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A beginner's guide to The Masters: Key things to know ahead of the major at Augusta National

The Masters takes place at Augusta National from April 6-9, exclusively live on Sky Sports; Scottie Scheffler is the defending champion, Rory McIlroy attempts to complete the career Grand Slam and Tiger Woods is set to feature once again

FILE - The Masters golf pin flag on the 9th green is seen with the scoreboard along the first fairway in the background at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, April 4, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. The Masters has no shortage of storylines at Augusta National. Tiger Woods returns after nearly two months. This will be only his third appearance against elite competition since last year's Masters. Rory McIlroy is in good form as he goes for the final leg of the career Grand Slam. And they share the stage with 18 players who most fans haven't see in more than nine months. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)
Image: The Masters takes place every April at Augusta National

Why is The Masters such an important date in the sporting calendar? Ahead of the opening golf major of the year, exclusively live from Augusta National on Sky Sports Golf, we look at some of the common questions asked about the event...

What is The Masters and how do I watch?

The Masters is one of the four major championships in professional golf, and truly unique in the sense that it is the only one to be held at the same location every year, the world-famous Augusta National golf course.

First played in 1934, this year's tournament will be the 87th in its history - with Sky Sports broadcasting nearly 70 hours of live coverage from Georgia across tournament week.

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Brooks Koepka says a LIV Masters winner would be a huge statement for the breakaway tour

Wall-to-wall coverage from the tournament begins at 2pm over the first two rounds, with Featured Group action and regular updates from around the course available to enjoy on Sky Sports Golf until the global broadcast window begins at 8pm on Thursday April 6 and Friday April 7.

The notorious Amen Corner stream will also be available and focuses on the famous three-hole stretch from the 11th, with that coverage also live - for free - on the Sky Sports Golf YouTube channel and Sky Sports App for the first three days and for two hours on Sunday.

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World No 1,001 Tiger Woods is on course at Augusta ahead of this week's Masters

Who plays in The Masters?

The top 50 in the world at the end of the previous calendar year earn an invite, as do those inside the top 50 during the week before the tournament takes place, while previous winners hold a lifetime exemption and any other major winners from the last five years are also included in the field.

The top 12 and ties from last year's Masters tournament are allowed to return, as are the top four and ties from the other three majors in 2022, with every winner at a full-field PGA Tour event - the ones not played the same week as a major or one of the World Golf Championship events - over the past 12 months securing a spot.

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The last three winners of The Players and all qualifiers for last season's Tour Championship earn their invite, plus the champions of five of the world's biggest amateur titles, while the Masters committee can invite a player who has not qualified.

Why can LIV Golf players compete?

Although the PGA Tour considers The Masters an official event, the tour has no jurisdiction over the field or how the tournament is run, allowing those banned by the tour to play at Augusta National.

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Dame Laura Davies has welcomed the decision to allow golfers who joined LIV Golf to play at The Masters in 2023

It will be the first time this season that LIV golfers will play alongside those from the tour, with a total of 18 competing, including Masters champions Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel.

Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau and Louis Oosthuizen are other major winners from LIV included among the field.

Who is likely to contend?

Scottie Scheffler is the most obvious contender. Not only is the 26-year-old American the defending champion, but he is world No 1 and in scintillating form after adding a sixth PGA Tour title to his career haul at The Players last month.

Rory McIlroy came in second to Scheffler last year, finishing three shots back after a brilliant final-round 64, with The Masters still the only major missing from his collection. Could this finally be the Northern Irishman's year as he looks to become just the sixth man to win the career Grand Slam?

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Rory McIlroy is happy with his game heading into The Masters, as he reveals he had only 19 putts in a practice round at Augusta

Jon Rahm rounds off the world's top three, with the 2021 US Open winner certainly not to be discarded, while current major champions Smith, Justin Thomas and Matt Fitzpatrick will all be looking to impress.

Also keep an eye out for American pair Sam Burns and Cameron Young, who contested the final of the WCG-Dell Technologies Match Play last week, while Max Homa and Patrick Cantlay will be among the other names chasing major victory.

What is the prize money and how much does the winner get?

The prize money for the 2023 contest has yet to be confirmed, although last year's purse sat at $15m and Scheffler's victory earned him a cool $2.7m for his troubles.

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Augusta National has always been a course where dreamers can become legends, watch the 2023 Masters tournament live on Sky Sports from Thursday

A second-place finish was worth $1.62m, with third place still netting over a million dollars. If you finish in the top 10, a minimum of $400,000 is likely to be coming your way.

What is it like to go as a fan?

Mobile phones are strictly banned from the course, with even cameras banned outside of practice days. Anyone caught with any offending items is asked to leave the course. If a patron needs to make an emergency call, there are phone banks located around the course they can use.

