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Ice storm downs Augusta National's Eisenhower Tree, proving that Mother Nature is a total bully

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

It's official: Mother Nature is the worst.

Augusta National Golf Club released a statement Sunday confirming that the Eisenhower Tree on the 17th hole had been removed after a recent winter storm "caused irreparable damage" to many of its branches (GolfClubAtlas.com has images of the tree in its damaged state).

5601811306_0ec546d34e_n.jpg"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said in the statement.

The winter storm that swept through the Southeast last week caused wide-sweeping problems for the region, shutting down airports, roads, schools and contributing to a series of accidents. Aside from forcing the removal of the Eisenhower Tree, the storm also blanketed Augusta National in ice and dislodged the course's sign along Magnolia Lane, all less than two months before the Masters.

Related: Mother Nature covered beautiful Augusta National in cold, heartless ice

The Eisenhower Tree, a Loblolly Pine roughly 200 yards down the left side of the 17th hole that was estimated to stand 65-feet high, vaulted into public awareness in 1956. It was then that President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an Augusta National member, lobbied for the tree's removal because of how often he hit it with his tee shot (hence the name). His request was, predictably, denied by club chairman and co-founder Clifford Roberts.

In 2011, Golf Digest detailed multiple changes to the course over the years. Diagrams of the 17th hole illustrate how a small pine in the left center of the fairway grew to be a larger obstacle for golfers off the tee.

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Related: See every change ever made to Augusta National

More recently, in 2011, the Eisenhower Tree made headlines after Tiger Woods injured his knee after hitting a recovery shot out from under it, forcing him to miss the next two major championships.

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Photo by J.D. Cuban

Related: Photo of the Day: Tiger Woods' wild recovery

But with the tree now gone and Augusta National maintaining that preparations for the tournament remain otherwise unaffected, it's worth considering a few questions. For example, can -- and should -- the club replace the tree for this April's major? And what should it do with the wood it saves from the original?

Regardless, the tree may be gone, but it surely won't be forgotten any time soon.

Here's the full release:

Billy Payne, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, confirmed today that the recent ice storm caused irreparable damage to the Eisenhower Tree, resulting in the loss of most major branches. Accordingly, the tree was removed this weekend.

On Sunday, Payne offered the following statement:

"Like so many of our family, friends and neighbors in this community, Augusta National Golf Club has been busy cleaning up after the historic ice storm last week. Everyone affected remains in our hearts and prayers, and we likewise hope for a speedy and complete recovery for all.

"The loss of the Eisenhower Tree is difficult news to accept. We obtained opinions from the best arborists available and, unfortunately, were advised that no recovery was possible.

"We have begun deliberations of the best way to address the future of the 17th hole and to pay tribute to this iconic symbol of our history - rest assured, we will do both appropriately.

"I can report that the golf course sustained no major damage otherwise. We are now open for Member play and we will be unaffected in our preparations for the 2014 Masters Tournament."


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