AUGUSTA, Ga. — The elephant in the room went unaddressed Tuesday evening at the Champions Dinner.
According to multiple past champions, the topic of Masters winners leaving the PGA Tour for LIV Golf was not mentioned during the annual get-together.
“We’re just 33 past champions in a room, all trying to get along,” said 1979 winner Fuzzy Zoeller. “Nobody said a word about it. Phil sat near the end of the table and kept to himself. He didn’t speak at all.”
As for Fred Couples?
“Couples spoke a lot but didn’t mention LIV at all,” 1973 winner Tommy Aaron said. “I sat next to Freddie, and he and Ray Floyd kept trying to figure out how many champions had come out of the final group.”
Ben Crenshaw, who’s been the emcee of the dinner since 2005, welcomed the table by reading a 1954 letter that Ben Hogan had scribed to Masters co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts. The letter shared the significance of being a member of the Masters Club.
“Dear Bob and Cliff,” wrote Hogan, as thirty-three sets of eyes latched to Crenshaw. “Today I received my invitation to the 1954 Masters Tournament and I am delighted to see this familiar invitation again. It brings back memories of the time I received my first invitation, back in 1938. Prior to that year, I remember hoping and praying that my game and record would qualify me for this much-prized invitation.”
Crenshaw paused to ensure all remained engaged. It wasn’t the first two paragraphs that stood out, but rather Hogan’s final words.
“Surely this has to be the most exclusive club of all. Not only do a fortunate few of us have the tournament to look forward to, but the annual meeting of our club as well. Here, long after serious competition for some of us comes to an end, we can still get together and reminisce,” Hogan wrote.
Chairman Fred Ridley also spoke, but similar to Crenshaw, he didn’t mention LIV golf. Instead, Ridley thanked the table for inviting him and shared about alterations to the golf course — most specifically to No. 13 tee box.
After dinner was served, Crenshaw recognized Scottie Scheffler, while lifting a right hand in the shape of the hook ’em horns sign.
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 5, 2023
“Everybody knows how Ben feels about Texas,” Aaron said. “And he made sure the table knew how well Texans have played in Augusta. You know, Crenshaw gave us a big hook ’em horns and he, Scottie and Jordan Spieth all enjoyed that.”
When asked how the food was, Aaron said, “The ribeye was fantastic, but the tortilla soup was spicy as hell.”
Added Fuzzy: “That soup was pretty damn spicy, but I enjoyed everything else.”
Crenshaw then recognized four members of the Masters Club: Tommy Aaron (50th anniversary), Mark O’Meara (25th anniversary), as well as Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle who are competing in their final Masters.
Mize became emotional when addressing the table, saying how much it meant “for an Augusta boy” to win the Masters.
Aaron also spoke, sharing a story about the conclusion of the 1973 Masters when he was inside Butler Cabin waiting for J.C. Snead to finish.
“J.C.’s in the bunker on No. 17, and hits out to about 15 feet,” Aaron told the table. “So Jack looks at me and says, ‘No chance he’ll make this putt. You’ve got the tournament won.’ Well, of course the putt goes in, and I’m thinking, ‘Thanks a lot, Jack.’”
As for Aaron’s thoughts on Mickelson, “I wished him good luck, but I couldn’t believe how quiet he was. Phil took a very low profile. He didn’t say a word.”
— The Masters (@TheMasters) April 5, 2023
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Scheffler, defending Masters Tournament champion, was the guest of honor and the Texan ordered up a dinner of cheeseburger sliders, firecracker shrimp, tortilla soup, Texas ribeye or blackened redfish and for dessert, a warm chocolate chip skillet cookie with milk & cookies ice cream.
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