One of the most famous things about the par-3 contest is its supposed ‘jinx’ – nobody has ever won it then gone on to triumph in the tournament proper in the same year. George Bayer, who won the par 3 in 1963, fell dramatically from grace with an 84 in the third round of the tournament and Joe Durant finished dead last with rounds of 87 and 79 after winning on the short course in 1999.
“It’s just an old wives’ tale,” said the 2009 par-3 champ Tim Clark. “I don’t believe in that jinx thing. I want to win it,” said 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle. The Scot won the par 3 back-to-back in 1997 and 1998. Others have been more cautious, “I never played it in the years I had a chance to win,” said Jack Nicklaus. “I’m a little superstitious like everybody else.” In 2004 Tiger Woods aced the 9th hole to tie Padraig Harrington and Eduardo Romero on a score of 23. Woods declined to compete in the play-off, citing a prior commitment though the suspicion was he didn’t want to tempt fate.
The jinx is subtly avoided by some who allow their children to take the odd putt on the super-slick surfaces. Kids are a big feature of the par-3 and it’s common to see youngsters caddying for their fathers, decked out in mini white boiler suits. “It’s a wonderful experience to have my daughters caddy,” says two-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson.
Televised since 2008, Masters week will begin for most of the UK’s armchair fans with the par-3 on Wednesday night. Prepare in miniature with current and former greats firing over water into lightning-fast greens framed by pines and azaleas. There’s bound to be the odd ace, plenty of laughs and perhaps this year that jinx might be broken.
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