The Masters Unfiltered


On Saturday afternoon of this year’s Masters, my colleague Matt Rudy spotted Gary Player coming out of Augusta National’s clubhouse. Matt knew I was looking to recreate a photograph of Player taken by one of Golf Digest’s earliest editors during the 1957 Masters. That was Player’s first Masters, and he was only 21. Sixty two years later and a record 52 Masters played, Player kindly indulged my request, and you can see both photographs in this collection of images. The story speaks to the many reasons I love the Masters. Its 83 years of history is almost incomprehensible: all the great players, the heroic shots, the drama of the back nine, the kindness of those who work the tournament, the no cell phone policy, the green jackets, the Big Oak tree, the clubhouse veranda. Going there is unlike anything in golf, and we saw it again with Tiger’s historic victory. In chronicling this year’s Masters in pictures, I just wanted to make some nice images of the people and places around the course that felt different and more intimate. I also shoot film using vintage cameras, so it’s why these images took longer to publish. The process is slower, more deliberate. It suits me, and it feels right for the venue.. — Alan Pittman

The giant leader board next to the first fairway.

“I love this place. I really do. It holds special memories for me,” said Fanny Sunesson, the only female caddie to have been on the bag for a Masters champion (Nick Faldo, 1990 and 1996). Sunesson retired from full-time caddieing in 2012, but didn’t hesitate when Henrik Stenson asked her to loop for him this year at Augusta. “It was an easy decision. Henrik and I are friends. It’s great fun to be back.”

The Augusta National clubhouse, in the quiet of the early morning light.

“I come here to see pretty much everyone who is connected to golf, and it’s a great time to see what the players are wearing—or what the brands that rep want them to wear,” said Marty Hackel, aka Mr. Style, one of the golf industry’s most liked and well-known personalities. Hackel started coming to the Masters in 1978. “It’s by far the most important major from a fashion/style standpoint.”

The iconic green and white umbrellas of Augusta National’s clubhouse terrace.

“I’ve been coming to the Masters for the past five years on business,” said Todd Carll, a corporate photographer and audio-visual specialist for Lexus-Nexis who lives in Dayton, Ohio. “We wine and dine our big customers, and I pretty much document it. I love golf. My favorite player is Pat Perez. I mean, he likes speed metal, Air Jordans and reps Bill Murray’s clothing line—what’s not to love about him.”

The live oak near the 18th green predates the first Masters in 1934.

Sisters and LPGA winners Moriya (left) and Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand came to the Masters this year to cheer on their fellow national Kiradech Aphibarnrat. “We know each other from junior golf, growing up playing the same tournaments,” Moriya says. Moriya and Ariya both caddied for Aphibarnrat during the Par-3 Contest. Another highlight of the week came at the Golf Writers Association of America dinner, where Ariya won the 2018 female player of the year. “We got to meet Tiger and Brooks at the dinner,” Moriya said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

“We enjoy the people-watching probably more than the golf,” said Olivia Wimberly (right), laughing. This was the third Masters for her and her friend Barbara Pullings, but it’s the first time they’ve had tickets for the weekend. Both have lived in Augusta, Ga., most of their lives, “have raised families, worked and are now retired,” Pullings said. “This is our time. We’re just enjoying ourselves.”

Patrons line the first fairway as honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player prepare to hit their ceremonial tee shots kicking off the 2019 Masters.

Gary Player at his first Masters in 1957, at age 21, and this year (right) at age 83. These two photographs were made 62 years apart, near the same spot next to the Augusta National clubhouse. In that time, Player participated in a record 52 Masters, winning three green jackets (1961, 1974 and 1978).

Outside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club, along Washington Road, are a hodgepodge of strips malls, motels and fast-food joints.

Matthew Vital, an eighth grader from Bethlehem, Pa., won the Boys 12-13 division of the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals. Vital had tried for a few years to qualify for the national finals (along with his twin brother Michael), falling short each time.

A forecaddie waits on the next group to come through.

Tony Finau, with son Sage, talks to reporters after his T-5 finish.

Security escorts patrons from the main gate to the course before Sunday’s final round. Moments later, the course opens and fans stream onto the course.

Ian Woosnam, 61, played in his 31st and final Masters this year. His only major championship victory came at the Masters in 1991. He last made the cut in 2008. Woosnam, who has experienced back problems in recent years, said he plans to continue attending the Masters as a non-competing past champion.

From Attica to Augusta, the most unlikely visitor to Augusta National this year was Valentino Dixon, who first drew the course from behind bars. Dixon spent 27 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Drawing golf landscapes sustained him. With the help of Golf Digest, Dixon’s conviction was overturned last fall, and Dixon came to see in person the 12th hole he had drawn from his imagination countless times.

