Playing Par-3 not for every Masters competitor
Rory McIlroy is hardly the only top player in Masters Tournament history who chose to skip the Par-3 Contest on the eve of competition in hopes of playing better on the “big course.”
The strategy worked for Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, who didn’t play in the Par-3 Contest regularly and combined to win 10 times. Three-time champ Nick Faldo also didn’t normally play in the Par-3 Contest.
McIlroy, who will be in his eighth Masters, played in the Par-3 Contest the past few years, he said. This year, he’s sitting it out in the hopes it will help him complete the career Grand Slam.
And it has nothing to do with the fact no one has ever won the Par-3 Contest and the Masters in the same year since the fun event started in 1960.
“I guess it’s more of a superstition thing than anything else. In 2011, I didn’t play the Par-3, and that was my best chance to win the Masters,” said McIlroy, who carried a four-shot lead into the final round, shot 80 and tied for 15th place.
“It’s more like I’ve had great times at the Par-3 tournament and had fun,” he said. “It’s a great day. It’s a great day for the patrons to go down there and have fun and for the kids to get autographs. This year, I just wanted to change it up a little bit and maybe just get away from the spotlight a little bit. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to play it again. It’s a fantastic event and one I’m sure I’m going to play in the future.”
Instead, McIlroy will play Augusta National’s front nine “around noon,” he said, and be off the course by 3 p.m., when it is closed for play to prepare for Thursday’s first round.
That means it will be about 24 hours before McIlroy is back on the course – he’s in the final group off the tee Thursday, at 2:01 p.m.
Nicklaus, who has the most Masters wins, six, said he never played in the Par-3 Contest in a year that he won. He cited three reasons for not playing in the tune-up: He was done with his tournament preparation, he didn’t want to play on greens that were a different speed (the Par-3 course converted to bentgrass before the big course) and he didn’t want to add an extra day of competition.
“I didn’t want to play sloppy and have it carry over into the tournament,” Nicklaus said Wednesday.
Playing in the Par-3 Contest didn’t hinder two-time winners Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw from taking the green jackets. They never missed playing, and Watson won the Par-3 in 1982 and Crenshaw in 1987. Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champion, has missed only one year in the Par-3, but it wasn’t his winning year.
“Some guys just feel that, you know, Wednesday afternoon they’d rather do their work and go home and rest (rather than) stand around and play the Par-3, be on your feet for a couple more hours,” Faldo said. “It’s like, I’d rather go home and put my feet up and chill.”
“People have said that to me before, that maybe I need to rest,” Mize said. “I don’t think it takes away from my focus of the tournament. I think it’s fun to go over there. I don’t think it helps, but it sure doesn’t hurt to go over there and hit some shots and goof off on the greens, (which) are similar to the golf course. You go over there for an hour, hour and half. I don’t see how that can affect your preparation for the tournament, but everybody’s different. Everybody’s got to make up their own mind.”
Faldo said that the times he played in the Par-3 Contest while still a tournament competitor, he’d say, ‘Hey, this is fun.’ Try to win some crystal, you know?”