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XOJET’s Guide to the Masters

By Ron Kroichick, Sports Columnist/Feature Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle

Augusta National Golf Course

Let’s face it: The Masters almost never disappoints.

This stretches beyond, say, the 1997 edition, when young Tiger Woods made history with his landmark victory. Consider five years ago, when Bubba Watson memorably curved a shot out of the forest to prevail in a playoff.

Or two years ago, when Jordan Spieth – not quite as young as Woods in ’97, but close – launched his riveting run at the Grand Slam. Or the year after, when Spieth collapsed on the back nine on Sunday and unheralded Englishman Danny Willett slipped his arms into the green jacket.

Few marquee sporting events perpetually produce great theater the way the Masters does, and XOJET can take you there – right to Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field, only 13 miles from the course.

Anticipation for the Masters builds all winter, as golf slowly emerges from hibernation and winds its way to the azaleas and pines of eastern Georgia. Augusta National is part of the tournament’s allure, not only for the picturesque setting but also for the cool, thrill-seeking stage it provides.

The course favors power hitters and those with creativity around the greens. Augusta also lends itself to final-round excitement, with two reachable par-5s (Nos. 13 and 15) and a potential birdie hole (No. 16) coming down the stretch.

There also are plenty of treacherous holes, as Spieth learned all too well last year. But the magic of the Masters, set for April 6-9 this year, includes a powerful sense of history. These are the same fairways Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson once walked … and Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus … and Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Now, here in 2017, who will win the year’s first major?

If you’re traveling to Augusta, this all-encompassing guide will help you find out in style:

A VIP EXPERIENCE

Putting at the Masters
XOJET’s partner, Butterfield & Robinson, offers a custom package that allows visitors to experience the Masters like a true insider. In addition to luxurious accommodations and exclusive Masters tickets (including final-round upon request), XOJET clients can benefit from VIP hospitality, all-day buffet and open bar, private car service to and from the airport and throughout Augusta, expert guides, and much more.

“There are four official Grand Slam events in professional golf and for the irrepressibly devoted the Masters shines the brightest of all,” says Norman Howe, President & CEO of Butterfield & Robinson. “I’ve been to the Masters several times, and it never gets old—I still feel the same thrill of excitement when I pass through the gates. I think it stays fresh because the experience at Augusta National is about the veneration of tradition, the purity of the game, and the immediacy of the relationship between athletes and fans, plain and simple.”

To reserve your Butterfield & Robinson Masters experience, or for more information, please reach out to butterfield@xojet.com.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

By Ron Kroichick, Sports Columnist/Feature Writer for the San Francisco Chronicle

Dustin Johnson at the Masters

Photo credit: Omar Rawlings

Tiger Woods, hounded by lingering back trouble, seems likely to miss the Masters for the third time in four years. He’s holding out hope of playing, mostly because the tournament carries special meaning to him – he’s won it four times, though not since 2005.

No question, Woods’ presence elevates any event. But this year’s Masters would crackle with electricity even without him, given the tussle for supremacy atop the world rankings.

Dustin Johnson owns the No. 1 spot on the strength of winning consecutive starts in Los Angeles and Mexico City earlier this year. Johnson’s game suits Augusta National perfectly – he’s one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour – and he tied for fourth and tied for sixth the past two years.

Right behind him in the rankings lurk Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, also strong candidates to win at Augusta. McIlroy has played well since returning this month from a rib injury, posting top-10s in his first two PGA starts of the year.

Even so, McIlroy often finds a way to play himself out of contention at the Masters. Day similarly seeks his first green jacket, after threatening in 2011 (tied for second) and 2013 (solo third).

Also do not forget about Spieth, who desperately wants to wipe away the frustration of last year’s meltdown. He clearly knows how to play Augusta, given his Masters results the past three years (T-2, Win, T-2).

Peer beyond these elite players and several others could pocket their first major championship; remember, last year’s four biggest events all went to first-time major winners. Justin Thomas headlines this group. Thomas showed his enormous potential by winning in Malaysia in October and then at back-to-back events in Hawaii in January.

Other tantalizing, major-less players to watch include Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler (who won the Honda Classic in February), Patrick Reed, and Brooks Koepka.

WHERE TO STAY

By Katie McElveen, Featured in Business Traveler, Modern Bride, Town & Country, and Southern Living.

Partridge Inn by Curio

Partridge Inn Augusta, GA
Fresh from a top-to-bottom renovation in 2015, the Partridge Inn is an Augusta classic located just three miles from Augusta National. Southern-style verandahs set with ferns and fans give way to 144 sleek guest rooms and suites with crisp white beds and marble baths; if you can, book the Penthouse Suite for expansive views of the Augusta skyline. Masters extras include free shuttles that run continuously to and from the golf course, live entertainment each night in the lively P.I. Bar, and exclusive Masters-themed welcome gifts.

