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"That's Tiger's ball!" a man shouts as the little white orb shoots past me and skids to a halt some fifty feet off the fairway, perched atop needles that have settled under the high pines of the ninth hole. (Opening photo: The scoreboard below the club house, right of the first fairway.)

As usual, he has out-driven the players in his threesome, but this time the shot is somewhat off course. We move quickly, gathering around the ball leaving Tiger just enough room for his back swing and a clear angle through the woods to the ninth green. He crouches to inspect the trajectory his ball must travel under the low-hanging branches and up the slope toward the yellow flag that marks the hole.

He confers briefly with his caddy and without hesitation pulls an iron from his golf bag, lines up the shot and, WHOOSH! He takes what has become one of the most recognizable and enviable swings in the game. The ball stays low for some 40 feet slipping under the trees before coming into the clear and climbing the hill in a perfect loft to reach the green and land inside 25 feet from the pin. The patrons, as spectators are known at this event, erupt in cheers sprinkled with expressions of "Get in the hole!" and "You're the man!"

Tiger Woods on the 10th green with Olazabel and Wittenberg
(who ended up as low amateur, tied for 13th).

Halfway through the second day of the 2004 contest, we've just seen one more display of precision shot making by Tiger Woods, the game's best-known young player and its Number One icon worldwide.

We're here at the Augusta National Country Club in Augusta, Georgia, home of The Masters - golf's greatest competition. And we're here as part of this grand gathering due in large part to a young man who, nearly three-quarters of a century ago, had a magnificent idea for a golf course and a national tournament. Following his retirement from championship golf in 1930 at age twenty eight, Bobby Jones, winner of 13 major championships in the seven years prior and the game's first Grand Slam Champion (then completed by winning the U.S Amateur and U.S. Open and the British Amateur and British Open in the same year) was poised to pursue his idea of building a new kind of golf course.

He got together with Clifford Roberts, a friend of Jones since the mid- 1920s, and in 1931 the two looked to Augusta with its Georgia Pines, soft hills, and temperate climate as the place to realize their dream. They purchased the 365-acre property called Fruitland Nurseries and retained Dr. Alister Mackenzie as architect for what would become Augusta National.

The huge contour dip in front
of the 10th green with the
11th tee in background.

Jones' vision was for a course that would utilize the natural advantages of the property using mounds rather than too many bunkers to create challenges for the players. In our days at Augusta we will walk the 18 holes, sprinting over fairways and through tall pines to chase players, skirting past water hazards and sand traps, climbing over Jones' mounds and up and down the abundant hills. And more than once I will think to myself, "Man, is there any level ground on this course?"

The Augusta National Golf Club had its formal opening in January of 1933 with the first National Invitation Tournament a year later in 1934. In 1937, club members began to wear the signature green jackets during the tournament so that patrons could easily identify a reliable source of information. Just two years later, in 1939, the competition officially became known as The Masters and in 1949 the first green jacket "trophy" was awarded to Sam Snead, that year's Masters Champion.

Over the half century Fruitland Nurseries had been in business its owners had imported trees and plants from around the globe. While the nursery had ceased operation more than a decade before the tandem of Jones and Roberts arrived, there were still a wide variety of flowering plants and trees on the property. This variety included a row of magnolias, which was planted before the Civil War and another plant, popularized by the former owners, called the Azalea. Today, visitors to Augusta National enter through the main gate and drive 330 yards between the 61 Magnolia trees that line the legendary Magnolia Lane before arriving at the Founders Circle in front of the clubhouse, a building that dates back 150 years to a man named Dennis Redmond, owner of what was then an indigo plantation. In the Founders Circle are two plaques, one dedicated to Bobby Jones and the other to Clifford Roberts.

Gary Player on 18th viewed from right side of 18th fairway.

The Masters is played each April with temperatures often in the 80s, bringing the Azalea blossoms to their peak. Followers of this annual rite of spring include millions of television viewers worldwide accustomed to the picture-perfect scenes of storied course locations — like Amen Corner, composed of the second half of hole No. 11, all of hole No. 12, and the first half of hole No. 13. Credit for the Amen Corner moniker goes to Herbert Warren Wind who used the term in a 1958 Sports Illustrated article. Wind was searching for a name for the location where that year's critical action had taken place. His source for the name was an old jazz recording "Shouting at Amen Corner", by a band led by Mezz Mezzrow, the Chicago clarinetist. That year the tournament was won by Arnold Palmer, who would go on to become The Masters' first four-time Champion: 1958, 1960, 1962, and 1964.

This year Arnold Palmer retired from The Masters after 50 years in the limelight having played more Masters than anyone else, all consecutively. As he walked the fairways of his final round, doffing his cap and flashing his infectious smile, Palmer was followed by waves of applause and a gallery that stood to cheer every shot. In 2004, "Arnie's Army" completed its last tour of duty, one characterized by great affection for the man who, more than any other, had come to embody the spirit, personality, and tradition of the game he loved so much.

