AUGUSTA, Ga. – There is no plaque marking the spot, really no sign at all that a 65-foot loblolly pine used to stand to the left of the 17th fairway at Augusta National Golf Club, ready to eat balls launched from the tee box some 210 yards away. But the Eisenhower Tree, as it was known, is no more, the victim of a massive winter ice storm.
“I don’t know if any of the players are sad to see it leave,” veteran Steve Stricker said. “I’m surprised that there isn’t a bigger one in place there already, to tell you the truth.”
The tree got its name because President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Augusta National member, hit the tree so frequently that he lobbied — unsuccessfully — to have it removed. It came into play at the Masters, looming over the fairway and forcing players to either bomb the ball over it or play to a narrow opening on the right.
“For me, it’s hard to get it over that tree easily,” said PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner. “If I have a little bit of a hook on it, that tree comes into play, so I always had to play right of it. Obviously it’s changed a lot for us.”
Now, for the first time, the tee shot will be more open.
“It looks good to me,” defending champion Adam Scott said. “It’s a little more open. It’s a nice look off the tee.”
Four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods hit into the tree in 2011, and the resulting shot from the pine straw beneath it caused him to injure his left knee. Justin Rose, who won last year’s U.S. Open, was in contention at the 2007 Masters when his tee shot found the tree, leading to double bogey.
“So for me, maybe it’s going to suit my eye there a little better,” Rose said.
Phil Mickelson likes nothing more than a good wager. So as he and playing partner Rickie Fowler beat Dustin Johnson and Dufner — on the strength of what Mickelson said was a front-side 30 from Fowler — during Tuesday’s practice round, Mickelson took on a challenging fan behind the sixth green.
“He was mouthing off about, ‘Hard shot, get this up and down, no chance,’ blah, blah, blah,” Mickelson said. So Mickelson bet the fan a dollar that he could, in fact, get the ball up and down. He knocked the chip shot to seven feet — then missed the putt. To pay up, though, he had to get a $5 bill from a caddie. Don’t carry bills that small, Phil? “I don’t,” he said. . . .
Scott didn’t reveal the full menu for Tuesday night’s champion’s dinner, though he said it would be focused on Australian barbecue. While he stayed away from exotic meats — no kangaroo or crocodile, he said — he did incorporate something called Moreton Bay bugs, imported from Brisbane. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, the bugs are an Australian seafood specialty, a kind of lobster.
“Hopefully the other guys can get past the name and enjoy a nice bit of our seafood from home,” Scott said.