There will be two noticeable absentees from this year's Masters - one sure to be felt considerably more than the other.

Due to the weather that allowed the course itself to be in pristine condition, the iconic azaleas will be missing from behind greens and along the fairways of Augusta National. They bloomed three weeks early and, combined with consecutive frosts, extinguished the chances of adding the usual colour seen on the Masters coverage.

As chairman Billy Payne declared, "this year, we have decided that our colour of choice is green."

But, the loss of a colossus of the history of the tournament will be felt even greater. For the first time in more than 60 years, the Masters will be without four-time champion Arnold Palmer, who died last year, aged 87, leaving a hollow feeling around this year's tournament.


His absence will be noticed straight away, at the ceremonial tee shots - this year hit by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Along with Palmer in recent years, they have officially opened the tournament annually.

Augusta National is planning to pay its respects and honour Arnold Palmer throughout the week. At his annual media conference, chairman Payne wore an "Arnie's Army" badge that will be distributed to all patrons who come through the gates.

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"Tomorrow will no doubt be an emotional goodbye but, at the same time, an even more powerful thank you to the man we dearly love," Payne said. "Through the years, I was fortunate to get close to Arnie, as a consequence of his return both as a member and a former champion. I'm not sure I ever met a man who was more giving than Arnold Palmer. He had a profound influence on my life."

Augusta National is planning to honour Palmer permanently in some way, but according to Payne, exactly how they do that is still to be determined.

Arnold Palmer gives a thumbs up before the ceremonial first tee at last year's Masters. Photo / AP
Arnold Palmer gives a thumbs up before the ceremonial first tee at last year's Masters. Photo / AP

Nicklaus duelled with Palmer over many years and at many majors, invigorating one of golf's most fierce rivalries for many years. Before Palmer's death, it had gelled into one of the sport's closest friendships.

"I don't know how many people realised how much Arnold took me under his wing when I was 20, 22-years-old," Nicklaus remembered. "When I first started on the Tour, Arnold was very good to me. I may have had to fight Arnold's gallery, but I never had to fight him."

Those competing for this year's green jacket believe there's definitely a feel in the clubhouse and players' locker room of something missing.


Three-time champion Phil Mickelson, who's at his 25th Masters and is trying to bounce back from surprisingly missing the cut last year, senses some may struggle with Palmer's absence.

"It's a very awkward feeling not to have Arnold actually be here. You feel his presence, his display, his showcase in the champions locker room." Mickelson explained. "His jacket, clubs, scorecards from past victories, his spirit his here. It will always be here. But not to have his physical presence is extremely awkward."

Palmer played in an incredible 50 Masters tournaments, winning the green jacket four times - 1958, '60, '62 and '64 and finishing in the top 10 on 12 occasions. And, despite the fact he won't be at Augusta National, this year could be one of the most memorable, purely for the celebrations of his special legacy.