Jetsetters Magazine Golf MallOfficially, tickets to The Masters are available only to those on the patrons list, which is fully subscribed. The first tournament to sell out prior to its opening was in 1966. In 1972, the patrons list was closed and a waiting list was established. It remained closed until 2000 when names were added, but the waiting list was then closed again with the expectation that no additions would be made in the foreseeable future.

Unofficially, there is a brisk annual business in tickets resold by those on the patrons list often combined with rental homes in packages that can top $25,000 for the week. Golf's gathering of its greatest players is also a time of congregation for corporate America and its Captains of industry. For those intrepid travelers without patron or corporate connections there are reports of some success finding tickets on eBay. The fortunate few treat them like gold. We met a man from Portland, Oregon who, on short notice, traveled cross country because he had landed a ticket for one day of the tournament.

The 13 hole viewed from the approximate
area of the second shot.

Our host is John Cavanagh, an entrepreneur with an international company out of Atlanta. John's two plus decades at The Masters have earned him the insider's knowledge necessary to capture six tickets good for the entire event plus a twelve room, wooded-estate in a private, pond-side setting twenty minutes from the main gate. Between Wednesday and Sunday, he'll entertain friends and augment his relationship with clients from some of the country's better-known national retailers.

The 13th hole looking back toward
tee (12th green is in middle of photo).

John informs our party that not all the action at Augusta takes place between the tee and the green and invites us to join in another Masters' tradition — the "Calcutta." This one is put together by a group of regulars on the Wednesday before the opening and appears for this night like a spontaneous gentlemen's club out for an evening barbecue.

This year, the location is a very large, southern-style brick colonial in Augusta where 50 men of considerable means chow down on hamburgers and hot dogs and gulp cold drinks while plotting strategies for the evening's auction. Here, teams bid for players in amounts ranging from $500 to $10,000, with Tiger Woods auctioned off in half shares of around $9,000 each. Within a couple of hours of competitive, but friendly wagering, the field of starting players is sold and a pool of over $125,000 is raised for Sunday's payoff. The team with the winning player will take home over $65,000, with $28,000 going to the runner up and nearly $17,000 awarded to the third-place finisher.

We watch anxiously as several past winners and current hot players get auctioned off in rapid succession. On this night our team's designated bidders have decided to wait until the last three players are posted and then make a run for Phil Mickelson. The bids climb quickly and we urge our guys to go higher with shouts of "Go get him!" and "Don't hold back!", but at $10,000 they quit the bid and let Mickelson go to another team for $10,300.

It's a big bet for a player who, though hugely successful with twenty-two PGA wins, has yet to win a major title. (The Masters is one of four "Majors" in the modern Grand Slam, the others being the British Open, U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship.) It's a bet, however, that is destined to payoff. We're disappointed, irked actually to settle for V.J Singh who, while staying in contact with the field throughout the competition, winds up out of the money tied for sixth place.

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What follows on the golf course is four days featuring the best suspense The Masters can offer. The leader at the end of days one and two is the 24-year-old Englishman, Justin Rose who stands at six under par when the cut to 44 players is made for the final two rounds.

In the hunt are South African Ernie Els, American Phil Mickelson, and several past Masters Champions, including America's Fred Couples, Germany's Bernard Langer, Fiji's V.J. Singh, and the Spaniard, Jose Marie Olazabal, with former Florida All-American, Chris DiMarco in his fourth appearance, Korean K.J. Choi in his second and Englishman Paul Casey in his first, hanging tough with the big name players. Tiger Woods, already a three-time Masters Champion is tied for 14th place and will not make a serious run for the lead in 2004.

Saturday is "moving day" at The Masters and move they did. After a rain delay late Friday afternoon put 18 players back on the course early Saturday morning to finish their second round, the field is in place. A disastrous 42 on the front nine and 39 on the back sends Justin Rose reeling to a 20th place tie with Olazabal, Woods, and Sergio Garcia, who would shoot a phenomenal 6 under par 66 in the final round to tie Langer for fourth place. Heading into the third round, Mickelson said his goal was to get to or be tied for the lead. In the past he'd been chasing the leaders on the final day and the results were four, anticlimactic, third place finishes. This time he was determined to get it all and as the sun set on Saturday with 54 holes complete Chris Dimarco and Phil Mickelson were indeed tied for the lead with Casey, Choi, Langer and Els right behind.

Arnie walking toward his tee shot on 5th fairway
with forecaddy (with yellow flag) in distance.