Photo credit: Curio Collection by Hilton

Private Homes

When a hotel just won’t do (or isn’t available), consider renting one of the dozens of private homes that come onto the rental market each spring just in time for the Masters. Whether you’re looking for a sprawling Georgian manse with a pool or a tidy condo, the Masters Housing Bureau renders the process foolproof with a list of rigorously vetted properties and access to private chefs, drivers, and maid service. Just scored a pair of Patron badges? Although hotels tend to fill up ahead of time, homes that haven’t been rented may offer reduced minimum stays.

Augusta Marriott

Perched on the banks of the Savannah River in the heart of downtown Augusta, the just-renovated Augusta Marriott comes with all the bells and whistles of a modern city hotel. Rooms are spacious and comfortable, the fitness center is well-maintained—with a pool—and options abound for eating and drinking, both within the hotel (bustling Augustino’s offers a number of seasonal Masters specials) and in the neighborhood. Masters packages include free transport to and from the golf course and twice daily housekeeping.

WHERE TO EAT

By Katie McElveen, Featured in Business Traveler, Modern Bride, Town & Country, and Southern Living.

Manuel’s Bread Café

Manuels Bread Cafe in Augusta, GA
Don’t let the name fool you: What sounds like a sandwich shop is actually a French Bistro where Lyonnaise Chef and Owner Manuel Verney-Carron combines traditional Southern fare and French technique with delicious results. Classics like steak au poivre and shrimp and grits are sublime, but as apps like spicy pork wings prove, Verney-Carron knows a thing or two about bar food as well.

Photo credit: Manuels Bread Café

Craft & Vine

This modern speakeasy is known for craft cocktails that celebrate the simplicity of great ingredients, like the Local Yokel, a perfectly balanced mix of bourbon, simple syrup, and lemon. But don’t stop there: Small plates are packed with flavor, the pizzas are blistered and thin, and the charcuterie is sourced from some of the best small producers around.

French Market Grille

Tucked into a neighborhood shopping center just south of Augusta National, the French Market Grille has been serving up Cajun and Creole specialties—red beans and rice, boiled crawfish, jambalaya—to golfers, fans, and members of the media for more than a quarter century. Try to grab a seat on the patio, where martinis served in Mason jars go down like sweet tea and everyone has a Masters story to tell.

BBQ Barn

BBQ-Barn in North Augusta, GA
In Augusta, barbecue is a food—pit-cooked pork, to be specific—not the cooking vessel, and BBQ Barn in North Augusta is one of the best. Come hungry; plates are loaded with trimmings that include coleslaw, rice, hash, macaroni and cheese, collards, fries, baked beans, and potato salad. And besides traditional barbecue you can order turkey, chicken, ribs, and pork loin, all pit-cooked and served with a choice of several barbecue sauces. Note that the restaurant is only open Wednesday through Saturday.

Photo credit: BBQ Barn

*Featured Photo Courtesy of: Oliver Gunning


About the Contributors

Ron Kroichick has worked at the San Francisco Chronicle since 1995, when he came from the Sacramento Bee. He is the paper’s golf writer/columnist, writing a weekly column and covering the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and other Northern California events. He also writes features on the Golden State Warriors during the NBA season, and on various other topics – ranging from major-league baseball and the NFL to college football and basketball – the rest of the year.

Kroichick is a five-time honoree in the Golf Writers Association of America writing contest, placing first in daily news and third in daily features in 2010; earning honorable mention in daily news and daily features in 2011; and again earning honorable mention in daily features in 2013.

He also has been recognized five times by the Associated Press Sports Editors, including second place in best game story and best news story, third place in best feature, fifth place in best investigative reporting, and honorable mention in explanatory reporting (all in the over-250,000-circulation category).

His work can be found online at www.sfchronicle.com/sports and www.sfgate.com/sports.

Travel and lifestyle writer Katie McElveen discovered the joy of wandering when, as a teenager, she made a wrong turn in rural South Carolina on the way to a family vacation and ended up taking back roads nearly all the way to the beach.  Since then, she hasn’t stopped exploring, although she now travels with a map and more than $3.00 in cash. Based in Columbia, South Carolina, Katie has shared her discoveries through her work in magazines such as Real Simple, Business Traveler, Modern Bride, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Town & Country, Southern Living, and Spa and Tennis.