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Stadlers play nice as first father-son tandem in Masters

Craig Stadler, left, and his son Kevin Stadler

Craig Stadler, left, and his son Kevin Stadler from the US, pose for Mark Calcavecchia's caddie during a practice round April 7, 2014 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia as they prepare for the 2014 Masters Golf Tournament. Credit: Getty Images / Timothy A. Clary

AUGUSTA, Ga. - To the best of his recollection, Kevin Stadler never has beaten his dad, Craig, in a round of golf.

"When I was a kid, I would shoot 77 and he would shoot 76. I would shoot 68, he would shoot 67. It was just kind of the way it added up, strangely," Kevin said Monday. "I don't know if he had a special pencil or how that worked."

It happened Monday, too, at Augusta National Golf Club. They played two holes together before thunderstorms forced the course to be closed. Craig said they tied. Kevin, 36, said, "That birdie I made on two doesn't count, huh?" Craig, 60, said, "You didn't make that putt." Kevin told a group of reporters: "He's paying a lot of attention."

The whole golf world is paying attention to the two of them this week because they are the first father-son tandem ever to be in the same field at the Masters. Fate, it turns out, has the special pencil, even if it wrote in crooked lines.

In any case, it caused both Stadlers to be listed together on a scoreboard Monday. "That got me a little bit," said Craig, whose victory in the 1982 Masters earned him the right to play here as long as he would like -- long enough to be joined by Kevin, who earned his way in by winning the Phoenix Open this year.

"I had envisioned this and knew it would happen someday. I was hoping it would happen someday," Craig said.

Kevin has grown up knowing the ropes, so to speak, and now he finally gets to go inside them. "I couldn't wait for April every year, when I was a kid, to come out here and just run rampant around the golf course and just watch him," he said.

All of which would seem to make a heartwarming story, except it falls just short.

It is no secret on the PGA and Champions Tour, where the Stadlers play, that the relationship has been strained. Published reports say Kevin sometimes has not spoken with his father after the latter's 2006 divorce from Sue, to whom the son remains close.

But the pull of pro golf and the draw of the Masters brought enough of a thaw to have them sign up for practice rounds together Monday and Tuesday, and to have a joint news conference -- however awkward it might have been at times.

"It's going to be good, yeah," was as far as Kevin dipped into the well of sentiment.

"I'm sure it's a lifelong dream for both. I know Kev is extremely excited about it and I'm sure Craig is as well," said Matt Jones, a close friend of the younger Stadler who dramatically won his way into the field with a chip-in victory in Houston on Sunday and is scheduled to practice with the father-son pair Tuesday.

The elder Stadler did fondly recall the time they won a father-son tournament in which Kevin routinely outdrove him by 40 yards. For this week, he said, "I'm just going to be out there slashing around trying to make the cut and he's going to be trying to win the golf tournament."

No matter what their scorecards say, you can chalk up Craig, the often sarcastic character known as the Walrus, for a big lump in his throat.

"I get people every week that say, 'I saw your boy play at Phoenix or at Muirfield. I chatted with him. Wonderful guy,' " Craig said. 'Everything I have ever heard about Kevin on the golf course is positive, from everybody. As a dad, you can't get any better than that."

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