Nicklaus, aces top Par-3 fun

2015-04-09 07:13
Jack Nicklaus opens the US Masters. (AFP)

Augusta - Golf icon Jack Nicklaus and Niall Horan, the pop star caddie for Rory McIlroy, one-upped Tiger Woods on Wednesday in the superstar's first Masters Par-3 Contest outing since 2004.

It was the first time Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the record 18 majors won by Nicklaus, brought his children to the relaxed atmosphere of the special course at Augusta National.

But Nicklaus produced his first hole-in-one of any sort at Augusta National at the 130-yard fourth hole to a roar from spectators and Horan, a member of the British boy band One Direction, was sought after for selfies and autographs.

When it came to Par-3 starpower, it was clearly Tiger Who?

Horan carried the clubs for McIlroy until the ninth, when the world number one let the 21-year-old Irish musician tee off. The ball hooked left and into water. His direction was the wrong one.

"Any other day I would have found the green but there's a lot of pressure out there," Horan said. I do perform to a lot of people but I'm performing to their parents today. It's a very different crowd."

It provided McIlroy some mellow hours before he chases a third consecutive major title with a Masters win that would complete a career Grand Slam.

"It was a lot of fun out there," McIlroy said.

Woods was joined by his US ski star girlfriend Lindsey Vonn and his children with ex-wife Elin Nordegren -- daughter Sam, 7, and son Charlie, 6 - for a special stroll unlike those that led to four Masters green jackets.

"We had an absolutely great time," Woods said. "These were memories for a lifetime."

Woods, who treasures the memories of winning his first major title in 1997 before his late father Earl, tweeted his delight at sharing the Masters with the next generation of his family.

"I'll always have memories of my pop at Augusta and now Sam & Charlie. An amazing day," Woods tweeted.

Woods, who has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and not taken the Masters since 2005, will end a two-month layoff to improve his skills by making his 20th Masters appearance.

"He seems very confident in what he's doing," Nicklaus said after talking with Woods at the Champions Dinner. "When he says he is very well prepared, I believe him."

Nicklaus had joked before the round about having never made an ace at Augusta National, then lofted a shot over the lake at the 130-yard fourth hole that bounced twice and spun backward 20 feet into the cup.

"I'm saying, 'Come on, come on,' and all of a sudden the ball disappears," Nicklaus said. "I didn't finish up that well but I had a lot of fun."

For all the awards Nicklaus has taken over the years, a Crystal Vase for an Augusta National ace had not been among them.

There were five aces in all on the day, including South African Trevor Immelman at the fifth, Chilean amateur Matias Dominguez and Colombian Camilo Villegas after Nicklaus at the fourth and Villegas again at the eighth.

Villegas and American Kevin Streelman finished at 5-under and battled into a playoff that Streelman won in the third extra hole to decide a Par-3 Contest winner and the next potential victim of the Masters curse.

No Par-3 winner has ever claimed the Masters title in the same year. In fact, only one winner in the past 28 years has later donned a green jacket - 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh after a 1994 Par-3 triumph.

"Have fun, enjoy it and don't win," Woods says of the Par-3 curse. "No one has ever done it. I don't want to prove it wrong."

Read more on:    masters  |  jack nicklaus  |  golf

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