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The Masters & IBM: The Digital Journey Over the Years

Last Updated: July 5, 2023
Boardroom takes a deeper look at IT leader IBM and The Masters’ evolving partnership that began 27 years ago.

Believe it or not, The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club has been on the digitization trail for quite some time now.

It may not seem like that’s the case since phones, computers, and cameras aren’t allowed on the course during official tournament events, though cameras are allowed during practice rounds. Still, tradition is just as important as golf itself at The Masters, which is why the annual tournament has been working closely with IBM to give patrons on and off the course a digital experience they can repeatedly tap into.

“Part of the magic of being at Augusta National is being in the moment. It’s something we respect and love about the course and the club,” Shannon Miller, partner at IBM Consulting and sports and entertainment lead, told Boardroom in an exclusive interview. “Even so, as a patron on the course, you might not be able to see every shot on every hole, but you will be able to watch what you missed while you were on-site through the app and website.”

Let’s take a deeper look at IBM and The Masters’ evolving partnership that officially began in 1996.

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From the Web to AI

IBM has been the official global technology partner of The Masters for 27 years. The pair’s partnership first kicked off in 1996 after IBM built and launched Masters.com, the tournament’s premier digital destination. The website debuted with a simple homepage that led to news, a leaderboard, player profiles, and imagery of the course. Since then, The Masters has implemented many technological advancements, including, wireless internet, a mobile app, live streaming, 4K content, and much more.

Ahead of this year’s event, Boardroom took a look at IBM’s AI-focused upgrades to the Masters’ website and app, which includes AI-generated spoken commentary and hole-by-hole predictions. All of IBM’s Masters-focused tech leverages IBM Watson, the IT leader’s suite of AI-enabled solutions.

Here are a few more AI-focused milestones IBM has launched with The Masters:

  • 2019: IBM first brought AI to the Masters with the Round in Under Three Minute feature in 2019, which uses the technology to generate a 3-minute video highlight reel of every player’s round.
  • 2020: The My Group feature was launched, allowing patrons to create personalized groups of players to watch every shot on every hole from their favorite golfers. My Group was one of the first applications of IBM Watson AI to bring customized viewing experiences to millions of people globally.
  • 2021: IBM announced Player Insights, which are AI-generated insights on every player in the field.
  • 2022: The Projections feature was launched, which is an AI feature that analyzed 22 different training factors and more than 40 zones on the course to generate daily predictions for each of the golfers at the Masters.  

The IBM Consulting and Masters digital teams come together in person for seven days to power up the Masters Content Center and monitor data coming from the course. During Masters week, these teams ingest data, manage features in the app like video streams, and develop and deploy content. All digital operations are managed in the Masters Content Center, but these teams collaborate all year long on digital experiences.

What’s Next for IBM & The Masters?

AI has been the talk of the tech town since ChatGPT swept the nation. As far as other emerging technologies and trends, Miller said IBM prides itself on being at the forefront of technological innovation. With that said, the enterprise tech company has a strong focus on AI, hybrid cloud, quantum computing, and security technologies right now. As IBM advances its tech, we’ll continue to see more tech implementations at the Masters, though I’m sure a lot of us just want to bring our phones on the course. Wishful thinking.

“We started our partnership with the Masters over 25 years ago, and our vision has been the same since day one, creating an intuitive and immersive experience for patrons,” Miller said. “We have always strived to have our digital experiences respect the history and tradition of the Tournament, while still pushing the boundaries of innovation. In doing so, we have been able to deliver meaningful, personalized insights to millions of patrons around the world.”

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