Golf | The Masters: First round (3 p.m., ESPN)

The Masters goes on at Augusta despite missing icons

 

The premier event of the golf season begins Thursday, but for the first time in 20 years Augusta National will be without Tiger Woods and the famous Eisenhower Tree.

Special to the Miami Herald

A wounded Tiger and a famously toppled tall tree are missing from the 78th Masters this week, but one of the greatest shows in all of golf will go on at Augusta National, with a field of 97 players in the field and a take-your-pick list of potential contenders.

Tiger Woods, a four-time champion and the No. 1 player in the world rankings, announced April 1 that he would not be participating this week for the first time in 20 years because of a balky back. This was no April Fool’s joke, and certainly no one on these gorgeous grounds at the time — or the ratings-conscious executives at CBS — thought his withdrawal after recent back surgery to ease the pain of a pinched nerve was any laughing matter.

“We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world,” Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. “Nevertheless, this is the Masters, what we hope is the best golf tournament in the world.”

It should remain that way despite another absence — the Eisenhower Tree on the 17th fairway — the victim of a February ice storm that claimed the legendary loblolly pine. The former president, frustrated by so many shots that ricocheted off its trunk or branches, 60 years ago had asked former tournament chairman Clifford Roberts to have it removed. Roberts, a dictator on this particular property, very emphatically vetoed that presidential request, and the tree survived.

Though it stood only 210 yards from the tee and was usually easily cleared by the long hitters of modern golf, the tree still claimed an occasional off-target victim. Now, the spot on the course where it stood is marked by a single pine cone, and the hottest item around here is a new commemorative silver coin ordered up by the lords of the Masters. Only 350 were minted, at $125 each, and they immediately sold out.

Check eBay, and then your 401K.

“The Eisenhower Tree was symbolic,” 2008 champion Trevor Immelman said. “”When you got to the 17th tee, and you’ve never been there before, the story would get told. That’s important. It’s one of the reasons why everybody has such a love affair with Augusta National.”

Arnold Palmer said his old friend Dwight D. Eisenhower “loved Augusta. I think deep down he probably loved that tree because it irritated him so much.”

There are countless possibilities to acquire another one of the club’s proudest traditions — the coveted green jacket that goes to the winner on Sunday evening, currently worn by defending champion Adam Scott of Australia, another favorite.

The spiffy sport coat could even go to one of the record 24 first-time participants, not to mention a former three-time champion, Phil Mickelson, who has more Masters titles than anyone in this year’s field. The 2014 event marks the 10-year anniversary of Mickelson’s popular breakthrough triumph here in 2004, finally ending his long streak of frazzling failure in major championships.

Lefty confident

“That win 10 years ago just propelled me,” Mickelson said this week. “I knew that once I won one, I really felt confident I could win a few, but I needed to get that first one, and that was a big one. … It’s a magical place to begin with. But for me personally, the feeling that comes over me as I drive down Magnolia Lane is that I don’t have to play perfect to play well here.

“I can recover from mistakes here. You always have a shot. You always have a swing if you hit a bad shot. You have a chance to salvage your par. You have a chance to let your short game save it for you. And if I do hit a number of good shots, I’m able to make birdies. The course has always been a course I felt comfortable on and I’ve played some of my best golf here.”

So has Woods, who won his first Masters in 1997 with a record score (18-under-par 270) and margin of victory (12 shots over runner-up Tom Kite) and his fourth and last title in 2005. Despite that victory drought here, he contended virtually ever year since, with seven top-six finishes — twice a runner-up — in the past eight Masters. Clearly, his absence has been a huge pre-tournament topic of conversation, particularly among the players in the field.

“Having Tiger in a tournament definitely creates more buzz, more of an atmosphere,” said Irishman Rory McIlroy, clearly among the top favorites. “You know where he is on the course just by the crowd and the gallery that follows him. … I think people will miss him at the start of the week, but by the end of the week, when it comes down to who is going to win the golf tournament, there’s going to be a worthy winner and it will produce a lot of excitement. … It always produces a great finish, whether Tiger is in the mix, or not.”

