A tree fell in Augusta, and people are hearing about it
No matter how huge, imposing and symbolic the fallen Eisenhower Tree was on Augusta National's 17th hole, defending champion Adam Scott pointed out that the Masters is and will be bigger than one loblolly pine.
"Anything that lives will eventually die I guess, and this one maybe early," he said during the tournament's annual champion's conference call Tuesday, two days after the club acknowledged that the Eisenhower Tree had been toppled by the ice storm in Georgia.
"But the course has evolved over all these years with natural changes and man-made changes. So it's taken on a lot of different looks over the last 10, 15, 20 years," Australia's first Masters champion said. "It was a pretty tight hole, so seeing a little bit more of the fairway will be a nice thing."
Scott is enamored of all the Augusta traditions, saying that by the time the Masters comes around this April, he probably will have put on the green jacket 365 days in a row. He is looking forward to hosting the champions dinner during Masters week, saying Tuesday that the menu will have a distinctive Australian flavor.
"Whether that means they are eating kangaroo, I'm not sure yet," he said.
It is precisely because the customs are so ingrained in the club and the Masters that the demise of the landmark tree -- estimated to be between 100 and 125 years old -- drew such attention. Masters chairman Billy Payne said in a statement announcing the development: "The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept."
It was more strategic than scenic, although big hitters such as 2012 winner Bubba Watson had lately been able to clear it on the fly.
Tiger Woods hit the tree with his drive in 2011 and severely injured his Achilles tendon trying to hit an awkward shot from the pine straw near the base. Jack Nicklaus, on his Facebook page Sunday, wrote that his first thought on the 17th tee always was "to stay away from Ike's Tree . . . I hit it so many times over the years that I don't care to comment on the names I called myself and the names I might have called the tree."
The 65-foot pine was most irksome for former president Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was an enthusiastic Augusta National member. He hit it so often that he vowed to level it with "about one half stick of TNT," according to Catherine Lewis in her book "Don't Ask What I Shot."
She wrote that, after convalescence from a heart attack, Eisenhower was welcomed back with the promise to make any course alterations he wanted. He asked for the tree to be removed, but was rebuffed by then-chairman Clifford Roberts.
Payne said he wants to address the future of No. 17 and honor the tree, adding, "Rest assured, we will do both appropriately."
Scott is confident that Augusta will be just fine, saying, "It really is just a masterpiece for this tournament, that golf course."