American Ted Potter will carry the “curse” of the par-three champion into the 77th US Masters after Ernie Els, Nick Watney and Bo van Pelt made sure it would not be them.
Nobody has ever won the traditional par-three contest and the Masters in the same week, a fact Van Pelt was clearly aware of as he reached the ninth green at five under par only to let his sons take a putt each and therefore ensure his score could not count.
That left Els, Watney, Potter, Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar all tied on four under par, but Els and Watney – who had fired a hole-in-one on the ninth – declined to compete in a sudden death play-off.
Kuchar, Potter and Mickelson returned to the eighth hole and three-time Masters winner Mickelson was eliminated when he could not match the birdies of his opponents, and Potter then clinched the unwanted title with another birdie on the ninth.
Potter will need to defy the odds still further to win the Green Jacket on Sunday. He is playing his first Masters and no debutant has won at Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, seeking a fourth victory in the contest, finished one shot behind on three under and two-time Masters winner Ben Crenshaw had a hole-in-one on the seventh, but world No. 2 Rory McIlroy was several over par.
McIlroy had tennis star girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki as his caddie and let her hit his tee shot on the ninth, only to see her duff it a few yards into the water. Most players treat the event – first played in 1960 – as light relief and invite family or friends to act as their caddies, including the “Big Three” of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who will be back together to hit ceremonial drives as honorary starters for the tournament proper.