Tommy Fleetwood had an unexpected source to thank for avoiding the “curse” of the par-three contest after Tom Watson became the oldest winner of the traditional Masters warm-up.
Watson, 68, finished six under par in the nine-hole event to finish a shot ahead of Fleetwood, who partners Tiger Woods and Marc Leishman in the first two rounds of the tournament proper.
Playing alongside Watson and Gary Player, the 78-year-old Jack Nicklaus finished just a shot further back and amazingly saw his grandson and caddie Gary (known as GT) make a hole-in-one on the ninth.
Since the contest started in 1960, nobody has ever become par-three and Masters champion in the same week.
Watson, who lost a play-off for the 2009 Open Championship at the age of 59, told ESPN: “I won it one other time a long time ago and of course I didn’t win the tournament that year, but since I’m not playing the tournament I said ‘Let’s go for it this year.'”
A tearful Nicklaus, who won 18 majors during his career, rated his grandson’s ace the number one moment of his career.
With all due respect to @themasters, allow me to put my 6 Green Jackets in the closet for a moment and say that I donât know if I have had a more special day on a golf course. To have your grandson make his first hole-in-one on this stage.... WOW! #Family #memoryofalifetime pic.twitter.com/3TSLwlV0m9— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) April 4, 2018
He said: “What I did doesn’t make any difference to me. But watching your grandson do something special, I have a few tears.
“We talked about three days ago and said ‘GT do you want to hit the ball on nine?’ and he said ‘sure’. I said, ‘well I think you’re going to make a hole-in-one’. It’s his first.
“You always want the best for your kids and your grandkids and to watch a grandkid come along and knock in a hole-in-one on the biggest venue in the world…. wow. I mean what a day.”
GT Nicklaus added: “This is probably my favourite week of the year and this is a special tournament, golf is a sport that I love and for that to happen is just unbelievable.”