The final day at Augusta is one of the most anticipated in all of sports and this year's last round delivered everything you would expect. Els, playing in front, shot 2-under par 34 on the front nine with an eagle on the 8th hole while Mickelson managed only one birdie and threw in 3 bogeys to go out 2 over par. Els had picked up 4 strokes on the leader in just 9 holes and led by 1 going into the final nine. Mickelson fans began to wonder if, once again, the wheels were coming off his game. Els finished strong on the back nine with another eagle on 13 and a birdie on 15. He pared the final three holes and was in the clubhouse at 67 with a one stroke lead. Els could do nothing more than wait for the finish.

For Mickelson it would be a day for making history. He shot 31 on the back nine — the lowest third round finish for a winner since Jack Nicklaus shot 30 in 1986. He arrived at the final hole of the tournament needing a par to tie Els and a birdie to win it. He used a 3 wood off the tee and found the fairway. His second shot came in directly over the flagstick and wound up 18 feet beyond the pin. His putt circled the left edge of the cup but found the hole and dropped in for the birdie and the win. For thousands of his fans who encircled the 18th green and for millions more watching the drama on TV, it was a moment of equal parts joy and relief. Finally, after 12 tries at The Masters, Phil Mickelson would come home the winner.

Duffer DVDs"Winning this tournament, the reason it's so special is that now I get to be part of this great event for the rest of my life. I'll be back here every first week of April and I will look forward to this tournament every year for the rest of my life," Mickelson said.

And whether it's viewing in person or watching on TV we'll be back, too. The Masters is the greatest gathering in golf.

— By Jim Hollister, New England Correspondent; (Editor's Note: It is strictly forbidden for spectators to photograph the players during actual Masters tournament play; photos were taken by John Gobel in the 2004 practice rounds.)

MAXAM Executive Golf Putter Set Compact Travel Case

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MAXAM Executive Golf Putter Set Compact Travel Case

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Golf Bag #MHB5018 is a Golf Accessory by Mulholland Brothers

SweetSpot 51 Large Staff Size Durable Hard Golf Travel Case

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SweetSpot makes a strong case for outperforming the competition with advanced technology and innovation. So you can pack up your clubs with confidence, knowing that there's not a travel case on the market that can protect the life of your clubs like SweetSpot. Rugged, rotationally molded polyethylene casing is guaranteed for life. Ultra quiet indestructible Colson wheels feature an oversized nylon axle insert and thermal elastomer tread. Oversized axle ensures unsurpassed strength and support. Handles are ergonomically designed and molded-in for durability and carrying ease. Industrial-strength latches are secured with bull-nosed rivets and recessed for ultimate protection in luggage handling. Strong, quality keys that won't bend or break. SweetSpot 51 Large Staff Size Durable Hard Travel Case will fit a 13 Golf Bag and a driver up to 48 long. Available colors: Granite, Black

Golf Travel By Design: How You Can Play The World's Best Courses By The Sports Top Architects (book)

Golf Travel By Design: How You Can Play The World's Best Courses By The Sports Top Architects (book)

This book reveals the philosophy and intent behind the top designers' sculpted courses. It shares the style, tricks, and trade secrets of nineteen of the world's top designers, profiles their best publicly accessible courses, and provides travel-related information. This insider knowledge can help increase your enjoyment, and lower your score, as you play some of the most beautiful courses available to the traveling golfer. With classic black and white pictures throughout the pages, an easy-to-read layout and sections dedicated to full color photography, this book is a great addition to any golfer's collection.

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Callaway Golf Atlanta Braves 35 Inch Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Putter

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The passion of Major League Baseball meets the technology of Callaway Golf. It's the perfect pitch to help baseball fans enjoy the game.

America's Toughest Golf Holes

America's Toughest Golf Holes

The latest volume in the world-wide best selling series of 'Toughest Golf Holes'. Other volumes include: UK & Ireland; Europe: Australia: New Zealand' South Africa: South East Asia; Hawaii: Canada.The staff of MBI wish to take this opportunity to state that, keen swingers though they may be in the privacy of their own homes, none amongst them have at any time played any of the golf holes herein illustrated and lived to tell about it. They therefore respectfully decline any and all responsibility to such readers who, in playing any of these golf holes, finish with a double bogey, broken club, or loss of limb.Paperback - 10-3/4' x 10-3/4' - 64 pages - 35 color

The Masters

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Net Pack Bag Luggage Golf Travel Cover #NPB8150

Great Big Bertha™ Cart Golf Bag Carrier

Pro Action Golf Flight Bag.

Great Big Bertha™ Staff Tour Golf Bag Carrier

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Cargo Golf Bag Stand

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Arnold Palmer 50Th Masters Tin

The Making of the Masters: Clifford Roberts, Augusta National, and Golf's Most Prestigious Tournament

Jack Nicklaus - Master of the Masters - Framed Unsigned Photograph with Golf Ball

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I Remember Augusta : A Stroll Down Memory and Magnolia Lanes at America's Most Fascinating Golf Club, Home of the Masters Tou

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