Here’s the unwritten rule on how Masters players sign autographs on Augusta National flags

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There are a lot of rules at the Masters Tournament. One is unwritten, and Augusta National Golf Club has nothing to do with it.

It involves the replicas of the yellow Masters pin flags that are sold in the club’s merchandise center for $30 each. The year of the current Masters is on the flag.

The design on the flag is the famous Masters logo that features the outline of the United States. The logo is in the center of the flag and covers about half the area. The rest of the flag is blank, surrounding the logo.

The unspoken rule is that only former Masters champions can sign in the middle of the flag, inside the United States outline. Everyone else signs outside the logo.

No one knows exactly how this tradition started, but it couldn’t have been before 1993, because that’s the first year the flags were sold in the merchandise center.

James Walls, 10, from Athens, Georgia, gets autographs on the practice range during a practice round ahead of the 2023 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network)

In the players’ first-floor locker room in the Augusta National clubhouse, flags are placed on a table near the entrance with a sharpie nearby. Participants sign them, and they often go to be auctioned for a player’s foundation or charity they support.

The flags on that table are always blank in the middle. Everyone knows only the champions sign there — and they rarely come to this locker room. They have their own locker room upstairs.

Not all the champions sign in the middle, though, the most famous one (Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, etc.) do. Others elect not to.

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“I don’t go in there (the middle), out of respect,” two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw said. “Somebody’s going to sign there that needs to be there. Somebody like Jack.”

Bernhard Langer, another two-time champion, and Mark O’Meara, the 1998 champ, ask the autograph-seeker where they want them to sign.

“Some like it in the middle. Some like it in the top, the bottom. It’s their flag,” Langer said.

“If someone asks me to sign a Masters flag, unless they say ‘Can you sign it in the middle?’ I sign on the side,” O’Meara said. “Being a Masters champion, I can buy flags from the club that don’t have dates on them. So when I sign a flag for someone I want to send it to, I’ll personalize it to them and I’ll sign the middle and put the year I won.”

There is a flag for sale on the internet signed by Nick Faldo, who in addition to his signature, writes the three years he won the Masters.

Zane Corley, 13, of Noblesville, Indiana, was getting his flag autographed by the practice range Monday. He knew about the tradition for the Masters champions, but didn’t realize that 2017 champion Sergio Garcia had signed his flag underneath the logo until it was too late to ask.

Fans aren’t the only ones that get the flags autographed. During Tuesday’s Champions Dinner, which is expected to feature 33 past champions, most players place flags on a table for all to sign.

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