England’s Wallace faces Masters curse after edging out Lyle for par-three win | CTlive.info - South Africa News

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Wallace played the par-three tournament alongside girlfriend Chelsie Joce
2019 Masters
Dates: 11-14 April Venue: Augusta National
Coverage: Watch highlights of the first two days before uninterrupted live coverage of the final rounds on BBC Two, with up to four live streams online. Live radio and text commentary of all four days on BBC Radio 5 Live, Sports Extra, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full details

You’ve all heard about the Augusta National par-three contest curse, right?

The one the players genuinely fear. In 58 previous stagings of Wednesday’s pre-Masters mini-tournament, no winner has gone on to claim the Green Jacket the following Sunday.

That might explain why England’s 2016 champion Danny Willett fired well away from the flag on the last hole – he was in the final group out on the course, on three under, and within two of the lead.

However, a bit of naivety from compatriot Matt Wallace, one of his playing partners, may well have cost him the chance of winning this week.

The course is a little over 1,000 yards and has two ponds at its centre with the holes criss-crossing them, affording the patrons spectacular vantage points with views of several holes at once.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry hoisted his daughter above his head after his hole in one

And they are there in their thousands. Some seeking shelter from the warm afternoon sun underneath gigantic Georgia pines, others teetering on the edge of the ponds on their Masters-approved chairs.

Despite the crowds, it’s a largely quiet and peaceful corner of Augusta National. Peaceful that is until 1998 champion Mark O’Meara makes the first of four holes-in-one.

The roar is short but loud and heads briefly turn to see where it’s coming from.

There are similar roars to greet holes-in-one by Ireland’s Shane Lowry on the second, who celebrated by hoisting his bewildered daughter high above his head.

American amateur Devon Bling hit the shot of his life on the seventh and couldn’t high-five enough patrons, while Wallace kissed his ball and threw it to the fans after holing out on the eighth – the 100th ace in the tournament’s history.

From behind the seventh green I watch defending Masters champion Patrick Reed knock his wedge to 20 feet. There’s barely a murmur. These patrons want pin-seekers.

Open champion Francesco Molinari is in the group behind, playing with English duo Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton. He knocks one closer and is warmly received as he strolls up to the green, carrying his young daughter, who’s clearly had enough of this golfing malarkey.

“Is that the guy who won the British Open?” enquires a patron to my left. I have a strong urge to correct him. “It’s The Open. The. Open.”

“Yeh, think so. What’s he called,” asks his friend. “Can’t remember. Italian fella. Molly-something. These three beat us in the Ryder Cup though.”

Poulter is the only one asked to stop on his way to the eighth tee. There are photographs to pose for and flags to autograph. There’s no shouting or hollering though. Respectful requests are the order of the day, with thank-yous to follow.

Jack Nicklaus played the par-three event with his grandson as caddie

The ones the patrons really want to see though are the legends. Jack, Gary and Tom. Nicklaus, Player and Watson. What a trio. A combined age of 231, with 11 Green Jackets and 35 majors between them.

The crowds suddenly swell on each hole, patrons streaming down the hill from the famous Augusta National clubhouse, eager to catch a glimpse of the pensioners. And they are the only ones afforded generous applause regardless of the shot they hit.

They are still as competitive as ever. Nicklaus looking on in disbelief as a birdie putt slides by on the eighth. Player with an excited hop after his approach on the second goes close. Defending champion Watson comes out on top with a two-under score, although that won’t win the day.

And then there are those who are nearer the start of their careers. Americans Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. What a trio. A combined age of just 80 but just one Green Jacket and four majors between them.

The par-three tradition is strong among them. Thomas plucks a young boy from the crowd and lets him putt out on the seventh and then sends him on his way with three signed balls, that he fumbles and drops on his way back to his parents.

The winner? Step forward Wallace, edging out 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle in a play-off.

Wallace is making his Masters debut and no first-timer has won around Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller 40 years ago.

That alone is some streak to break and, if it were not enough, he now comes face-to-face with the curse.

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