Day excited

Another highly regarded contender, 26-year-old Australian Jason Day, has been much in the mix here on Sunday. In 2011, he tied for second with a final-round 68, and last year he was third, missing the playoff between Scott and Angel Cabrera by two shots with a 70 on Sunday.

Day hasn’t played for six weeks because of a sore left thumb, but said he’s having no problems with it in recent weeks, and “the hand’s coming up nicely.”

“I’ve been watching this tournament since I was a little kid,” he said. “I love everything about this place, the history and the tradition. It’s just golfing heaven in such a small place in the middle of America, and every year it’s just fun. Every time I get back here, it gets the juices flowing again, all the good memories.”

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  • PGA European - Omega European Masters Preview

    Thursday, September 4th through Sunday, September 7th Course Info Site: Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club (Alpine Course), Crans Montana, Switzerland Course Architect: Fremantle and Gedge (1906), M Nicholson (1929 - redesign), Par: 70 Yardage: 6,848 Hole by Hole Front Nine: 36 3,507 Yds 1 - Par 5 540 Yds 2 - Par 4 446 Yds 3 - Par 3 191 Yds 4 - Par 4 503 Yds 5 - Par 4 364 Yds 6 - Par 4 324 Yds 7 - Par 4 331 Yds 8 - Par 3 175 Yds 9 - Par 5 633 Yds Back Nine: 35 3,341 Yds 10 - Par 4 406 Yds 11 - Par 3 217 Yds 12 - Par 4 417 Yds 13 - Par 3 195 Yds 14 - Par 5 559 Yds 15 - Par 5 516 Yds 16 - Par 3 235 Yds 17 - Par 4 394 Yds 18 - Par 4 402 Yds Tournament Info Year: 80th Television: Golf Channel - Thursday -- 5:30-7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m.-12:30 pm (et) - Friday -- 6-7:30 a.m. (et), 9:30-11:30 a.m. (et), - Saturday/Sunday -- 7-11 a.m. (et) Champion: Thomas Bjorn Runner Up: Craig Lee Tournament Record: 260 (Colin Montgomerie, 1996) 54-Hole Record: 193 (Patrick Sjoland, 1998) 36-Hole Record: 127 (Sandy Lyle, 1983) Course Record: 60 (Baldovino Bassu, 1971; Jamie Spence, 1992) Total Purse: $3,018,654 (2,300,000 euros) Shares: 1st Place - $504,423; 2nd Place - $336,278; 3rd Place - $189,463 2013 Final Leaderboard Thomas Bjorn * 264 Craig Lee 264 Victor Dubuisson 265 Alejandro Canizares 266 Miguel Angel Jimenez 269 Ross Fisher 269 Gregory Havret 270 Brooks Koepka 270 Three players at 272 Past Winners 2013: *Thomas Bjorn (264). Runner up: Craig Lee 2012: Richie Ramsay (267). Runner up: Fredrik Andersson Hed, Marcus Fraser, Danny Willett, Romain Wattel 2011: Thomas Bjorn (264). Runner up: Martin Kaymer 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez (263). Runner up: Edoardo Molinari 2009: Alexander Noren (264). Runner up: Bradley Dredge 2008: *Jean-Francois Lucquin (271). Runner up: Rory McIlroy 2007: *Brett Rumford (268). Runner up: Phillip Archer 2006: Bradley Dredge (267). Runner up: Francesco Molinari, Marcel Siem 2005: Sergio Garcia (270). Runner up: Peter Gustafsson 2004: Luke Donald (265). Runner up: Miguel Angel Jimenez 2003: Ernie Els (267). Runner up: Michael Campbell 2002: Robert Karlsson (270). Runner up: Trevor Immelman, Paul Lawrie 2001: Ricardo Gonzalez (268). Runner up: Soren Hansen 2000: Eduardo Romero (261). Runner up: Thomas Bjorn 1999: Lee Westwood (270). Runner up: Thomas