Masters 2009 Billy

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This may be Gary Player’s 52nd and final Masters tournament, but The Chairman of Augusta National, Billy Payne, very much hopes he can persuade the South African some time over the summer to hit the first tee shot next year with Arnold Palmer.

“I only found out a couple of days ago that this was going to be Gary’s last Masters,” he said, “but I plan to talk to him soon about that. I’m going to continue talking to Jack Nicklaus as well.”

Payne admitted that the criticism in recent years of his course hurt. “It’s a bit like your daughter doing a piano recital and someone saying they couldn’t stand the awful noise she was making,” he said. “It hurts, but I don’t think the changes we’ve made have contributed to the change in atmosphere. I think that has had more to do with the weather which, for the past couple of years, has not been great. Hopefully, this year, the weather is meant to be fine over the weekend, and we will see a very exciting Tournament.”

He also said that Augusta National would continue to try to spread the game throughout the world and that they will be underwriting a new Asian Amateur Championship this year, with the winner being invited to play in next year’s Tournament.

Payne also indicated that the Champions Dinner, which took place on Tuesday night, was an emotional affair. Jose Maria Olazabal apparently read out a letter from Seve Ballesteros, to all the former champions.