Masters invitees enjoy the National before the Tournament

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April 1, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It isn't hard to imagine why golfers get excited when the Masters rolls around, and that may be the case even moreso this year. The Tournament is still four days away, but there was a championship feel at the Augusta National already today.

The annual new coats of green paint were being added to the curbs at the Augusta National, and the deep green grass was getting its own touch-up...but there was also a glut of Green Jackets on the course as well.

Let's do the Masters math on the early arrivals. There was Seve Ballesteros, owner of two Green Jackets; Phil Mickelson, who also has two; Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam, who have three among them, and Gary Player who has three all by himself. Then there's Tiger Woods, who has four. No, that's not an April Fool's joke--the world's number one was already out at the National today.

From the famous front lawn to the flower bed, the final preps weren't quite done, but that didn't stop the world's best from showing up the Sunday before the Masters.

"Quiet Sunday...stand out back and look at all the holes," said Jim Furyk, here for his 11th Masters. "It's too pretty to pass up on Sunday."

"The tradition has maintained itself all through the years, and it's still the best-run golf tournament in the world," said Gary Player. This will be his 50th Masters.

Players like Augusta's Charles Howell III and fellow Georgia native Davis Love III have also gotten to work early this week. Everyone's just excited to be on the grounds, and that may go double for the first-timers.

"I'm sure I'm gonna be nervous, but I've got a lot to gain, a lot to learn, and a lot of fun to have," said first-timer Camillo Villegas.

When can Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson walk around a golf course without hordes of people following them? The Sunday before the Masters, when the world's best players get the world's most famous course all to themselves.

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