The Masters Ritual That’s in the Mail

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The Masters has always been an invitational event, even before it was called the Masters, though its appeal and prestige have swelled since the tournament’s early days. The opportunity to play today is hardly a surprise — Augusta National publishes a roster of clear-cut ways to qualify, from being a previous Masters champion to finishing in the top four at the previous year’s P.G.A. Championship, though it has the authority to ask others to compete. But players aren’t always aware that the storied tournament comes with a physical invitation.

Patrick Reed, who earned one of Augusta National’s green jackets in 2018, recalled that he had been tipped off to keep an eye on the mail for his first invitation after he won the Wyndham Championship, but that it was still “unbelievable” when the envelope from the club near the Savannah River arrived ahead of the 2014 Masters. He kept that first invitation, as well as the one from the year after he won.

“Both of them are ones I’m going to save and cherish forever,” he said at a news conference in 2019, even though he did not know where his other invitations had wound up over the years. He added, “Just the chills when you’re opening it up, it’s just an awesome experience — even though it’s just a piece of paper that has your invitation on it.”

Neither Crenshaw nor Player could recall any other tournament with quite such a habit, or, at least, not one quite so polished. (“I don’t remember getting a letter from the R&A,” Player, who has long described the British Open as his favorite tournament, mused wryly of that event’s organizer.) Many in golf, including Crenshaw, ascribe the enduring formality to Bobby Jones, an Augusta National founder who died in 1971.

“To me, it reflects what Bob Jones always retained on nearly everything that’s at Augusta: It’s proper, it has a certain amount of grace to it, there’s a touch of humility,” Crenshaw said. “It’s beautifully done, and the font has never changed, and the seal is on it. It’s the way they do things.”

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