Some of the other rules include patrons not being allowed to lie down on the grounds, while running is also forbidden. In terms of dress code, backward-facing hats are a strict no-no, jeans are not allowed and shoes must be worn at all times - with high heels and flip flops on the no list.

But while patrons may have rules to follow, they are far from short-changed in terms of the plentiful and affordable food and drink options available. The Pimento Cheese sandwich - a staple at Augusta - costs the small matter of $1.50! Sign me up.

The Masters - Live

Anything else I need to know?

Although golfing terminology largely remains the same as any other tournament, you may come across a few words and phrases during The Masters that may not be as familiar...

Amen Corner - That refers to the three-hole stretch from the 11th to 13th at Augusta National, seen as the most difficult section of the course. That is one of the bonus feeds available throughout the week live on Sky Sports.

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As we build up to The Masters Sky Sports invites a variety of experts from other sports to take on the iconic 12th hole at Augusta, with Kelly and Sue Smith taking it on this time

Azaleas - These are one of most famous plants on display at Augusta National and during The Masters. All the course's holes are named after trees or shrubs present at the golf course and one of the spots where azaleas are most prevalent is alongside the 13th hole, which bears its name.

Butler Cabin - Placed near the 18th hole, this is where The Masters winners are presented with their Green Jacket. Jack Nicklaus was the first, in 1965, to conduct his post-victory interview from inside this building.

Champions Dinner - The winner of last year's tournament hosts an exclusive dinner for all previous Masters champions, and chairman Fred Ridley, on the Tuesday night of the week of the Masters. Scottie Scheffler will continue that tradition this year.

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Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw believes the Champions Dinner at Augusta National could be 'tense' - with a number of LIV Golfers due to attend

Crow's Nest - Located above the library and champions locker room, up a steep set of stairs and on the third floor of the Augusta National clubhouse, this a famous hideaway reserved only for amateurs competing at the tournament. Players to have stayed in the Crow's Nest as amateurs who later went on to win The Masters include Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Tiger Woods.

First and second nine - Rather than the 'front nine' or 'back nine' being used to describe the split in holes at Augusta National, they refer to holes one to nine as the 'first nine' and 10 to 18 as the 'second nine'. It's a small difference, sure, but adds to the unique prestige.

First cut - Augusta has what is referred to as the 'first cut' and 'second cut' when players miss the fairway, as opposed to the rough you would find at other golf courses.

The Masters - Live

Green Jacket - The concept of a 'Green Jacket' was first introduced in 1937 to help differentiate Augusta National members from other patrons. Since Sam Snead's victory in 1949, the winner of every Masters tournament has been rewarded one, with the jacket presented to the new champion by the winner of the previous year's tournament.

Hogan Bridge - This bridge takes players over Rae's Creek and to the green on the par-three 12th hole as part of 'Amen Corner'. It is named after Ben Hogan, to mark his record-setting low score of 274 for his four rounds at the 1953 tournament.

Honorary Starters - Most years at The Masters, a group of legendary golfers are invited to hit the ceremonial tee shots on the first hole to signal the start of the tournament. Last year Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson performed the role, with Watson the 11th to do so.

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Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and, for the first time, Tom Watson, got the 2022 Masters under way with the traditional honorary tee shots

Magnolia Lane - This is perhaps the most famous driveway in all of America, welcoming the competing golfers to Augusta National in the most spectacular way. The road is 330 yards long, lined with magnolia trees on each side.

Patrons - This is what the people in attendance at The Masters are referred to, not fans or spectators.

Pine straw - The lush fairways and pristine greens may well be the best-known features of Augusta National, but covering the ground between many of the holes and at the base of a number of trees is pine straw, which makes for some tricky lies for players from time to time.

Rae's Creek - This is the daunting stretch of water that famously flows in front of the 12th green. At its widest inside Augusta National, the creek runs 60 feet wide and four feet deep. It is surrounded by golf's most colourful backdrop of blooming azaleas and dogwoods.

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Back in 2022, Jamie Redknapp and Dame Laura Davies took on the famous 12th hole at Augusta National

Sarazen Bridge - The first bridge at Augusta to be named after a player, done so to commemorate Gene Sarazen's 'Shot Heard Round the World'. It was unveiled in 1955 to mark the 20th anniversary of Sarazen's famous albatross at the 15th hole which is where the bridge resides.

Tea Olive - This is the name of the opening hole at Augusta National. In keeping with the tradition the naming of holes on the course, Tea Olive - a shrub native to eastern Asia - can be found on the right of the fairway and at the rear of the green. No Masters golfer has ever birdied the first hole in all four rounds.

Watch The Masters throughout the week live on Sky Sports! Live coverage of the opening round begins on Thursday from 2pm on Sky Sports Golf.

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