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Payne holds his annual news conference at the Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta National chairman Billy Payne held his annual news conference on the eve of the Masters and weighed in on various topics like the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, the loss of the Eisenhower Tree, Tiger Woods and the infamous drop ruling that surrounded last year’s Masters.

Here’s a smattering of Payne’s best comments:

• The absence of Tiger Woods: “We miss Tiger, as does the entire golf world. What I like best about Tiger is, no matter where he is on a specific day, he is such a competitor. He is always a threat to make a run and do well and win here at Augusta National.”

• Thoughts on last year’s Tiger Woods ruling about the improper drop: “I think that we made the right decision. I believe that the golf world has affirmed that. I know that some of you disagree with the decision. Nevertheless, I think it is important that we communicate quickly with people, as we have a serious matter under deliberation, and we’re going to do that.”

• Regarding the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship: “I was somewhat surprised that I have been approached by virtually all of our members recounting all of the emails that they have received quite independent of me or the organization, rather to say how wonderful they believe the effort was. I think as we all attended, and as I’ve said once before, it was extraordinarily powerful.”

• News relating to the loss of the Eisenhower Tree: “I’ll make a confession here. At the time it happened, I was in the Bahamas bonefishing. I received the emergency call, got back as fast as I could.”

• Plans for No. 17 now that the tree is gone: “We do not have a definitive plan as to what, if anything, we will do to the 17th hole beyond this year’s tournament. We are closely examining play and scoring on the hole this week, and will make a decision after careful observation and consideration.”

• Benefits of the club since allowing female members: “As I’ve said before, we readily and joyously welcomed our lady members when that happened a couple years ago, and it remains a very good decision on our part.”

• Should the R&A vote to allow female membership: “Well, I’m proud to be a member of the R&A and I bet you can guess how I’m going to vote.”