Bjorn 1998: *Sven Struver (263). Runner up: Patrik Sjoland 1997: Costantino Rocca (266). Runner up: Robert Karlsson, Scott Henderson 1996: Colin Montgomerie (260). Runner up: Sam Torrance 1995: Mathias Gronberg (270). Runner up: Costantino Rocca, Barry Lane 1994: Eduardo Romero (266). Runner up: Pierre Fulke 1993: Barry Lane (270). Runner up: Seve Ballesteros, Miguel Angel Jimenez 1992: *Jamie Spence (271). Runner up: Anders Forsbrand 1991: Jeff Hawkes (268). Runner up: Seve Ballesteros 1990: Ronan Rafferty (267). Runner up: John Bland 1989: Seve Ballesteros (266). Runner up: Craig Parry 1988: Chris Moody (268). Runner up: Seve Ballesteros, Anders Forsbrand, Ian Woosnam 1987: Anders Forsbrand (263). Runner up: Mark Mouland 1986: Jose Maria Olazabal (262). Runner up: Anders Forsbrand 1985: Craig Stadler (267). Runner up: 1984: Jerry Anderson (261). Runner up: Howard Clark 1983: *Nick Faldo (268). Runner up: Sandy Lyle 1982: *Ian Woosnam (272). Runner up: Bill Longmuir 1981: *Manuel Pinero (277). Runner up: Antonio Garrido, Tony Johnstone 1980: Nick Price (267). Runner up: Manuel Calero 1979: Hugh Baiocchi (275). Runner up: Antonio Garrido, Dale Hayes, Delio Lovato 1978: Seve Ballesteros (272). Runner up: Manuel Pinero 1977: Seve Ballesteros (273). Runner up: John Schroeder 1976: Manuel Pinero (274). Runner up: Dave Hill 1975: Dale Hayes (273). Runner up: Tienie Britz, Bernard Gallacher, Gary Player 1974: Bob Charles (275). Runner up: Tony Jacklin 1973: Hugh Baiocchi (278). Runner up: Eddie Polland, Jack Newton 1972: Graham Marsh (270). Runner up: Tony Jacklin 1971: Peter Townsend (270). Runner up: Manuel Ballesteros 1970: Graham Marsh (274). Runner up: 1969: Roberto Bernardini (277). Runner up: 1968: Roberto Bernardini (272). Runner up: 1967: Randall Vines (272). Runner up: 1966: Alfonso Angelini (271). Runner up: 1965: #Harold Henning (208). Runner up: 1964: Harold Henning (276). Runner up: 1963: *Dai Rees (278). Runner up: 1962: *Bob Charles (272). Runner up: 1961: Kel Nagle (268). Runner up: 1960: Harold Henning (270). Runner up: 1959: Dai Rees (274). Runner up: 1958: Ken Bousfield (272). Runner up: 1957: Alfonso Angelini (270). Runner up: 1956: Dai Rees (278). Runner up: 1955: Flory van Donck (277). Runner up: 1954: Bobby Locke (276). Runner up: 1953: Flory van Donck (267). Runner up: 1952: Ugo Grappasonni (267). Runner up: 1951: Eric Brown (267). Runner up: 1950: Aldo Casera (276). Runner up: 1949: Marcel Dallemagne (270). Runner up: 1948: Ugo Grappasonni (285). Runner up: 1947: Not Held. Runner up: 1946: Not Held. Runner up: 1945: Not Held. Runner up: 1944: Not Held. Runner up: 1943: Not Held. Runner up: 1942: Not Held. Runner up: 1941: Not Held. Runner up: 1940: Not Held. Runner up: 1939: Fifi Cavalo (273). Runner up: 1938: J. Saubaber (139). Runner up: 1937: M. Dallemagne (138). Runner up: 1936: @F. Francis (134). Runner up: 1935: Auguste Boyer (137). Runner up: 1934: Auguste Boyer (133). Runner up: 1933: Not Held. Runner up: 1932: Not Held. Runner up: 1931: M. Dallemagne (145). Runner up: 1930: Auguste Boyer (150). Runner up: 1929: A. Wilson (142). Runner up: 1928: Not Held. Runner up: 1927: Not Held. Runner up: 1926: Alex Ross (145). Runner up: 1925: Alex Ross (148). Runner up: 1924: P. Boomer (150). Runner up: 1923: Alex Ross (149). Runner up: * - Won in Playoff # - 54 Holes @ - Amateur Formerly called Swiss Open (1971-81), Ebel Swiss Masters (1982), Ebel European Masters Swiss Open (1983-1990), Canon European Masters Swiss Open (1991), Canon European Masters (1992-2000). Top Contenders Thomas Bjorn 2004: T-26 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: mc 2010: T-15 2011: Won 2012: mc 2013: Won Craig Lee 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 74th 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: 2013: 2nd Victor Dubuisson 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: mc 2012: T-49 2013: 3rd Miguel A. Jimenez 2004: 2nd 2005: T-13 2006: T-37 2007: mc 2008: T-3 2009: 4th 2010: Won 2011: T-9 2012: T-11 2013: T-5 Brooks Koepka 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: 2013: T-7 Paul Lawrie 2004: T-46 2005: mc 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: mc 2011: T-35 2012: T-6 2013: 12th Brett Rumford 2004: T-56 2005: T-69 2006: T-44 2007: Won 2008: T-23 2009: T-32 2010: T-13 2011: T-65 2012: T-19 2013: T-15 David Howell 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: mc 2008: 2009: T-7 2010: mc 2011: dq 2012: T-27 2013: T-26 Danny Willett 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: T-23 2010: T-42 2011: T-25 2012: T-2 2013: T-26 Matteo Manassero 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: T-23 2010: 3rd 2011: T-18 2012: T-34 2013: T-34 Gregory Bourdy 2004: 2005: mc 2006: 2007: mc 2008: 2009: T-19 2010: 2011: mc 2012: T-34 2013: T-44 Richie Ramsay 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: mc 2010: mc 2011: 34th 2012: Won 2013: mc Jamie Donaldson 2004: 2005: mc 2006: wd 2007: 2008: mc 2009: 2010: T-23 2011: T-3 2012: T-9 2013: mc Fabrizio Zanotti 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: T-47 2009: mc 2010: mc 2011: T-45 2012: T-41 2013: mc Marc Warren 2004: 2005: 2006: T-4 2007: mc 2008: mc 2009: mc 2010: T-9 2011: mc 2012: T-55 2013: mc Hennie Otto 2004: T-60 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: T-55 2009: 2010: mc 2011: T-61 2012: T-64 2013: mc Darren Clarke 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: mc 2008: 2009: T-60 2010: T-15 2011: T-35 2012: T-71 2013: mc Pablo Larrazabal 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: mc 2009: mc 2010: mc 2011: T-48 2012: mc 2013: mc Mikko Ilonen 2004: wd 2005: mc 2006: T-7 2007: T-18 2008: T-32 2009: 2010: T-9 2011: 2012: mc 2013: mc Peter Uihlein 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: 2012: 2013: mc Bernd Wiesberger 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: 2011: mc 2012: T-6 2013: Shane Lowry 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: mc 2010: mc 2011: mc 2012: T-49 2013: George Coetzee 2004: 2005: 2006: 2007: 2008: 2009: 2010: mc 2011: T-25 2012: 2013: NOTES: The European Tour travels to Switzerland this week for the Omega European Masters. With the best players on the European Tour competing in the United States on the PGA Tour at the FedExCup Playoffs, only three players ranked in the top 30 of the world are in the field - Victor Dubuisson (21), defending champion Thomas Bjorn (26) and Jamie Donaldson (28).

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