Nicklaus and Watson thrill patrons at Masters Par-3 Contest
April 04, 2018
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- Jack Nicklaus' grandson, Gary, makes a hole-in-one on the final hole of the Masters Par-3 Contest. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the eve of a highly-anticipated Masters, even the traditional Par-3 Contest delivered more excitement than usual.
Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus revisited their old rivalry Wednesday on the short nine-hole course, contending for the Par-3 title before Watson won their redux of the “Duel in the Sun.” Their days playing Augusta National’s “big” course may have come and gone, but they still proved they can thrill the patrons. It was another memorable Masters moment for the two men who have won eight Green Jackets.
Watson, 68, shot 6-under 21 to become the oldest champion in the Par-3 Contest’s history. Nicklaus finished two shots back. As if that wasn’t enough, Nicklaus’ 15-year-old grandson, Gary Nicklaus Jr., made a hole-in-one on the ninth hole, bringing tears to his grandfather’s eyes.
Few tournaments are more sentimental than the Masters. It’s the only major that returns to the same site on an annual basis, so the memories practically emanate from the grounds of the course co-founded by Bobby Jones. From the honorary starters to the Champions Dinner and the Par-3 Contest, no tournament goes farther to honor its champions.
The Par-3 Contest is a genteel affair, providing patrons the opportunity to watch the old greats make a few swings and see adorable children run around in the white caddie jumpsuits. But the intensity between Nicklaus and Watson picked up a tick when their names appeared on the white leaderboard that overlooks the pond on the ninth hole.
“When I birdied the first three, I said, ‘Let’s see if I can win this thing,’” Watson said.
The two champions were transported back several decades, to a time when they were dueling for major championships. You could see it in the way Nicklaus stood behind his ball on the eighth tee, spending several seconds staring at the shot over water. Watson had already hit his tee shot within inches of the hole, and Nicklaus knew he needed a birdie as well.
He hit the green but could only manage par. His grandson’s ace overshadowed their two pars on the final hole.
“I had a ball,” Jack Nicklaus said. “I played well. My name hasn’t been on that leaderboard for 20 years.”
He was referring to the 1998 Masters, when he finished sixth at the age of 58.
Gary Nicklaus Jr., better known as GT, hadn’t been born yet. He’s an aspiring musician and a golfer.
“He knows how to perform in front of crowds,” his grandfather said.
Jack Nicklaus and Watson know something about that, as well. They put on a memorable show Wednesday on the eve of the Masters.