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Masters 2011 marks 75th anniversary of golf's first major

Masters 2011 golf tournament is the 75th edition of what started out as the Augusta National invitation Tournament back in 1934.

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Billy Payne, right, chairman of Augusta National and the Masters, poses with Jack Nicklaus, left, and Arnold Palmer before the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 7, in Augusta, Ga.

Chris O'Meara/AP

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As a field of 99 professional and amateur golfers tees off Thursday in the first round of the Masters, they might take a moment to consider the milestone this exclusive invitation-only event has reached.

2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the Masters, which shut down for three years during World War II. It was the brainchild of an American original, US and British Open and Amateur golf champion Bobby Jones, and his close friend Clifford Roberts.

The Masters is the first of the four majors, the most prestigious tournaments (if not the most lucrative) played each year by golf professionals. The other majors are the US Open Championship (June), the British Open Championship (July), and the PGA Championship (August). Winning a major gives a player immediate recognition, corporate endorsements, and a degree of economic stability in a profession that requires players to qualify for the tour every year. The PGA Tour now gives a five-year exemption to all major winners.

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