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Past Champions May Dwindle

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One of the traditions that makes The Masters unlike any other major is participation by its past champions for as long as they like.
 
That leads to some rare appearances in a major by Doug Ford, Arnold Palmer and Gay Brewer. But now that Augusta National is tougher than ever, some of the past champions might want to gracefully bow out rather than get embarrassed.
 
'I honestly think some of the guys won't play,' Tiger Woods said. 'If we get a cool, north wind -- which we can get -- it's not inconceivable over-par will win. So, I think some of the guys are going to have to quit.'
 
Jack Nicklaus said as much recently when asked if he was worried the changes, which feature nearly 300 extra yards and expanded bunkers, might make him or some of the older players look foolish.
 
'I certainly want to play there, but I don't want to make a fool of myself either,' said Nicklaus, a six-time champion who turned 62 last month.
 
Ford announced last week that he wouldn't play this year, ending his appearances at 49 at Augusta National.
 
Gary Player told Golf World magazine he is using this year's Masters as a test case for whether he will return.
 
'I'm in favor of what Augusta is doing, but it's going to kill me, kill Jack and eventually kill Raymond (Floyd),' he said. 'It's going to hurt a lot of guys who have won The Masters and who are seniors now.
 
'Jack nearly won the dang thing a couple of years ago, and I made the cut at 62. But as Jack so correctly said, our time has passed.'
 
Woods said he loves to see Palmer in the field because 'he's the king.'
 
But would he enjoy seeing Palmer, who shot in the 80s last year in a Senior Tour event, struggle to post a score that could approach triple digits?
 
'As a fan of Arnold Palmer, I don't want to see him play poorly,' Woods said. 'And the golf course now, it's just like any other player who doesn't hit the ball very long. They're going to struggle. And they're going to struggle a lot.'
 
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