England's Wallace risks Masters curse with Par-3 victory
AUGUSTA – England's Matt Wallace defeated Scotland's Sandy Lyle in a playoff to win Wednesday's Par-3 Contest on the eve of the Masters and risk the winner's curse at Augusta National.
Wallace, a Masters debutante who turns 29 on Friday, also achieved a Masters milestone with the 100th all-time hole-in-one in Par-3 Contest history, which dates to 1960.
Now the world number 36 wants to erase the Par-3 curse, with no Par-3 Contest winner having ever won the Masters the same week, and become the first player to win his Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
“Guess I just I wanted to win this,” Wallace said. “I want to break history somewhat.”
Wallace kept Lyle, the 1998 and 1999 Par-3 winner, from matching the record three contest titles held by Ireland's Padraig Harrington.
Playing in the final group, Wallace aced the 120-yard eighth hole for the day's fourth hole-in-one, then parred the ninth hole to match 61-year-old Lyle, the 1988 Masters winner, on five-under 22, and won the playoff with a birdie.
The light-hearted event saw children and families and friends serve as caddies in a relaxing affair before the showdown begins Thursday morning on Augusta National's par-72 layout.
Thai LPGA sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn served as caddies for compatriot Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Former world number one Ariya is ranked third in the world.
American Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters champion, aced the 130-yard fifth hole alongside two Masters favorites, Americans Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka.
“I hit a 9-iron and Brooks was like, 'Wow, that looks pretty good' and I'm like, 'Yeah, whatever,'“ O'Meara said. “It hits about literally three inches behind the hole and must have come back just a little bit and went in the hole. So that was exciting.”
Ireland's Shane Lowry had a hole-in-one at the 74-yard second.
“It was special because my wife and baby were with me,” Lowry said. ”I just wanted to make a one here so it was cool.”
Last year's US Amateur runner-up, 19-year-old UCLA sophomore Devon Bling, aced the 115-yard seventh.
“Hit a great shot, it went in, and, yeah, that's the best thing that's ever happened in the world,” Bling said.
American Tony Finau returned to the Par-3 Contest's seventh hole, where he celebrated an ace with a jump and dislocated his left ankle on the landing.
Finau donned a specially made high-top golf sneaker on the seventh tee to the crowd's delight, saying later he couldn't skip the event and deny his family the chance to be there with him.
Finau went on to share 10th in last year's Masters despite the mishap and later was fifth at the US Open and shared ninth at the British Open.
“A little bit of disaster. A little bit of embarassment,” Finau said. “But what happened after that was amazing. I turned a negative into a positive, which is a good thing.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP)