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The enduring mystique of the green jacket

Geoff Ogilvy
6. Geoff Ogilvy (Australia)
Cobra Pro MB (3-PW)
*Ogilvy occasionally uses a Cobra Pro CB 2-iron instead of his 5-wood.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Imagine the Masters champion slipping on a red jacket Sunday.

Of all the colors found at Augusta National - the pink azaleas, the yellow jasmine, the white clubhouse - no one knows why co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts selected green for what has become the most famous blazer in sports.

But it has become a prize like no other among the major championships.

The claret jug is oldest trophy in golf, first awarded the British Open champion in 1872. The Wanamaker Trophy is the heaviest, so much that even strongman Vijay Singh struggled to raise it when he won the PGA Championship. The U.S. Open is the only major that doesn't have a name for its trophy.

But there is a mystique about the green jacket.

Masters champions don't kiss it. They don't hoist it. They don't drink out of it.

They wear it.

"When you're able to don the green jacket, it's the highest privilege in golf," Zach Johnson said.

"No matter what shirt you're wearing, it looks good," Fred Couples said.

Jones came up with the idea when he was at Hoylake for the 1930 British Open, the second leg of his Grand Slam. He was invited to dinner at Royal Liverpool, where he noticed 15 men wearing red coats with brass buttons. He was told that only captains of the club wore the red jackets, and one of them offered to give Jones his if he won the Open.

That coat now hangs in the clubhouse at Atlanta Athletic Club, his home course.

Jones and Roberts thought members should wear matching jackets during the tournament so patrons would know whom to ask for information, a tradition that began in 1937. They selected what the club refers to only as "Masters Green" for the color, with the famous Augusta National logo on the left crest and on the buttons.

Sam Snead was the first Masters champion to be awarded the green jacket after winning in 1949, a gesture by the club to make the winner an honorary member. All past champions also were given one.

The list of those who have worn the green jacket is short and mostly distinguished.

It includes the 44 players who have won the Masters, with Trevor Immelman the latest to join the club. It includes Augusta National members - the club won't say how many, but it's an exclusive club.

And it includes Mike Weir's grandfather.

The current Masters champion is the only person allowed to take the green jacket off club property, and Weir made sure his grandfather had a chance to try it on.

"We had some pictures made before he passed away," Weir said. "That was pretty cool."

Only one of the jackets was never returned. Gary Player swears it was an innocent mistake.

He won his first Masters in 1961, and a year later presented Arnold Palmer with the green jacket at the closing ceremony. Player, however, took his jacket home to South Africa after the '62 Masters, and there it remains.

"I assumed it was mine," Player said. "I got a call from Clifford Roberts and he said, 'Gary, I believe you've taken the Masters jacket home. You're not supposed to do that. And I said, 'Mr. Roberts, if you want it, you better come and fetch it.' He appreciated the humor and told me I must never wear it around.' It's in a plastic bag in my closet."

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