Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, April 22, 2024

The Masters: A Tournament of Firsts Embraces the Future with IBM watsonx 

The Masters golf tournament has long been synonymous with tradition, elegance, and the pinnacle of the sport. But behind the tournament's timeless charm lies a relentless drive to innovate and embrace new technologies that enhance the fan experience. From being the first to use leaderboards and implement the over/under scoring system to pioneering radio and television broadcasts, the Masters has consistently led the way in golf's technological evolution.

Now, the tournament is taking another bold step into the future, partnering with IBM to bring the power of generative AI to the digital experience of the Masters. Powered by IBM's watsonx platform, the 2024 Masters will debut a suite of cutting-edge features that promise to immerse fans like never before.

"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," Jonathan Adashek, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM, explained in a press release.

Hole Insights: Unlocking the Mysteries of Augusta National

One of the most anticipated features is the new "Hole Insights" experience, which will provide fans with a level of data-driven analysis and projections never before seen at the Masters. Powered by natural language processing and structured data, Hole Insights will deliver detailed breakdowns of how each hole has played, both in the current tournament and historically.

Example of IBM Hole Insights on the Masters Digital Platforms

Example of IBM Hole Insights on the Masters Digital Platforms
Credit: IBM

Fans will be able to access real-time insights such as, "The 14th hole has played difficult today, with 25% of shots resulting in bogies," or "The 9th hole is projected to be the third most difficult hole today." The AI-generated insights will also draw upon eight years of tournament data, comprising more than 170,000 shots, to provide historical context and projections, such as, "Shots historically hit in this location have an 82% chance of resulting in a birdie."

The new IBM Hole Insights feature will be integrated into the "Track Shots" experience on the 2024 website and mobile apps. By combining natural language processing and structured data, Hole Insights will generate detailed breakdowns of current and historical play for each hole on the course. Fans will have access to insights such as how a hole has played throughout the tournament so far, as well as projections on anticipated performance based on past data. This level of data-driven analysis has never before been available to Masters fans in real time.

AI Narration: Bringing the Masters to Life in Multiple Languages

In addition to the Hole Insights feature, IBM is also debuting the next chapter in its AI sports narration story – Spanish language narration. Building on the success of the English-language AI Narration feature introduced in 2023, fans will now have access to the same high-quality, data-driven commentary in both Spanish audio and closed captions.

Example of IBM AI Narration on the Masters Digital Platforms
Credit: IBM

Powered by a combination of generative AI and large language models from watsonx, the Spanish narration goes beyond simple translation, with IBM engineers and subject matter experts using a process called "few-shot learning" to train the AI model to natively understand and communicate in Spanish.

The Masters and IBM have enjoyed a longstanding partnership spanning over 25 years, working closely together to guide the tournament's digital transformation. From designing intuitive user interfaces to developing the backend systems that transform raw Masters data into compelling and accessible golf insights, IBM has been a trusted partner in the tournament's technological evolution. The newly announced Hole Insights and Spanish AI narration features are the latest examples of this ongoing collaboration, as IBM and the Masters continue to reimagine and deliver a world-class digital experience for the millions of fans tuning in from around the globe.

Powering the Masters' Digital Transformation with watsonx

The integration of watsonx into the Masters' digital infrastructure is a testament to the platform's versatility and power. From managing the lifecycle of the generative AI models that power Hole Insights to ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the AI Narration feature, watsonx is the backbone of the Masters' digital transformation.

Of course, the reliability of the AI Narration feature is of paramount importance, and IBM leverages the governance capabilities of watsonx to monitor the performance of the underlying AI models throughout the tournament. The Masters' digital infrastructure is designed with a hybrid cloud architecture, running workloads across multiple cloud providers. This strategic approach, enabled by Red Hat OpenShift, increases the flexibility of the platform, accelerates innovation, and allows the tournament to scale the impact of its data and AI initiatives. By adopting a hybrid cloud model, the Masters can harness the best-in-class capabilities of various cloud services while maintaining the control and security required for a high-profile global event.

But the integration of watsonx goes beyond just the digital experience. The platform also plays a crucial role in safeguarding the Masters' digital platform from a wide variety and high volume of threats. IBM uses sophisticated attack surface management and security information and event management solutions, such as Randori Recon and QRadar Suite, to scan the entire network for potential vulnerabilities and triage incoming threats.

Embracing the Future, Preserving the Tradition

As the Masters continues to push the boundaries of what's possible in golf, the partnership with IBM and the integration of watsonx-powered features represent a natural evolution of the tournament's long-standing commitment to innovation. By seamlessly blending cutting-edge technology with the tournament's timeless traditions, the Masters is ensuring that the magic of Augusta National remains accessible and engaging for fans around the world.

"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," Adashek said.

As the world's best golfers take to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National this April, they will be accompanied by a digital experience that is more immersive, informative, and engaging than ever before. And with the power of IBM watsonx behind it, the Masters is poised to continue its legacy of leading the way in golf's technological revolution.