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Clark is no believer in Par-3 jinx

Sunday, April 12, 2009

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Let's jinx the jinx.

Tim Clark hits from the bank near the 12th green during the third round of the Masters Tournament. Clark enters today's final round in ninth place with a three-day total of 211, six shots behind co-leaders Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera. (Jackie Ricciardi/Staff)

Ready? Repeat after me: Tim Clark won't become the first golfer to win the Masters Tournament and the Par-3 Contest in the same year.

There. Done. Now let's hope Clark does slip on the green jacket later today.

The so-called "par-3 jinx" is a Masters tradition much like many others. And Augusta shouldn't be connected to the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, the don't-talk-to-the-pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter rule or the curse of the billy goat.

The contest, held each year on Masters eve, is the best pre-tournament event in sports. The world's best playing nine holes of pitch and putt on the most picturesque venue this side of, well, Augusta's main course.

So don't soil the contest by propagating the idea that the winner is cursed. The jinx stinx, and a Clark win would make the world forget about it quicker than you can say, "Jinx, buy me a pimento cheese sandwich."

Clark starts today's final round on the leaderboard, albeit closer to the bottom than the top. He's in ninth place, six shots off the lead.

Clark, agonizing over his tee shot at the 12th Saturday, said the Par-3 Contest jinx is ''an old wives tale.'' (Jackie Ricciardi/Staff)

Yet, among the frontrunners, he's enjoyed the most success at Augusta National. He finished second here in 2006 and has two more top-15 finishes in seven career tournaments.

Yes, there's hope.

Another positive sign: Clark is an unbeliever.

"The jinx is just an old wives tale or a myth, or whatever you want to call it," Clark said. Winning the Par-3 Contest "was a lot of fun, and I come here to try and have some fun."

Clark said he hasn't thought about the jinx this week, except when asked about it. And he never considers mimicking many of his peers, who will miss putts on purpose or pull patrons out of the gallery to play for them -- an automatic disqualification -- to avoid winning.

Not that he had much choice Wednesday: He aced the final hole. If he makes par, he finishes tied for the lead instead and perhaps loses in a playoff.

"The jinx has become so overblown," said Sandy Lyle, a two-time Par-3 Contest winner. "It's a myth, nothing more than a rumor."

Like all good myths and rumors, the par-3 jinx contains slivers of truth.

Nobody has, in 49 years, ever won both the contest and the tournament in the same year.

Many Par-3 winners, including some of the best golfers in history, have shot astronomical scores in the days following their victory: George Bayer shot a Friday 84 in the 1963 Masters; Tom Watson a Thursday 77 in 1982.

And Par-3 winners have lost the Masters in dramatic fashion: Raymond Floyd led by four shots with six holes to play in 1990 only to lose to Nick Faldo; Ben Crenshaw blew a 54-hole lead in 1987.

Floyd and Crenshaw represent the yin and yang on the Par-3 jinx. Floyd maintains Faldo, not karma, led to his 1990 defeat. Faldo birdied holes 13, 15 and 16 to come from behind and force a playoff.

"I'd like to win the Par-3 every year," Floyd once said, "and take my chances."

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