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The Masters Tournament is always the same!

The Masters Tournament happens every year, but it feels like it’s happening for the first time. That’s what makes it so exciting for players and golf fans alike. That’s why every year, from Thursday to Sunday of the second week of April, the eyes of the world’s golf fans are drawn to Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia, USA. The Masters is the “stage of dreams” for any golfer, and it’s the ultimate honor to play at least once in a lifetime. Despite being the newest of the four majors, it’s still considered the most prestigious event for players to don the green jacket.

The Masters owes its unrivaled status to the golfing philosophy of its founder, the late Bobby Jones (1902-1971), a golf course that resembles a garden of the gods, and a secret formula that promises to bring in the biggest crowds without the need for special sponsors or corporate backing.

Golf sagas consider Bobby Jones to be the greatest golfer of the 20th century. Winner of the four majors, the U.S. and British Opens, and the Amateur Championship 13 times, golf sages hail him as the “Emperor of Golf” and a “ball saint. The magnitude of his record is realized when you realize that he only played in the four majors for 13 years, nine of them in high school and college, and won 23 of the 52 tournaments he competed in during his lifetime.

He was known as an intellectual golfer. After winning the U.S. Amateur Championship, he went on to study English literature at Harvard, mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, and law at Emory, where he was admitted to the bar. His golfing heyday coincided with a period of intense academic study, proving that he could combine athletics and academics. During World War II, he served in the army as a major.

He started learning the game from his parents at the age of five, and at the age of 11, he had a fateful encounter with a new philosophy of golf. The occasion was the 1913 U.S. Open. The tournament featured the Englishman Harry Vardon, who was known as the “poet of the swing,” and fellow Englishman Ted Ray. In the final round, Francis Ouimet, a 19-year-old American amateur, tied the two British pros and won in overtime.

The young Jones thought it was the real deal. Although he didn’t win, he was impressed by Harry Barden’s beautiful, smooth swing, solid play, and the way he played with an open mind, aiming for par on every hole. In Jones’ eyes, Barden seemed to be playing like nothing else, forgetting the competition and the gallery.

He muttered to himself. “Golf is not about anybody, it’s about something.” That something was par. He personifies that something with the friendly name of “Old Man Par” and learns the philosophy and wisdom of playing against an internal “Old Man Par” rather than an external competitor.

At the 1925 U.S. Open, he tells an anecdote that will live on in golf history. Holding a one-stroke lead heading into the final round and on the verge of winning, Jones’ ball moved in the rough as he was about to address it and he reported it to the tournament committee, even though no one else had seen it. When the media praised him for his actions, Jones responded, “I did the right thing. You’re going to praise me for not robbing a bank?” and once again set golf fans on fire.

In 1930, Jones completed the first-ever Grand Slam (winning the four majors in a single year, the career Grand Slam, which is winning the U.S. Open, British Amateur Championship, U.S. Open, and U.S. Amateur Championship in a lifetime), receiving a telegram of encouragement from a restaurant owner during a match at the U.S. Amateur Championship.

On it was written in Greek: ‘E TONE E PISTAS’. In English, it translates to “With it or on it”. It was said by an old Spartan woman to her son as he was polishing his shield to go to war, “Either you win and come home safe and sound with your shield, or you die and come home on your shield. Jones won the match and set an unprecedented Grand Slam record.

He announced his retirement in November 1930 at the age of 28. At the time, the media expressed sadness at his retirement, saying that “golf without Jones is like France without Paris”. After his retirement, Jones, along with his friend Clifford 카지노 Roberts (1894-1977), a financier, built the Augusta National Course in Augusta, Georgia, to host the Masters Tournament in 1934.

Bobby Jones’s philosophy of golf and Clifford Roberts’s idea that “everything should be perfect and the best at the Masters” led to the creation of a beautiful and challenging golf course that has played a crucial role in the Masters’ reputation.

Augusta National is a garden of the gods. It’s a fitting reminder of the Biwon (祕苑), the patronage garden of Changdeokgung Palace in Korea, which was built for kings to banquet, hunt, and entertain. I once walked around Biyuan at night, and it felt like it was out of this world.

Augusta National was designed from the ground up to maximize its natural beauty and challenge golfers by increasing its difficulty. The course is completely closed to the public two months before the tournament and then closed for maintenance from May through November. The narrow fairways and glassy greens, especially the “Amen Corner” on holes 11, 12, and 13, are the crown jewels of Augusta National, providing Masters players with some of the best memories of their lives.

In keeping with founder Bobby Jones’ wishes, the Masters remains strictly non-commercial, with no title sponsor or corporate endorsement. Despite this, the prize money goes to those who miss the cut and the economic impact on the region is enormous.

The Masters limits its galleries to its 40,000 patrons. It generates significant revenue from gallery admission, souvenir sales, and broadcast rights fees. It attracts more than 300,000 tourists during this time, more than the population of Augusta (200,000). Last year’s purse was $18 million, with $3.24 million for the winner, but this year’s is expected to be even higher.

The Masters is notoriously difficult to qualify for. While majors usually have a field of 150 players, the Masters has around 100. This year, there are 89 players.

To qualify, players must meet one of 20 qualifying criteria set by host Augusta National Golf Club. Past Masters champions receive a lifetime invitation, with defending champion Jon Rahm, Fred Couples, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) and Adam Scott (Australia) among those who have received invitations. The Emperor of Golf, Tiger Woods, who has worn the green jacket five times, will also be in attendance.

Among the LIV golfers, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia (Spain), and Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) are all former winners. Players who have won a major, including The Open, U.S. Open and PGA Championship, in the last five years will also be in the field, including Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa, Gary Woodland and Cameron Smith. The winner of the “fifth major,” The Players Championship, will be eligible for three years.

The top finishers in the previous year’s majors, winners of PGA Tour events in the past year, and top 50 in the world rankings at the end of the year or on April 7 will receive Masters tickets. In recognition of amateur players, the 2023 U.S. Amateur Championship 1st and 2nd place finishers, British Amateur Champion, Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion, Latin American Amateur Champion, U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion, and Olympic Gold Medalists are also eligible. Other players are invited by special invitation, including Joaquin Niemann (Chile), Torbjorn Olesen (Denmark) and Ryo Hisatsune (Japan).

Four South Koreans received tickets, including 2020 Masters runner-up Im Sung-jae, as well as Kim Joo-hyung, Kim Si-woo and Ahn Byung-hoon. They will be watching to see if McIlroy completes his career Grand Slam and Tiger Woods finishes.

While watching the Masters Tournament of my dreams, I remembered a quote from our founder Bobby Jones: “The first condition of a good swing is simplicity. The most important point of the swing is to hit through the ball at impact. It is never about hitting at the ball.”

*Columnist Bang Min-joon: He majored in Korean literature at Seoul National University and worked as a journalist for 30 years before joining The Korea Times. In his late 30s, he explored the infinite world of golf, including golf encounters and jungles, and wrote various golf books. For him, the years spent playing golf are a path of discovery and a voyage in search of a philosophy that penetrates life.

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