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How are Masters Tee Times and Pairings Determined?

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Masters groupings and tee times

This early morning grouping at The Masters included three golfers, so we know it was a first- or second-round group. In the final two rounds, golfers play in pairings of two.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Question: How are Masters Tee Times and Pairings Determined?

Answer: How are Masters tee times/pairings determined for the first two rounds? I'll tell you how: Any darn way the Augusta National poobahs please. (The pairings for the final two rounds are determined by player scores, more below.)

That is not a flippant response: Augusta National Golf Club has a committee of members who meet and determine which players are grouped together in Rounds 1 and 2, and what those groupings' tee times will be. Those committee members exercise full authority, and have complete discretion to group players as they see fit.

There is one traditional pairing: The reigning U.S. Amateur champion (if he's still an amateur) plays Rounds 1 and 2 with the defending champion of The Masters.

Otherwise, Augusta National does not divulge any trade secrets about the process; they don't discuss it at all. But it's definitely not a random draw, and the needs of television broadcasters and of fans are taken into account.

For example, the two biggest stars in the field are likely to play at opposite ends of the draw. Let's use Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods as examples. Most likely, one will play in the morning tee times and the other will play in the afternoon. This guarantees that one of the two biggest stars, either Mickelson or Woods in this example, will be playing during television coverage.

It also helps with crowd control. If Mickelson and Woods are playing in close proximity to one another, the massive crowds get bunched up, get louder, get more difficult to move through, become less manageable.

Those are the kinds of things the Augusta competition committee will think about when making the pairings. They also aren't immune to having a little fun in the first two rounds with "theme" groups. For example, in 2009 one of the early round groups was comprised of three young hotshots, Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa. Nothing random about that kind of grouping. It's a group that fans and the TV network will be happy with.

First- and second-round groupings include three players, and tee times are 11 minutes apart. For the final two rounds, after the cut, pairings are comprised of two players (unless weather delays create the need to stick with 3-man groups), and tee times are 10 minutes apart.

Pairings for Rounds 3 and 4 are based on scores; the better a golfer's score, the later his tee time. The golfer in last place will tee off first; the golfer in first place will tee off last.

But what about ties? Let's say there are six golfers tied for the lead. In a case like that, the pairings and tee times are based on the order in which those six golfers posted their scores. Among those six tied players, the one who posted the score first will tee off last among that group of players; the one who posted the score last will tee off first among that group of players.

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