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Amen Corner still front and center
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I write you from Amen Corner.
    The exuberant and slightly sunburnt gallery has long departed from this Tuesday at Augusta National Golf Club.
    Writers are typing away on deadline in the press arena.
    A few concession workers are packing up boxes behind the grandstand, and a lone security guard stands like a scarecrow atop Hogan’s Bridge.
    This place, where Rae's Creek intersects the 13th fairway near the tee, then parallels the front edge of the green on the short 12th and finally swirls alongside the 11th green, may be the most beautiful place on Earth.
    A place like this, with pines and magnolias towering above the bursting springtime hues of the dogwoods and the azaleas — oh, those azaleas — is only supposed to make dreams.
    Sitting here, it’s almost hard to believe that it can crush them too.
    If my dreams were crushed here, I’m not sure I would know it, as the birds sing their greatest soundtrack above me.
    This weekend, this place on the outer edge of the world’s most scenic canvas will serve as more than a jewel to the eye. Those who know this course best know that this corner holds the power to capture the planet’s most desired golf title — Masters champion.
    Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won this tournament a combined 13 times. They know. Mickelson, in fact, blistered his most famous shot from these pine needles, a 205-yard tree splitting 5-iron on the 13th hole that led to his last Masters title in 2010.
    “If you don’t pay (Amen Corner) the respect that it deserves, it’ll bite you with a double,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “Especially 11. When you start thinking birdies and firing at flags, and you make a mistake, it just bites you.”
    Tiger too knows how these holes can change a tournament, as well as how they can simply change, especially the wind patterns.
    “You hear guys saying don’t pull a club on 12 until you see the flags on 11 and 12 moving the same direction. They are never, ever moving the same direction,” a relaxed Woods said Tuesday. “It just swirls. You get down there and Bobby Jones has turned this fan on.”
    Bobby Jones’ fan is currently off as the sun sets on this Tuesday. If history is any indication, it’ll come on with growing galleries of the weekend.
    And Nicklaus, now 73 but with the memory to recall specific shots from a half-century before, believes that the crowd is part of the allure.
    “I think it’s a great conglomeration of circumstances,” the 6-time Masters champion said Tuesday. “People can sit there and watch you play all three holes from one location. There are not many places in golf where you can do that. It’s a great thing that has come together.”
    The sun is down. Thankfully, it will rise five more days this week, and this beautiful danger will be on display once more. 

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