When then-Augusta National Chairman Clifford Roberts and architect George Cobb came up with the idea to add a par-3 course -- and then a par-3 competition -- to Augusta National more than half a century ago, they undoubtedly thought it would change the Masters experience for the better.
And in many ways it has. The par-3 tournament has been played on the Wednesday before the first round of the Masters every year since 1960, providing a light-hearted day of fun amid the pines and the azaleas. It's an afternoon of rug rats pulling pop's bag through the Bermuda, their young eyes attempting to read slippery benders on the tiniest of greens.
What Roberts and Cobb didn't realize when they concocted the "little course" -- the nine-hole, 1,060-yarder that fits snug around DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond -- was that they also concocted the worst hoax Augusta could slap on a competitor's shoulders. Since the par-3 contest began, nobody has ever won it and then went on to win the Masters tournament four days later. Fifty years up, 50 years down. Never happened.
In 1990, Raymond Floyd won the par-3 competition and then lost to Nick Faldo in a playoff that weekend. In 1993, Chip Beck won the par-3 but finished second in the main event, which was won by Bernhard Langer. And that's as close as any man has ever gotten to winning both in the same year.
When you look back at history, maybe it's better just to stink it up in the par-3. Have a little fun, hit a couple greens, and then head in for a turkey sandwich and a lemonade on the veranda. If you want to be memorable, settle for a hole-in-one (there's been 72 of those in the history of the par-3 competition).
But if you're trying to fill Tiger's spot as the dominant figure in golf, or start the long journey of chasing down the Golden Bear's record 18 major championships, consider these next five sentences.
Gary Player won three Masters and zero par-3s. Nick Faldo won three Masters and zero par-3s. Phil Mickelson has won three Masters and zero par-3s. Woods has won four Masters and zero par-3s. Nicklaus has won six Masters and zero par-3s.
See that Dustin Johnson? Hear that Anthony Kim? It pays to lose on Wednesday at August.
Of course, there have been men who won both the Masters and the par-3 in separate years, so your Masters career isn't doomed forever if you're the best on the little course. It's just doomed for that year.
Here are the golfers who have won both a Masters and a par-3 competition since the par-3 competition began in 1960, ranked in reverse order by most-recent Masters win.
Note: Sam Snead won two par-3s and three Masters in his career, but he didn't make this list because all three of his green jackets came pre-1960 ('49, '52, '54).
No. 9 Vijay Singh
Singh won the par-3 competition in 1994, six years before he would capture a green jacket. His Masters victory in 2000, a three-stroke win over runner-up Ernie Els, was The Big Fijian's second of three career major championships. Singh also won the PGA Championship in 1998 and 2004, and he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame a year later.
No. 8 Mark O'Meara
O'Meara was 41 years old and shaking hands with the twilight of his career when he had the best year of his career. He won two majors in the 1998 -- the Masters and the British Open -- and then won the par-3 competition in 2007, the year he began playing on the Champions Tour.
No. 7 Sandy Lyle
Alexander Walter Barr "Sandy" Lyle represented Scotland quite well during his pro career, spending 167 weeks in the top-10 of the World Golf rankings from 1986 to '89. It was during that span that Lyle won his second and final major -- the '88 Masters, after winning the Open Championship at Royal St George's Golf Club in '85 -- before capturing the par-3 title at Augusta in '97 and '98. Lyle is the only man on our list to win the par-3 competition in consecutive years.
No. 6 Ben Crenshaw
The boy born and raised in Austin, Texas, Ben Crenshaw, finished in the top-3 four different times in major championships before capturing a green jacket in 1984. Crenshaw would add a par-3 win to his resume in 1987 before winning a second Masters in '95, which came a week after the death of Harvey Penick, Crenshaw's longtime mentor.
No. 5 Tom Watson
OK, we realize a par-3 title doesn't exactly compare to what happened on the 17th green at Pebble Beach in '82. In fact, a par-3 title can't even hold the yardage book of what happened on the 17th green at Pebble Beach in '82. But if there's something to win, Watson has won it, including the Masters the 1977 and 1981, and then a par-3 title at Augusta in 1982. Watson, who now resides mostly on the Champions Tour at age 61, has won eight majors in his career.
No. 4 Raymond Floyd
Floyd, a product of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, won four major championships in his career, including the '76 Masters. As noted above, his par-3 championship came in 1990 when he almost captured a second green jacket, as well.
No. 3 Tommy Aaron
Tommy Aaron didn't win much on the PGA Tour. He won a total on three times. But if there was a major championship for Tommy Aaron, it was the Masters. Raised in Georgia, Aaron got his green jacket in '73 and then took down the little course in '84 to complete the Augusta National sweep.
No. 2 Gay Brewer
Brewer had the 1966 Masters tournament sitting right in front of him, but he bogeyed his final hole to finish in a three-way tie, and ended up finishing third after an 18-hole playoff, which Jack Nicklaus won. Brewer would come back the following year in '67 to win a major at Augusta National, and then captured the par-3 title in '73.
No. 1 Arnold Palmer
The King topping this list just feels right, as Palmer's presence at Augusta is everlasting. Palmer won seven major championships in his illustrious career, including green jackets in '58, '60, '62 and '64. He came back to Augusta to take his par-3 title in'67. The King will be back at Augusta National in 2011, too. Palmer will join Nicklaus on the first tee Thursday as an honorary starter, tee up white pearls in the early morning dew, and pipe a drive right down the gut, officially beginning the quest for the next green jacket.
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