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Every year since 1960, the Par 3 contest at Augusta National is an interesting prelude to the Masters.
It is full of fun and frivolity, in stark contrast to the seriousness of the Masters, which has announcers talking in hushed, reverent tones.
There has never been a player who has won the Par 3 contest and the Masters in the same year, although Raymond Floyd came close in 1990, losing the Masters in a sudden-death playoff to Nick Faldo, who won the coveted green jacket for the second consecutive year. Floyd’s attempt to record the Par 3 and Masters win came undone on the second hole when his iron shot went into the water. Had he won, it would have been the first player to win a Masters in four consecutive decades.
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Who knows if this will be the year that someone finally does record the rare double in the same year?
The Par 3 tournament, played on nine holes ranging from 70 to 140 yards, has featured lots of aces. Last year there were a record nine of them, shattering the previous mark of five.
Jimmy Walker won last year with a record eight-under 19, which featured a hole in one on the second hole. What was fun about that one is that the ball landed about 15-feet from the pin and then had enough backspin to roll into the cup.
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Others to record aces last year were Andy Sullivan, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, David Lingmerth, Smylie Kaufman, Justin Thomas and Gary Player.
Player recorded the 31st ace of his career and a record fourth in this tournament. At age 80, the South African who is renowned for keeping his body in splendid shape became the oldest player to record an ace in the tournament. Dressed in his traditional all-black, the amiable player whose group included fellow legends Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, had an even more dramatic roll to the cup. It must have traveled at least 30 or so feet on the downward slope. Player has won the Masters three times in his career. Including Nicklaus and Watson, the terrific trio has won the Masters 10 times, 35 Majors (Nicklaus the all-time leader with 18) and 136 PGA tournaments. Player had a hole-in-one in the 2009 tournament, which preceded his final time playing in the Masters. So seeing the gentlemanly Player record the hole-in-one as an octogenarian and then celebrate as if it was his first was a moment to sit back and enjoy. Once a great player, always a great player – no pun intended.
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In 2012 on the 16th hole, Martin Kaymer’s ball bounced off the water, landed on the green and then hooked several feet into the cup. That arguably was the most spectacular of all the aces in recent tournament history.
In 2009, Tim Clark of South Africa scored an ace on the final hole to win with a five-under score. Between 2008-2010, the tournament was won by three natives of South Africa.
Scotland’s Sandy Lyle won it in 1997 and 1998. Lyle won the Masters the year after his first Par 3 tournament win.
The only other player to record two Par 3 tournament wins is the great Sam Snead, recording his first in 1960 and second in 1974. He won the Masters three times.
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Only 11 players have won the Par 3 and Masters.
Tom Watson won his second Masters in 1981, then won his only Par 3 tournament victory the following year.
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In 2009, Australian Greg Norman, nicknamed The Great White Shark, recorded an ace. He had wife Chris Evert caddying for him. Norman’s career had many highlights, although he was snakebitten in the Masters finishing second three times.
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