Fergus Bisset reflects on yesterday's par-3 competition.
Words: Fergus Bisset
I love watching the Wednesday par-3 competition at The Masters. It’s a little “amuse-bouche” before the main golfing feast, just a taster of what’s to come. We armchair golf fans are given our first, tantalising glimpse of the verdant Augusta playing surfaces, the towering pines and shimmering water hazards.
Since 1960 when the first Augusta Chairman, Clifford Roberts, “suggested” that the competitors participate in a contest around the short course on Wednesday afternoon, the par-3 competition has become a Masters tradition – a grand spectacle and perfect warm-up to the year’s first Major. It’s a joyous celebration of golf where Masters patrons have a chance to see tournament participants, non-competing past champions, and honorary invitees in relaxed mood enjoying the company of their peers, families and the people who come to support them.
And I agree, the family and friends side of things is cool. But what is also cool is just how well some of these guys negotiate the exceedingly tricky 1,060 yards. Ryan Moore played it in only 21 strokes – six under par. I don’t think quite enough is made of just how impressive that is and how it underlines the sublime pitching (and putting) ability of the top professionals.
I’d be happy to negotiate nine holes on the putting green in 21 strokes – that’s just three over twos! Can you imagine standing on nine consecutive short par 3s – each with treacherously sloping greens that are so fast they would make putting in your bath-tub seem a touch on the slow side – and walking away with six twos and three threes!
Yes, these are only wedge holes and there are areas where the ball will feed into the pin, but finding those tiny spots requires incredible control. Anything just on the wrong side of a slope can fall off the green or run a long way from the flag.
There’s always a great deal of focus on the “jinx” of the par-3 winner never going on to win the event proper… Spooky! And there are endless shots of five year olds missing putts from 2 feet. That’s great and it’s certainly fun. But I can’t help thinking Clifford Roberts would have preferred to see more of the players taking the Ryan Moore approach and just trying to see how low they can go round the par-3. (Moore managed to involve the family too – little Tucker was in tow! But he still concentrated on getting it round in the best score he could.) It would make an incredible spectacle if all the top players gave it absolutely everything and went for short course glory.
Ryan Moore clearly doesn’t believe in the “jinx” and why should he? It’s just a strange co-incidence and, perhaps he could be the first one to dispel the myth. He’s obviously got the skills required to deal with the testing Augusta putting surfaces and surrounds.
Having said that, Moore hasn’t made it onto my betting slip this week. I’ve gone Each Way on:
Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker and Angel Cabrera.
Yes, the usual scattergun approach, but I’ve just got a feeling I might have picked a winner in there somewhere.