This year’s Masters is going to be unlike any other.
Golf’s revised calendar means cold November winds will replace the pleasant conditions that come with the tournament’s usual April start, and, for the first time ever, no ‘patrons’ will line the fairways at Augusta.
Thankfully, though, one of the great Masters traditions remains: the Champions Dinner.
Every year, past winners of The Masters sit down together at Augusta on the Tuesday night before the tournament starts for a meal, with the menu chosen by the reigning champion.
This year’s Champions Dinner will take place on November 10, two days before the final major of the season tees off.
Choosing the menu for the fifth time in his career is Tiger Woods, who triumphed in iconic fashion last year and is 25/1 in the golf betting to win again this year.
Woods’ has opted to serve sushi and sashimi to start, steak and chicken fajitas for the main course followed by strawberry and vanilla milkshakes.
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It’s a fun menu, and while he has already served all those dishes in previous menus, it must be difficult to come up with something new when you’ve hosted the dinner five times.
In 1998, after his first Masters win, Tiger served cheeseburgers and chicken sandwiches, French fries, and the milkshakes that he is bringing back this year.
Sushi and sashimi kicked off his 2002 and 2003 menus, which both also included porterhouse steak and chocolate cake.
And in 2006, Woods went for a Tex-Mex theme featuring stuffed jalapenos and quesadillas to start, those steak and chicken fajitas that return this year, and apple pie and ice cream for dessert.
Woods’ menus follow a Champions Dinner trend, in that they convey a real sense of national pride.
The majority of champions choose to serve traditional food from their home country, which has led to some cracking menus in recent years (particularly from the non-American champions).
Those include Charl Schwartzel’s 2012 menu, which featured a chilled seafood bar, biltong sticks and a traditional South African “braai” – a barbecue that included lamb chops, steaks and sausages.
Sergio Garcia’s menu from 2018 – which included an “international salad” that celebrated the nationalities of past champions, arroz caldoso de bogavante (a traditional Spanish lobster rice), and his mother’s tres leches cake – also stood out.
And in 2017, Danny Willett brought Sheffield to Augusta with mini cottage pies, a Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings and gravy, and apple crumble with vanilla custard for dessert. Champion.
Unfortunately, those more inventive spreads are outnumbered by menus that wouldn’t look out of place in a Leicester Square steakhouse – although the prime cuts at Augusta are probably slightly more expensive.
It’s damning that the most popular choices over the past 20 years have been a Caesar salad to start, filet mignon for the main course and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Bubba Watson’s 2013 menu was the Champions Dinner’s nadir. The left-hander from Florida served Caesar salad, grilled chicken breast with corn and mashed potatoes and confetti cake for dessert, which Nick Faldo described as a "happy meal".
For what it’s worth, Faldo served tomato soup and fish and chips when he was the champion in 1997.
Undeterred by Faldo’s criticism, however, Watson brought back the exact same menu when he won the Masters again two years later.
Whether it’s Willett’s Yorkshire Puddings or Watson’s confetti cake, though, these menus give us an insight into who these players are and where they come from.
At a time when most golfers are incredibly carefully managed, and unlikely to open up about anything more interesting than clubhead speeds and pace of play, their chosen menu offers a rare glimpse of what makes a champion's mouth water.
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