Monday, February 19, 2018
Golf

Potter wins Masters Par 3 Contest

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Here's one guy who won't win the Masters this year: Ted Potter Jr.

Potter on Wednesday won the Par 3 Contest, the lighthearted precursor to the tournament, which begins today. No winner of the contest has gone on to win the green jacket.

Potter won on the second playoff hole, making a birdie on No. 9 to beat Matt Kuchar. Phil Mickelson was eliminated on the first extra hole. The trio tied at 4-under 23. Ernie Els and Nick Watney also shot 23, but they already had left the course.

The contest's picturesque spot — nine little holes tucked into the northeast edge of Augusta National Golf Club — provides another quirky trademark that sets the first major of the year apart from the next three.

Caddying duties are taken up by family and friends from grandmothers (Rickie Fowler's) to small children. The all-time greats thrill with a few more swings. Though score is kept, everyone knows it's all for fun.

Luke Donald turned the putter over to his caddie/3-year-old daughter, Elle, as is the custom on the final hole. She whacked the ball hard and sent it zipping past the cup. She rolled in the next one, however, then sprinted off the course with her parents in pursuit. "I like the aggressive stroke," her dad said.

Tennis player Caroline Wozniacki was on the bag for her boyfriend, Rory McIlroy.

"Had a blast," Wozniacki said on Twitter. "Glad I am not wearing the boiler suit any time soon again tho! #toohot"

Jack Nicklaus (age 73), Arnold Palmer (83) and Gary Player (77) — with 34 major titles among them — strolled around the course, providing a running commentary on their games.

After Palmer sliced one into the water, he joked, "That was my last ball."

"I can loan you one," Nicklaus quipped as he hunched over to tee up his ball.

"Is my credit good?" Palmer asked.

"Good with me," Nicklaus said.

Tiger Woods skipped the event.

changes coming: The Masters is making the first changes to its qualifications since 2007 so more tournament winners can participate. With the PGA Tour going to a season schedule that starts in October starting this year, the winners of the six fall events now will qualify, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. Those winners previously had not qualified. To keep its field small, the Masters is cutting the number of top finishers who can return the next year from the top 16 and ties to the top 12 and ties. The number of qualifiers from the U.S. Open also will shrink, from the top eight and ties to the top four and ties, same as the British Open and PGA Championship. Also, the Masters will no longer include the top 30 from the tour money list. This year 94 players were eligible for the Masters; 156 are eligible for the other three majors. The Masters field has not been above 100 since 1966.

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