AUGUSTA — Celebrating it's 75th anniversary in 2009, the Masters, according to the game's best players, has become the world's most prestigious golf tournament.
"The difference between (the Masters) and the other majors is that this event is played here every year, and history is made here every year," said two-time champion Phil Mickelson on Tuesday. "You can look back on Gene Sarazen in '35, or Ben Hogan's great tournaments here. At a place like Pebble Beach, memories are made maybe once every 10 years, but here, history is made all the time."
From the 'Jack-Arnie' duels of the '60s to Nicklaus' age defying win in 1986 and a young Tiger Woods' dominant performance in 1997, the list of historic moments has grown as steadily as the giant oak trees overlooking the course.
"It's a lifetime goal to play at the Masters," said four-time champion Woods, who admits watching his final round in '97 whenever it's replayed on television. "You see guys you've idolized all you life just walking around. It's special."
Prospects for 2009
After the combination of Mickelson and Woods won five of the six Masters tournaments between 2001 and 2006, relative unknowns (Zach Johnson in '07, Trevor Immelmen in '08) have captured the last two green jackets. Mickelson expects that to change in 2009.
"The way he's playing, I expect Tiger to be (on the leaderboard) on Sunday. I think I'll be there too,” he said.
If that's the case, the Tiger-Phil duel many golf fans have longed for over the years may finally come to fruition. "For me to succeed, I can't get caught up in (the rivalry), and he can't get caught up in it either. I just have to play the course."
Mickelson says he also expects Padraig Harrington, who has won the last two majors, to be near the lead. Woods, asked if expects to win the tournament, stoically responded 'always'.
Divots: When Tiger Woods was reminded he was now one of the older players in the tournament field, a joking Woods responded, "I'm not teeing off on the first hole yet to start this thing." In fact, as part of a tradition that dates back to 1963, Arnold Palmer has served as honorary starter for the Masters since 2007. ... Mickelson played 18 holes of golf, his only practice round before the tournament, Tuesday morning with Florida State student and amateur Drew Kittleson. He said he expects Kittleson to play 'very well' this week, citing his long drives and knowledge of the course. ...Charles Morris, President of Morris Multimedia and owner of the Statesboro Herald, serves as Chairman of the scoring committee for the Masters tournament. Morris has served in that capacity for 'about 25 years,' and uses over 50 placed 'scorers' around the course to relay every observed shot for every player throughout the tournament to their scoring office. Using course-wide Wifi, the scores are then sent to the manuel scoreboard operators for display to the public. In 2008, the entire scoring operation over the four-day tournament made only two mistakes that were later corrected. ...Pairings for Thursday have been announced. Woods will tee off at 1:52 p.m. with Stewart Cink and Jeev Milkha Singh, and Mickelson tees off at 10:45 a.m. with Camilo Villegas and Jim Furyk.