The Lavy sisters of Fayetteville, Ark., have attended the Masters at least 10 times each. The sisters (from left, Hannah, 29, Brittany, 32, Anna Grace, 22, Olivia, 25 and Emma, 28) are all accomplished golfers—at the high school or collegiate level—and they’ve all played Augusta National. What started as a trip with their parents at a young age has evolved to include the families of Brittany and Emma as well.

The Augusta National clubhouse terrace is a popular gathering spot during Masters week.

From left: Hank Ashmore, 74, of Sharpsburg, Ga., attended his first Masters in 1960 and has been to 41; John M. Moss III, 69, of Harlem, Ga., attended his first Masters in 1958. He has attended 60 consecutive Masters; Jack Lester, 71, of Bonaire, Ga., has attended the past 19 Masters.

Vinny Giles has enjoyed a decorated career in golf, first as a player who won both the 1972 U.S. Amateur and the 1975 British Amateur, and then as the president of a golf management company that has represented numerous top players. Giles made the cut in three of the nine Masters he played as an amateur.

Jordan Spieth’s manager, Jordan Lewites of Dallas, spends Masters week running the logistics for Spieth’s off-the-course schedule—from arranging meetings with sponsors early in the week to organizing each evening’s dinner-guest list.

Augusta National’s par-5 13th hole.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, or simply Sadhguru, is an Indian yogi, mystic, author—and avid golfer and fan of Tiger Woods. He flew to Augusta Sunday morning from his home in Tennessee just in time to see Woods play the back nine. Afterward, he was off to India to oversee one of his environmental charities.

Mark O’Meara, 62, came to the Masters this year for the first time as a non-competitor past champion. “It’s a different experience, sitting back and watching for the first time instead of playing,” he said. “It’s kind of nice—gives you a different perspective. I’m enjoying just hanging out.”

The red scores of Sunday’s play.

“This is obviously a special place for our family, and to see the respect my dad gets is amazing,” said Claude Harmon III. With his father, Butch Harmon, retiring, Claude has taken over the main coaching roles for Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. “Nobody has worked harder than my dad, and I’m just trying to build on that foundation and make him proud.”

For a record-tying fourth time, Megha Ganne, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Holmdel, N.J., was among the 80 boys and girls competing in the Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals the Sunday before the Masters. Ganne finished second in her age division. Her other finishes were fourth, T-2 and sixth.

The back lawn at Augusta National.

“You feel it when you get here, this aura. There’s nowhere else in the world like this,” said Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, who attended this year’s Masters with his son Brayden, 14. The two started the year with a couple bucket list items. The first was to see the North Carolina-Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which they checked off. The other was attending the Masters and walking Amen Corner.

Lobsters of Rock, a B-52s tribute band, played The Soul Bar in downtown Augusta on Friday night of the Masters.

Famed golf instructor David Leadbetter came to the Masters this year to offer support to his new student, Patrick Reed, the 2018 Masters champion.

Patrons gather near the Big Oak next to the Augusta National clubhouse.

Artist, author and animator Christoph Niemann traveled to the Masters from Berlin, Germany, as a guest of Golf Digest. Over the years, Golf Digest has invited noted writers and artists to attend the Masters to give readers a first-timer’s view of the tournament. Niemann’s artwork will appear in next year’s April issue.

In 1975, Lee Elder became the first African American to play in the Masters. This summer, Elder, 84, will be the first African American to be awarded the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, the association’s highest honor, which recognizes an individual who demonstrates the spirit, character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones. Elder will receive the award at Pebble Beach in June during the week of the U.S. Open.

A view of the Augusta National clubhouse terrace.

Dustin Johnson hits his tee shot on the par-4 14th hole.

Jack Nicklaus mingles under the Big Oak after hitting his honorary tee shot to officially kick off the 2019 Masters.

A painting of Augusta National co-founder Clifford Roberts.

Nick Edmund, 58, came to the Masters to help raise awareness for cancer research and his campaign. He has been diagnosed with cancer three times. The scars on his neck, scalp and forehead reveal the intrusive surgeries that have followed each diagnosis. Last year, Edmund completed a walk around Scotland, one that began at Turnberry and concluded at Dornoch, a journey that took him more than 260 miles on foot. As he did so, he visited 24 of the nation’s best golf courses—each time playing the fourth hole. Edmund, the former managing director of Nick Faldo’s course-design company, intends to embark on two more expeditions this year. First around Northern Ireland, then the northern coast of Spain.

The (sometimes) claustrophobic feeling of following Tiger Woods in contention.

Tiger Woods hits a few drivers on the range before teeing off in the final round.

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