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An early Masters look and more

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ORLANDO, Fla. – Tiger Woods wasn’t the only player doing an early scouting trip to Augusta National on Monday. Steve Marino and Ryan Palmer also made a run down Magnolia Lane to prep for next month’s event.

Among the highlights of the trip was the new practice tee, which replaces the member’s range this year and features two fairways, one that sways left and a dogleg right, a perfect replica of the par-5 second green, complete with four pin positions, and a heated teeing area to avoid possible frost delays.

“It’s sick,” Marino said of the new range which, by most accounts, will be open three weeks out of the year: Masters week, member-member week and opening week. “It looks like it’s been there forever.”

As for Woods – who announced last week he will make his return to Tour golf at the Masters after a five-month, self-imposed hiatus – Marino and Palmer said they saw him on the range working with Hank Haney before teeing off of No. 1. Marino and Palmer teed off from No. 10.

“I watched him hit a few and said hello,” Palmer said. “He looked good but what can I tell? He looks like he always does.”

So did Augusta National, despite a frigid winter that left the Georgia gem under snow as recently as last month. Marino said the layout was predictably impeccable and estimated the greens were rolling at about 11 on the Stimpmeter.

“It’s was really cold, but it is Augusta. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Marino said.

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