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No shortage of golf drama as 2017 Masters tees off

Headlines off the course and last year's Jordan Spieth meltdown dominate storylines as 81st Masters starts Thursday.

It's been a busy week for golf.

Not only in the Northeast and other areas of the country where warm weather and snow melt means casual golfers can hit the links again, but also with regard to controversies.

No Masters in recent memory had so many tangentially related headlines swirling around the news cycle as the top golfers in the world get set to tee off at a rain-soaked Augusta National.

First, last week's controversial rules violation that cost Lexi Thompson an LPGA major championship when, a day later, a fan watching on TV anonymously reported a rules violation as she marked her ball improperly, costing her four strokes. 

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Phil Mickelson addressed the issue at media day this week, saying he thinks some golfers have been too relaxed about following specific rules and that the pro golfers themselves must do better.

"I feel like we’ve all kind of been a little lax at times in the markings of our golf ball and I hate to see it cost somebody a major championship because of that," Mickelson, who at 18-1 has the fourth best Vegas odds to win his fourth Masters. "But yet I would like to see that type of nuance of the game improved on both tours, especially ours."

Another controversy was front and center at Masters media day, as Rory McIlroy seeks to win his first Masters and complete a career grand slam. He was heavily criticized for playing golf with Donald Trump earlier this year after the divisive figure won the presidency. Trump has famously spend a lot of time on the links as commander in chief much to the chagrin of many Americans who had hoped he'd spend more time working in Washington.

McIlroy defended his decision to play with Trump even while differing politically.

“I’ve spent time in President Trump’s company before, and that does not mean that I agree with everything that he says," McIlroy said. "Actually, the opposite. You know, we’re in a day and age where we were never in a day and age … where we could say those things, but some thought it was appropriate. But whenever an invitation or a request comes my way, I don’t want to say I jump at the chance, but at the same time, you know, to see the Secret Service, to see the scene, I mean, that’s really what I was going for. I mean, there was not one bit of politics discussed in that round of golf. He was more interested talking about the grass that he just put on the greens."

McIlroy went on to say that knowing then what he now knows about the backlash it created, "I'd think twice about it."

Jason Day, 20-1 odds to win the tournament, had good news for the media, saying his mother had successful surgery to treat her lung cancer and would not require chemotheropy. Day left mid-tournament a few weeks ago to fly out and be with his sick mother.

And finally Jordan Spieth, whose controversy is on the golf course instead of off. Favored just behind Dustin Johnson (who may be unable to play after falling down the stairs) as the No. 2 favored golfer to win another green jacket, Spieth was on cruise control in 2016 to win a second straight Masters before hole No. 12 derailed his effort thanks to two balls in the water. This opened the door for Danny Willett to become a surprise winner.

After sticking one close on the 12th during a practice round this week, the always good-humored Spieth told the gallery, "I really could've used that one 12 months ago."

 
 
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