Gary Player fittingly described the day as “a miracle.”
At almost any point during Wednesday’s Par-3 Contest, loud roars could be heard.
They came from the highest point of the Par-3 Course at No. 2, and they came from the lowest point over Ike’s Pond at No. 9.
All were the result of a record-shattering nine holes-in-one, which obliterated the high of five set in 2002 and matched last year.
When Player’s tee shot found the cup on No. 7, it set two records. At 80, he became the oldest to record a hole-in-one in the contest, passing playing partner Jack Nicklaus’ mark from last year, and he set the record for most aces all-time, with four.
“I played with Jackie last year, and he did it,” Player said. “They said it’s your turn this year.”
On a day full of records and memories made, Jimmy Walker did his part by shooting 8-under-par 19 to run away with the event. The Texan broke the low mark of 20 set by Art Wall Jr. in 1965 and matched by Gay Brewer in 1973.
No Par-3 winner has won the same year’s Masters Tournament, but Walker, who aced No. 2, brushed off the so-called curse by saying he’s not superstitious.
“I know there’s a lot of history that goes along with this, but I think it’s time to buck it,” Walker said. “I think I have a good shot to really play well and have a chance to win. I’m excited to play. I feel good. I’m looking forward to the week.”
The miraculous moments didn’t end with Player’s ace.
Justin Thomas holed out from the tee on No. 4, then playing partner Rickie Fowler matched him.
“It was awesome,” Thomas said. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done, back-to-back shots like that. But to play with two good buddies and make a hole-in-one, and to have my mom on the bag in my first Masters, it’s a bucket-list kind of thing.”
Keegan Bradley and Craig Stadler tied for second behind Walker at 5-under, while five finished four strokes back at 4-under, including 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.