Reflecting on the loss of the Eisenhower Tree

By Jason SobelApril 7, 2014, 5:43 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – This is a story about a tree.

But really, it’s about so much more than that.

This is a story about a tree that was born lucky.

One estimation suggests there are more than 400 billion trees in the world. Some stand tall in parks, their limbs teeming with adventurous children on sunny afternoons. Others remain hidden in forests, angling and growing without causing so much as a double-take from human life.

This tree caused plenty of double-takes. And fist-shakes. And even a few knee-quakes and eventual backaches.

A loblolly pine that first grew its roots more than a century ago, this tree happened to be standing on what would become hallowed ground when Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones built their vision of Augusta National Golf Club. Located on the left side of the 17th hole, 180 yards from the tee – later expanded to 210 yards away – it became the most famous tree on the course. Heck, the most famous tree in golf. One of the most famous trees in the world.

This is a story about a tree with a name.

They called it the Eisenhower Tree – in a cruel twist of irony. President Dwight D. Eisenhower hated it. Every time he played the course’s penultimate hole, it seemed, he would hit his tee shot squarely into this tree.


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“He didn't like the tree at all,” recalled his friend, Arnold Palmer. “A couple of times he told me, ‘Arnie, if I could hit that tree enough to bring it down, I'd do it.’”

It happened so much that in 1956, Eisenhower proposed during the club’s governors’ meeting that this tree be cut down immediately. According to which ending you’d rather believe, Roberts either overruled the president or, not wanting to offend him, quickly adjourned the meeting.

Either way, this tree remained.

This is a story about a tree with a place in history.

“I played Augusta every year since that tree was a baby and I watched it grow up,” said Palmer, who won four Masters titles. “And, yes, I had encounters with it. I won the Masters one year when I hit it right into the tree and hit a 4‑iron from under the tree on to the 17th green. So it was a problem to everybody.”

Tommy Aaron, who won the Masters in 1973, hit his Pinnacle into this tree one year. All the locals promised him the balls always come down, but his never did. Well, not that day. The next day, though, he was walking by this tree with his caddie and – plop! – down came that Pinnacle, right in front of him.

Three years ago, four-time champion Tiger Woods hit a tee shot under this tree. In attempting to play his next shot, his foot slipped on the pine straw beneath it. Despite still saving par, he injured his Achilles and didn’t compete again for four months.

“I can't say some of the guys are going to miss it,” said Woods, who isn’t here this week, “but we are going to certainly see a difference. There's no doubt about that.”

This is a story about a tree that met its untimely demise.

On Feb. 16, 2014 it was announced that this tree was gone. A furious ice storm had ravaged Augusta, causing unrescuable damage to its limbs. Club officials, on the advice of arborists, had the tree uprooted and removed.

“The loss of the Eisen­hower Tree is difficult news to accept,” chairman Billy Payne said via statement. “Unfortunately, we were advised that no recovery was possible.”

The ensuing reaction ranged from sentimental (“It's a shame that it was destroyed,” said Jim Furyk) to rational (“I'm glad to see it go; I've hit it far too many times,” admitted Matt Kuchar) to philosophical (“Anything that lives will eventually die, I guess,” surmised Adam Scott) to existential (“It's a tree,” concluded Rory McIlroy).

This is a story about a tree no longer.

On Monday morning, before severe rains swept through the area and caused a suspension of the Masters practice round, volunteer marshal Franklin Wilson was asked where this tree had been located.

He pointed to a spot about 10 yards inside the left part of the fairway, on a little upslope. The ground was perfect green grass, nothing to show the aftereffect of this year’s storm or the death of one of the world’s most famous trees.

Nothing, that is, except one small pine cone, placed upright on the ground to memorialize this tree.

“Who put that there?” the marshal is asked.

“One of those guys,” he said pointing to some fellow volunteers. “He got tired of answering all the questions.”

There remain other questions about this tree. Where is it right now? What will happen to it? Will it be replaced?

There are rumors that it could be turned into benches, a more fitting memorial than the lone pinecone. There are rumors that another tree could serve as a replacement someday.

These matters either haven’t yet been determined or, like so many decisions at Augusta National, have remained classified until the time officials choose to make them known.

To wit: When the tournament’s media guide was first printed earlier this year, it included a course map showing the tree. When a revised edition was handed out this week, it included mention of the tree, but had removed it from the map.

All we know is that on a spot where history once sprouted from the ground, now stands nothingness. What was previously an old loblolly pine with a century’s worth of stories is now just a patch of grass like so many others on the course.

This is a story about a tree.

But really, it’s about so much more than that.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.