AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP)As tradition dictates, there is now very bad news to report about Canadian golfers Mike Weir and Mackenzie Hughes.
Neither will win the Masters.
That is, if you believe the superstition – or at least, believe in the history. No player has won the Par 3 Contest and gone on to win the Masters in the same year, a trend that Weir and Hughes will both try to buck when this year’s tournament starts Thursday.
Weir and Hughes shared the Par 3 title on Wednesday, both finishing 4 under. Play started late because of the threat of weather and ended early when more inclement weather was approaching the area.
”It’s fun. This is a very special day for me,” Hughes said. ”This is my third Masters and my first Par 3 Contest. I was really excited to get out here and do this. Very lucky that the weather held off for us.”
Depending on how you count, Hughes either had three caddies or zero caddies. He carried his own bag, while caddy No. 1 (his wife) kept watchful eyes on caddies No. 2 and No. 3 (their kids).
”My youngest, Cohen, he’s 16 months on Monday, so he wanted to get after every ball on the green, heading towards lakes,” Hughes said. ”So, definitely priority No. 1 was to keep them on grass. Did that.”
It was the first Par 3 event at the Masters – the traditional, family friendly Wednesday afternoon prequel to the real thing – since 2019. The 2020 and 2021 events didn’t happen because of the pandemic.
Some of the ”patrons” on the short course, with holes ranging from 70 to about 140 yards in length, didn’t exactly behave. Sergio Garcia missed the green at No. 1, perhaps because a child loudly announced during Garcia’s swing that he’d be taking a turn next. Kids ran on the greens, others jumped up and down by the tee boxes.
Obviously, nobody minded.
”Special family time,” Justin Rose said.
Caddies hit balls into the water, wives took putts for their tour-player husbands – Lacey Homa had a birdie for her husband Max – and about 40 players were technically ineligible to win because someone else played their ball at some point during the contest.
Again, nobody minded that, either.
”I think as you get older you understand to appreciate even more,” said 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, who finished a shot back Wednesday. ”Having the Par 3 back this year is a blast. It is so special. I can’t put into words how special it is.”
There are 11 men who have won both the Masters and the Par-3 Contest – Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd, Vijay Singh, Mark O’Meara, Tommy Aaron, Sandy Lyle, Gay Brewer and Art Wall Jr.
Just never in the same year.
Weir, however, said he didn’t believe in the Par 3 winning jinx.
”You come out and you want to hit some good shots and get a good feel and leave a good taste in your mouth,” Weir said.
Something’s missing from the Masters this year. And as it turns out, even Augusta National isn’t immune from an increasingly common issue these days.
The Georgia Peach Ice Cream Sandwich – possibly one of the finest $2 desserts in the free world – hasn’t been available at Augusta National this week.
The official reason: Supply chain issues.
All the other traditional concession items are back at the Masters, with a couple of mild menu tweaks. Egg salad and pimento cheese sandwiches remain priced at $1.50. A couple of sandwich prices – ham and cheese, and turkey and cheese – were increased 50 cents to $3 apiece. And a new $3 egg, meat and cheese breakfast sandwich is on this year’s menu as well.
The peach ice cream might be missing but there is a nod to Georgia’s other official snack, with Georgia pecan caramel popcorn at $1.50.
And the most expensive item on the menu isn’t expensive at all, compared to just about every other major sporting event in the world: A glass of chardonnay will set you back $6, which is $1 more than beer.
”We have had some modest price increases,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said. ”I think that most, if not everyone, would say there is great value in our concessions. So, we are very comfortable with that.”
ONE MORE CLUB
Xander Schauffele went back to the par-3 16th hole during a practice round earlier this week, this time having grabbed a 7-iron.
Had he done that in the final round last year, the Masters might have gone differently.
He had made four consecutive birdies and was within striking distance of leader and eventual winner Hideki Matsuyama last year when he went to the 16th. The hole was playing at 184 yards for the final round. Schauffele chose an 8-iron.
The ball went in the water, he made triple-bogey and his chance at a green jacket was gone.
”I walked up and hit a 7-iron this year,” Schauffele said. ”The green was concrete. My ball landed right near the hole and skipped all the way to the back of the green. … I waited a year to hit that shot again.”
WAITING ON 13
Here’s an oddity. The par-4 11th at Augusta National is now longer than the par-5 13th.
That’ll probably change, but nobody seems to know when.
No. 11 has been stretched to 520 yards, 10 more than No. 13, a hole that the Masters has been on-record as wanting to change for at least six years now and counting. It has become too easy for their liking, with the majority of players able to reach the green in two shots.
The Masters is still weighing its options, while the sport’s governing bodies – the United States Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient – continue studying potential changes or solutions to what has been called ”bomb and gouge,” a style where distance is valued more than accuracy.
”We are going to go forward on our own timetable and make changes we think to,” Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley said. ”Most of our tees are very lengthy and we’ll have that optionality today and we’ll continue to have that optionality going forward.”
The Masters’ digital platforms will stream 18-hole ”spotlight coverage of select groupings” during Thursday’s opening round, two trios from the morning and two more in the afternoon.
It means those who want to see every shot Tiger Woods plays Thursday will be able to do so.
The 10:34 a.m. grouping of Woods, Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann is the first featured trio on the schedule for Thursday, followed by the 10:56 a.m. group of Adam Scott, Scottie Scheffler and Tony Finau.
The afternoon groupings getting the same coverage: Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel and Collin Morikawa teeing off at 1:30 p.m., and Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele who begin at 1:52 p.m.
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