Masters are springs rite of passage

Augusta welcomes in spring each and every year.

Jonathan Ernst—X90178
Caleb Watson (2nd L)

There is nothing that depicts winter turning to spring for sports fans more than the playing of The Masters.It is at Augusta National Golf Club where the change in seasons melds with the professional golf calendar, the pursuit of major championships and with the privilege and fame that goes with winning one of the game’s most important events.Ninety-four invited golfers will tee it up on Thursday for a shot at golf immortality. Win here, you become a member of one of the world’s most exclusive golf clubs and can come back and play in this tournament as long as you like.The total purse here is $10 million, with $1.8 million going to the winner. But those that capture a victory here amongst the Georgia pines can expect that payout to be much more though the years — and nothing holds the clout in the world of golf than donning the tournament’s famed green jacket.World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, 2015 winner Jordan Spieth, Australia’s driven, powerful and passionate Jason Day and Northern Ireland’s four-time major winner Rory McIlroy head the field that includes the top 50 players in the world.Among those golfers is 2016 champion Danny Willett of England, who outlasted the field when Spieth — who had a five-shot lead as he began play on the back-nine in the final round — dropped six strokes in three holes.”Obviously being back anywhere and defending champion is pretty special,” Willett said. “And to be able to drive down Magnolia Lane with a green jacket in the car and to come back and to be announced on the tee as the defending champion … words can’t really quite describe the feeling.”Willett said the key to winning at Augusta National is finding the correct place to miss shots.”The more and more you play here, you realize certain areas where you can’t go,” Willett said. “You’re not going to have to hit perfect golf shots, but you’re going to have to leave it where you can get up and down or where you can 2 -putt from wherever that may be.”Johnson might not get a chance to join the green jacket club after injuring his lower back following a fall on a staircase, his agent said.”At roughly 3:00 p.m. (Wednesday), Dustin took a serious fall on a staircase in his Augusta rental home,” his agent David Winkle of Hambric Sports said in a statement, per Golf Digest. “He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably. He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play (Thursday).”Spieth has finished tied for second, first and tied for second in the past three years at The Masters.”I like the golf course specifically. I like the elevation changes, the sidehill lies, the pull to Rae’s Creek, the way it affects putts,” Spieth said. “It’s imaginative golf. It’s feel golf and I really enjoy that; when I can go away from technicality and toward feel, it’s an advantage for me personally, compared to how I play other places.”Even more, I really love the tournament,” he added. “It’s pure golf. “When we get to the driving range, it’s just us. It’s myself, my caddie, my coach. You can just get out there and get done what you want to get done.Spieth said he has shrugged off last year’s disappointment and expects to play well and contend this week.”I’m excited about the opportunity ahead, which is now I can go back and really tear this golf course up,” Spieth said. “I’ve got the opportunity now to go back and really create more great memories on the back nine of Augusta, which we’ve had in the past on Sunday. And if it happens this year, fantastic. I will do all I can to see all the positives and to grind it out like we did in 2015. And if it doesn’t happen this year, then I’ll be ready the next year to do it.”