Fri, Apr 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Watson becomes oldest to win Par-3 Contest at 68

Reuters, AUGUSTA, Georgia

Tom Watson on Wednesday struck a blow for the old-timers and Jack Nicklaus’ 15-year-old grandson and caddie capped a rollicking, fun-filled Masters Tournament Par-3 Contest with an ace.

Watson, 68, playing with fellow greats Nicklaus and Gary Player, needed only eight putts to post a six-under 21 and edge out Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Belgian Thomas Pieters to become the oldest winner of the tournament’s traditional curtain-raiser.

G.T. Nicklaus Jr, one of 22 grandchildren of the fabled “Golden Bear,” was given a swing from the last tee after lugging the six-time champion’s bag, firing his first-ever ace to set off a wild celebration punctuated by a laughing bear hug from his grandfather.

In winning the family-friendly competition — in which kids, parents, wives and girlfriends often participate — Watson shrugged off the so-called “Par-3 Curse,” whereby no winner has gone on to win the Masters, because he will not be competing in the tournament.

Two-time Masters champion Watson overtook Sam Snead as the oldest winner of the Par-3 competition. Snead, who in 1960 won the inaugural contest on the picturesque layout adjacent to the championship course, also won for a second time 14 years later when he was one month shy of his 62nd birthday.

Nicklaus, 78, also thrilled the packed galleries by carding four-under-par, while 82-year-old Player was two-under in an exhilarating showing by the former lions of the game.

“Watch out for the old guys,” said Watson, who predicted the trend might continue at Augusta National. “You’ve got Mickelson [47] and you’ve got Tiger [42]. Watch out. They could make some noise.”

After a record nine aces were posted in the 2016 competition won by Jimmy Walker, only two holes-in-one were officially recorded on Wednesday.

One was registered by Tony Finau, who almost fell victim to the curse in an unconventional way.

Finau began running toward the seventh green after his tee shot disappeared into the hole and swung around to jog backward while motioning for his family to join him before he twisted his left foot and crumpled to the ground.

Fortunately, Finau recovered and finished the nine-hole round, escaping the curse for the time being.

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