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Best seat for Masters' finish requires chair, early arrival
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Grabbing a front row spot for the chance to watch a historic finish at the Masters is easy: Be at the gate when the doors open, walk briskly to No. 18 and plop down a chair.

Then wander off.

Grab some breakfast, go shopping or walk around Augusta National enjoying the day. When golfers start on the back nine, return to find that chair still in the same spot.

Yes, the Masters takes saving a seat to an entirely different level.

"You know if you put your chair down, nobody's going to move it," Anne Costigan of Baltimore said. "It's safe where it is. Nobody does that. It's so unique."

Just look next time the TV cameras span the magnificent par-4 18th.

No grandstands ring this green, just row upon row of people sitting, or cheering, from the chairs they brought with them to Augusta National or bought in the shop. Ropes mark off just how close fans can sit next to the green or elsewhere on the course. Signs note where the sitting areas begin with aisles marked off with spray paint.

Gallery guards ensure people line those chairs up in perfect rows.

Scoping out where to put the chair the day before is key because gates opened Sunday at 7 a.m. even though the first group didn't tee off until 10 a.m. Then it's time to hustle through the gate with the Costigans arriving by 7:45 a.m. Saturday to place their new chairs by the 17th tee with a perfect view of the pin on 16. And remember, no running.

"Chicken walk," Kevin Costigan said of their pace to the far corner of the course.

The biggest decision is where to set up the chair on a course where there isn't a bad spot, so the choice is between watching golfers tee off or putt on a hole.

Only armless chairs are allowed at Augusta National, and any chair will do. The vast majority of chairs on this course are Masters' green marked by the logo on the back where there's a pocket perfect for a business card to help mark it as yours.

"It's the souvenir to have," Anne Costigan said after buying a bunch of chairs at $30 each.

Marking the chair is a must, though not everyone uses a card. Jim and Laura Worthy of Greenville, South Carolina, noticed a unique marker on one as they sat a few rows back of the 17th tee.

"We saw one guy had marked his chair with a quarter," Laura Worthy said. Her husband joked: "Maybe his name is Washington."

Even most people making their first trip to Augusta National hear about the sanctity of the chair before arriving from friends or family lucky enough to have attended the Masters before.

The one unknown? There's no telling how many people enjoyed that chair while its owner walked around Augusta National.

"It's very special," Sandy Anderson of Tucson said of her chairs in Amen Corner to watch the 11th green and the par-3 12th. "And you know people sit in your chair while you're gone, but when you come back they just give them back."

John Thomson of Melbourne, Australia, and a buddy brought chairs the first couple days, then decided to follow a pair of fellow Aussies in Jason Day and Adam Scott. Before they teed off, they sat down on the front row to enjoy the view.

"We just figured we'd borrow some for a little rest," Thomson said.

The only challenge comes when a shot flies into the chairs.

"It's easier when the chairs are filled because everyone can pick up their chairs and put them back in place," said Chris Dohm of Dallas, a gallery guard at No. 18. "It's a little tougher when no one's here."

Not that it's a problem on Sunday afternoon.