part of the golf course that each hole is named for one, beginning with No. 1, “Tea Olive” and ending with No. 18, “Holly.” An estimated 80,000 plants of more than 350 varieties have been planted at Augusta National, blooming to perfection each early April.
How to watch the 2019 Masters Tournament
Practice rounds begin on Monday, April 8, and tournament play begins on Thursday, April 11, and concludes with the fourth round on Sunday, April 14. The Par 3 contest will be held on Wednesday, April 10. Fans don’t have to miss a minute with many viewing options for T.V. and mobile devices.
Both the Masters Tournament and television viewing have grown over the years. When CBS secured broadcasting rights in 1956, they used six cameras on the last three days only on a few of the final holes. Today, 75 cameras, 30 television trailers, and more than 400 people cover all 18 holes and broadcast to over 200 countries around the world. ESPN now provides some coverage as well.
Television coverage is provided by CBS Sports (Saturday and Sunday) and ESPN (Thursday and Friday), with live broadcasts through the entire week from driving range to final ceremony.
You can also listen to the action on the radio live throughout the week. CBS Radio will have coverage alongside the T.V. broadcast. Sirius XM will broadcast the Masters for its satellite subscribers.
Golfers to Watch at the 2019 Masters Tournament
Even with a relatively small field of about 90-100 players, predicting the winner is virtually impossible. Last year’s winner, Patrick Reed, will be competing, and four-time winner Tiger Woods will also be there, to the delight of his fans. Justin Rose, World Golf ranked No. 1 and current FedEx Cup winner, will be a favorite, having already won this year at Torrey Pines.
Jordan Spieth, winner of the Green Jacket in 2015, is seeking another after a strong 2019 start. Phil Mickelson, one of the oldest competitors at nearly 49 years old when he plays this year’s Masters Tournament, is playing stellar golf with a win at the AT & T Pebble Beach in February and three Masters titles. Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Bubba Watson are also among the many who could be wearing the green jacket on April 14.
Masters Tournament Past Winners and Record Holders
Jack Nicklaus holds the record for most Masters wins with six, and he is also the oldest golfer to have won the tournament at age 46. Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer have each won four times. Woods was the youngest golfer to win at age 21 years, three months. Jordan Spieth won at age 21 years, eight months.
Jimmy Demarest, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Nick Faldo, and Phil Mickelson have each won three times. In the tournament’s history, only 17 players have won more than once. Gary Player holds the record for most appearances at the Masters with 52.
Planning a Last-minute Trip to the Masters
Obtaining a ticket (badge) to attend the Masters is a daunting task, but there are ways to do it. First, you can enter a lottery on the Masters website and hope for the best. (This would now be for 2020.) Tickets purchased directly from the Masters site are $75 for practice rounds and $115 for tournament days.
Patron badges are owned similar to season tickets at sports venues, and the waiting list is closed. Badges are available on the secondary market for individual days or the entire event, and buyers are cautioned to purchase from a reliable provider. Prices begin at around $1,500 each for practice rounds and $2,200 each for tournament days, for example through companies like StubHub and Vivid Seats.
Packages that include lodging, badges, and transportation are available for a convenient, albeit costly, way to attend the Masters, for example through companies like Road Trips and Ticket City. Packages start at around $2,250 for practice rounds and $4250 for tournament rounds, per person double occupancy.
Lodging in Augusta is limited, and many patrons stay in surrounding cities and drive to Augusta. Several Augusta hotels are already sold out during Masters week. Three-star hotels within about 20 miles of Augusta National Golf Club range from about $350 per night to over $500. (Compared to prices two weeks later about 60 percent lower) A stay at the golf resort Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, only about 75 miles away, would be a luxury option.
Flights to Augusta from major cities generally connect through Atlanta which is about 150 miles away, offering a convenient alternative, more options, and lower prices. Round-trip fares from Chicago to Augusta range from $548 to $1,000 with a stopover in Atlanta. Nonstop flights from Chicago to Atlanta range from $200 to $300. From Los Angeles, nonstop fares to Atlanta range from $300 to $400, and one-stop flights to Augusta range from $450 to $850.
Augusta, Georgia and the surrounding areas
Augusta is a small town that swells with visitors during the Masters. Not surprisingly, there may be traffic on main streets, limited lodging, and waiting at local restaurants. Visitors can still enjoy the town with a walk along the Savannah River, a trip to the Augusta Museum of History, or a drive past historic homes.
What to know if you're going to the Masters
If you are fortunate enough to be attending this year or planning for a future visit to the Masters, you’ll undoubtedly get lots of advice and find many suggestions, but here are a few of mine.
- Buy gifts and souvenirs as soon as you arrive to have the best selection and shortest lines. Service is quick and efficient at the Costco-sized merchandise “tent” with hundreds of cheerful, helpful volunteers and at least 64 cashiers. Take your treasures next door and ship them to yourself — unless you want to wear one of your new Masters hats (the most popular item) right away.
- Don’t miss the sandwiches, a bargain at only $1.50 each — pimiento cheese, egg salad, or ham and cheese on soft bread. Delicious and reminiscent of something you might have found in your lunchbox in second grade. Again, helpful and friendly volunteers keep you quickly moving along in the right direction for fast service.
- Don’t even think about bringing your cellphone in with you. It will be taken and stored for you — better just to leave it in the car or hotel room.
- Cameras are OK only on practice round days, not during the four tournament days. You can get a professional photo near the first hole and retrieve it online later.
- If you have one, bring along a collapsible chair (without arms) and claim a good spot such as the top of the 16th hole, or along the 13th fairway. Visit your chair to rest from time to time during the day. It will be untouched, right where you left it, an example of patrons’ respectful behavior at the Masters. You’ll find comfortable grandstand seats and great views throughout the course.
- You can’t help but notice the calm, friendly atmosphere, in large part created by the well-prepared volunteers who move everyone efficiently along (but there’s no running at the Masters!). If only the world could be as orderly and organized as Augusta National during the first week of April.