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Kevin and Craig Stadler make Augusta National a bonding experience

AUGUSTA, Ga. Among Kevin Stadler’s favorite childhood memories are his days of running around Augusta National Golf Club, watching his dad Craig and others play in the Masters.

“I couldn’t wait for April every year, to come out here and just run rampant around the golf course and just watch him and the (dads) of all the other kids,” Kevin Stadler said Monday. “I used to love tagging around tournaments.”

This week Kevin is doing more than just tagging around. He’s making history with his dad. Kevin and Craig will be back at Augusta, this time both playing in the Masters – the first time a father and son have played in the tournament at the same time.

“This is a very, very cool thing,” said Craig, 60, the 1982 Masters champion.

Kevin was 2 when Craig won the Masters, beating Dan Pohl on the first hole of a playoff. It was one of Craig Stadler’s four victories in 1982.

Kevin, 34, qualified for this year’s Masters by winning the Phoenix Open, edging Bubba Watson and Graham DeLaet by one stroke after overcoming a two-shot deficit. He played a round at Augusta last weekend with his dad, only the second time he has played the course. The Stadlers were able to play two practice holes Monday before the round was rained out at 10 a.m.

“I actually love his game for this golf course,” said Craig. “You do have to hit that high ball with the irons a little bit. I think he’s just a wonderful iron player. Having your iron game down here makes this course so much easier.”

Craig’s expectations aren’t much for what will be his 38th Masters appearance.

“It’s special, but I’m just going to be out there slashing around, trying to make the cut,” Craig said. Kevin “is going to be trying to win the golf tournament. In that regard, we’re a little bit different.”

Kevin won’t treat Thursday any differently than any other day that happens to be the first round of a major golf tournament in which he has never played – even if his dad also is playing.

“This is just like any other day,” said Kevin. “It’s my dad. That’s all I know. I’ve never known how to answer that question.”

Notes

• Monday’s practice round was called off and Augusta National’s gates were closed at 10 a.m. when a hard, persistent rain moved in. It was the first time since 2007 that the gates weren’t open because of bad weather.

• Jimmy Walker is the first player in 44 years to win three tournaments before his Masters debut (Sony Open, Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Fry’s.com Open last October). Not only did he qualify for his first Masters, but he also leads the FedEx Cup standings.

“I’m here to play well,” said Walker, who said he has played Augusta National several times during the past three years. “I’m here to have a chance. I want to win and I think everybody wants to do that. So why can’t a rookie win?”

• Steve Stricker said he’s not unhappy that Augusta National removed the Eisenhower Tree from the 17th fairway after it suffered significant damage during a recent ice storm.

“I’ve hit it a few times and I know it’s a thorn in most players’ sides,” said Stricker. “I don’t know if any of the players are sad to see it leave. I’m surprised there isn’t a bigger one in place there already, to tell you the truth.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14
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