Player lights up Par-3 as Walker wins

2016-04-07 07:31
Jimmy Walker (Getty)

Augusta - Jimmy Walker risked the Masters curse by winning the Par-3 Contest in record fashion on Wednesday at Augusta National, where a record-shattering nine aces were fired on the eve of the 80th Masters.

On a day when 80-year-old Gary Player fired his fourth career ace in the Par-3 event to set two records and Augusta National fans booed defending Masters champion Jordan Spieth after he couldn't match back-to-back holes-in-one, Walker stole the show.

The 37-year-old American fired an eight-under par 19 on the 1,060-yard layout, smashing a record that had stood for half a century and risking the jinx of no Par-3 winner having ever captured that year's Masters title.

"I think we'll do it," Walker said of ending the hoodoo. "I've been playing really well. I've been feeling good and I feel good coming into this week."

Walker fired six birdies and added a hole-in-one to break the old nine-hole mark of 20 set by Art Wall in 1965 and matched by Gay Brewer in 1973.

"It was sweet," Walker said. "About aced the first and did ace the second and kept it close."

He beat runners-up Craig Stadler and Keegan Bradley by three strokes.

South African legend Player became the oldest golfer in Par-3 history to hit an ace, breaking the age mark of 75 set last year by playing partner Jack Nicklaus.

"I played with Jack last year and he did it so this year he said it's my turn," Player said.

Player's fourth Par-3 hole-in-one, and the 31st of his career, rolled 35 feet down a slope into the cup to established a new career mark for the contest, eclipsing the one he shared with Ben Crenshaw.

"I tried to keep it to the right and it was just the right speed," Player said. "But you have to be a little lucky."

In a record 52 Masters starts, Player never made a hole-in-one.

Spieth was jeered in jest after playing partners Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas aced the fourth hole on consecutive tee shots and he was unable to duplicate the feat.

"It might been the hardest shot I ever had to hit trying to follow them," Spieth said. "It was fun being a spectator in the group."

Teased Fowler: "After two hole-in-ones, you got to man up and hit the shot. He just couldn't do it."

Each used a wedge to make their ace.

"It's a bucket list kind of thing," Thomas said. "It was so cool."

"Something that we'll remember forever, that's for sure," Fowler said.

The crushed former record total of Par-3 Contest aces was five in 2002 and 2015, with Player calculating the odds of nine aces in one day at "20 million to one."

But the longshot came true with holes-in-one by Walker at the second, Fowler and Thomas at four, England's Andy Sullivan at the fifth, Player and Swede David Lingmerth and reigning British Open champion Zach Johnson at seven, Masters debutante Smylie Kaufman at eight and Webb Simpson at nine.

That boosted the total number of aces in the Par-3 event to 94 since its 1960 inception.

Read more on:    masters  |  golf

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