RESEARCH NOTE: IBM Bridges Tradition and Tech at the 2024 Masters Tournament

By Melody Brue, Robert Kramer - April 12, 2024
The famous 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club

The Masters stands as a testament to golfing tradition. But beyond the pristine fairways, a technological revolution is enhancing the experience for fans worldwide. For more than 25 years, IBM and Augusta National Golf Club have partnered to push the boundaries of sports technology. The culmination of this partnership is the AI-powered Masters online experience and mobile apps, enabling fans worldwide to immerse themselves fully in the prestigious tournament, which is currently underway.

For this year’s Masters Tournament, IBM has introduced new AI features designed to provide deep insights into the game and explore some of the mystique of Augusta National. The new Hole Insights feature on Masters.com and the mobile apps integrates present and past gameplay data. It analyzes the data, enabling shot projections for any hole on the course. IBM uses data from the past eight years, encompassing more than 170,000 shots, to pinpoint the most challenging and accessible holes on the course.

Projections of each hole’s potential play, derived from both historical and current performance data integrated by IBM’s watsonx AI platform, provide fans with insights into the evolving dynamics of the game. This enables spectators to gauge how individual players, or the entire field, navigate the course. For example, Hole Insights can generate the likelihood of a birdie on any given hole based on where the tee shot lands.

In addition to AI-generated narration in English introduced last year, fans this year can experience automated audio and closed-caption commentary in Spanish. The narration is available on-demand for highlight videos of approximately 20,000 shots throughout this year’s tournament. The narration feature blends generative AI and large language models built on watsonx.

The Masters mobile app uses AI from IBM to make predictions.

This year, IBM and the Masters also introduced an app for the Apple Vision Pro headset to expand access and enhance the fan experience. In addition to the existing features of the Masters mobile app, other exclusive functionalities such as immersive 3-D renderings of the course tailored for Apple Vision Pro will be available.

Apple Vision Pro users will have the flexibility to personalize their app experience by selecting features such as livestreams and leaderboards. This customization lets users tailor the app to suit their individual viewing preferences and needs.

Data-Driven Insights

Just as athletes use historical data to prepare for competitions, IBM watsonx uses data analysis to provide Masters insights. The data analyzed includes live feeds, ball tracking, scoring, and more. The AI-generated analysis is focused on identifying the strategic challenges of the game, not merely based on what happened this year, but also on information from throughout the tournament’s history. Player predictions are also generated to provide data-fueled forecasts on future play, which keeps fans excited about what might happen next.

IBM creates the AI models that underpin these insights on watsonx.ai. The platform automates model creation and selection, ensuring that data is used both accurately and ethically.

IBM’s efforts extend beyond delivering interesting facts; they also help the Masters team and fans improve their predictive abilities. The watsonx.data data store allows them to quickly find the right information, while machine learning simulations offer what-if scenarios for ball placement and outcomes. Through watsonx.data, the watsonx architecture allows data scientists to efficiently deploy AI/ML models, with an emphasis on data governance and reproducibility. You can read more about watsonx.data in Robert Kramer’s research note.

The Masters Is a Tech Showcase

As the 88th Masters Tournament plays out, fans can get a front-row view at Masters.com or on the Masters apps. And what IBM does at Augusta isn’t just about golf—it’s a preview of how data and AI will revolutionize how we experience nearly everything.

“The generative AI power of watsonx is enabling IBM and the Augusta National Golf Club to co-create technology solutions that bring the magic of the Masters to life for millions of fans around the world,” said Jonathan Adashek, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM. “From training and tuning to monitoring and maintenance, watsonx manages the entire lifecycle of the AI models used to create features such as AI Narration and Hole Insights. These are the same capabilities we’re applying to our work with businesses across industries as they aim to build better customer care experiences, reach new levels of productivity, and make more informed, data-driven business decisions.”

At Moor Insights & Strategy, we are eager to watch the Masters not only because we’re golf fans, but also so we can observe the way fans engage with IBM’s innovations. We look forward to seeing how this world-renowned event can help illustrate the business value IBM drives across industries, as well as how fans can experience such a historic competition in new and exciting ways.

Melody Brue and Robert Kramer co-host the Game Time Tech podcast.

For more on IBM’s engagement with the Masters, check out the Moor Insights & Strategy Game Time Tech podcast for exclusive insights from Monica Ellingson, partner and practice lead for the Sports and Entertainment Consulting group at IBM Consulting, who’s on the ground this week at Augusta National.

Melody Brue
+ posts

Mel Brue is vice president and principal analyst covering modern work and financial services. Mel has more than 25 years of real tech industry experience in marketing, business development, and communications across various disciplines, both in-house and at agencies, with companies ranging from start-ups to global brands. She has built a unique specialty working in technology and highly regulated spaces, such as mobile payments and finance, gaming, automotive, wine and spirits, and mobile content, ensuring initiatives address the needs of customers, employees, lobbyists and legislators, as well as shareholders. 

Robert Kramer
VP & Principal AnalystatMoor Insights & Strategy| + posts

Robert Kramer is vice president and principal analyst covering enterprise data, including data management, databases, data lakes, data observability, data analytics, and data protection. Robert has over 30 years of proven experience with startups, IT companies, global marketing, detailed strategies, business modeling, and planning, working with enterprise companies, GTM assets, management, and execution.