Should the Eisenhower Tree be replaced at Augusta? Three legends weigh in

The imposing shadow of the Eisenhower Tree which loomed large around 210 yards from the tee on the left-hand side of the par-four hole is no more. Removed in February this year after suffering serious damage in an ice storm, the giant pine was loved by some and despised by others, most notably former President Dwight D Eisenhower (of whom the tree was named), who hit it so often that he asked for it to be removed.

The Eisenhower Tree was as much a part of Augusta as the golf – which is why Augusta chairman Billy Payne said on Wednesday that the club did not yet have definitive plans on whether to replace it or leave the spot clear.

Speaking on Thursday, six-time champion Nicklaus weighed in on the subject, saying: "I look at the area, it does look a little naked. It's not only Ike's tree, but Little Ike and a couple other trees were gone.

"But they really had no effect on the play of the golf tournament. I think the statistics show that there's been an average of maybe five of six balls that have hit the tree a year by bad shots, and it affected the membership far more.

"Could you put a tree back? Sure you could put a tree back. But I personally think that the hole needs definition a little further up, not back."

And Gary Player was quick to chip in on the debate, adding: "There's enough trouble, golf is a very tough game, particularly for members who don't hit many fairways. I think the tree, as much respect as I had for the name attached to the tree, I think it's best that the tree does not be put back."

However, there was some support for the legendary pine tree, with Arnold Palmer saying: "I think I would probably put a tree right back where the tree was and try to get it about as similar as it was when it was taken out."

The trio of legendary golfers were speaking after performing their roles as honorary starters by hitting a tee shot on the par-four first hole, with Nicklaus just beating Player to the longest drive.

"I think Jack outdrove me by a yard or two, but it's not bad when you think he used to outdrive me by 50," Player said. "But he did hitch on a sprinkler, you didn't see that."