'Cursed' Clark unfazed
Par-3 winner led, but now in top 10
Tim Clark is out to break the curse.
The South African, who was the victor in the Par-3 Contest on Wednesday, waged a strong campaign Thursday in the opening round of the Masters Tournament, shooting 4-under-par 68. He maintained the lead before Shingo Katayama birdied the 18th hole to knock him from the top spot.
If Clark wins this year, he would be the first to win both the Par-3 Contest and the Masters in the same year.
"I guess it gives you no chance of winning the tournament," Clark said jokingly when asked what he received by winning the Par-3 Contest. "No, I get a lovely crystal vase, and any keepsakes we can get from Augusta are cherished in the home."
Clark laid up at all of the par-5 holes, making birdies, all of which were from less than 10 feet.
"It was a bonus for me to go off early," Clark said. "The course set up really well for me anyway. The greens were somewhat receptive. ... With the greens as they were, I could fire at some flags."
It's the strategy he plans to continue this week if he wants to improve on his best finish: runner-up to Phil Mickelson three years ago.
"This is an extremely demanding tournament to win," Clark said. "It's a tough experience. I know what it takes to win this tournament."
Relaxation is key, he said.
"I feel like I'm always going to come here and have a hard time and struggle, but I think the thing I do best is I try and come and enjoy the tournament and have fun. You can either come and stress about what you're going to do or you can come and have fun and enjoy it. It allowed me to stay relaxed out there. I wasn't worried about what I was shooting. I was taking it just one shot at a time and smelling the roses, as they say."
Clark, who had three top-10 finishes in PGA Tour events last year, first played at Augusta National Golf Club in 1998. He qualified by winning the 1997 U.S. Public Links championship.
That has been his career highlight, he said, because he met many of his heroes he grew up watching on television in the early-morning hours as a child in South Africa.
Ending the Par-3 jinx and slipping on the green jacket Sunday could top that.
"You just really have to take it one day at a time," Clark said. "If it happens one day, great. But like I said, I'm just really trying to enjoy it."