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A behind-the-scenes look at AI technology at the Masters golf tournament

Two of my greatest passions in life are sports and technology. So, I feel incredibly fortunate that I’m a Technology Program Manager for IBM Sports & Entertainment Partnerships, the team that produces the digital experience with some of the greatest sporting events in the world, like the US Open Tennis Championships and Wimbledon.

In this role, I’ve had some incredible experiences, attending iconic events and meeting world-renown athletes. But, today I fulfilled a long-held dream. Today, I set foot on Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters.

I’m here because our team produces the digital experience of the Masters on and the Masters app. I have a background in front-end development and coding web apps in JavaScript frameworks. So, I’ve worked on a lot of consumer-facing digital experiences over the years. I know I’m biased, but I’m convinced the Masters has the best digital experience in golf.

In the last four years, our team has rolled out game-changing features like the round in under three minutes and My Group. And this year, I’m excited to launch the Masters Fantasy game, which includes AI-generated player insights that use advanced capabilities from IBM Watson, such as machine learning and natural language processing, to help patrons select their best rosters.

My role this week will be to ensure that everything runs smoothly as millions of fans start hitting the platform when play begins on Thursday. Our team is already onsite, hunkered down in the IBM Digital Operations Center, just across the hall from the Masters Digital team. From here, we’ll be monitoring the performance of the site, the app, and the Masters hybrid cloud infrastructure.

There’s still much work to be done. But, I couldn’t let this moment slip by without pausing to appreciate this amazing place. I’ve seen countless images of Augusta National Golf Club on television, but nothing can compare to being here. You feel it the moment you touch down in Augusta Regional Airport, which looks like a clubhouse, and features a statue of Raymond Floyd, who won the Masters in 1976.

Driving down Magnolia Lane, I got actual goosebumps. And I’ll never forget seeing the iconic Masters logo in front of the clubhouse for the first time. As the famous golfer Gary Player once said, “The Masters is the only tournament I ever knew where you choke when you drive through the front gate.”

I spent some time walking the course. The hills are bigger and the greens are smaller than I imagined. I started on the 10th hole (Camellia), hooked a right, and walked up to the 18th hole (Holly).

At the top of the hill, standing between the 18th green and the clubhouse, I took a moment to take in the view. The leaderboard. The towering pines. Every blade of grass, every azalea bloom, and every piece of pine straw was perfectly manicured. Then, I suddenly realized that this same attention to detail – every design choice, every line of code – goes into the digital experience of the Masters as well. And I remembered I had work to do.