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Donald takes on Par-3 challenge seriously, wins

Family affair trains golfers of future

Thursday, April 07, 2011

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Luke Donald came to the final hole of the Par-3 Contest with two options: hit a ball into the water or go for the win, knowing that no Par-3 winner has ever won the Masters Tournament in the same year.

2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman lines up a putt on the No. 4 green with his son, Jacob. (Corey Perrine/Staff)

Donald is not superstitious.

He made birdie and carded a 5-under-par 22, winning by one stroke over Raymond Floyd and Angel Cabrera.

"I played with Tim Clark, who has won the Par-3 before, and he was asking me when I was going to hit one in the water," Donald said. "But I wanted to make a birdie and finish strong."

Donald fired wedges into greens and drained birdie putts while many players in the field allowed their caddies, friends, children and one tennis superstar to hit a few shots for them.

Andy Roddick, who is attending his first Masters, toted the bag for 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.

"I was coming here with some buddies and thought it would be cool if I could caddie for someone," Roddick said. "Not only did I get to walk with someone, but I got to walk with a champion."

Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus walk on No. 4 during Wednesday's Par-3 Contest. Nicklaus said none of them played well, but fans applauded them all the way. (Michael Holahan/Staff)

Rickie Fowler, a Masters rookie, came to Augusta last week to play the Par-3 Course before the tournament, and his preparation paid off. Fowler finished in a tie for fourth place with a 3-under-par 24.

In the group ahead, Bubba Watson stayed behind on the first and ninth greens to hold the flag as Fowler hit his tee shot. Despite Fowler's best efforts, he did not hit Watson.

"The first hole I got really close -- I was aiming right at him," Fowler said. "On nine, I was trying to make it. Bubba gave me a bad read."

As in years past, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player played together and received ovations from tee to green on every hole. None of the golf legends played particularly well, Nicklaus and Palmer said, but they still enjoyed their time together.

"There wasn't much competition today -- none of us played very well," Nicklaus said. "But we always have a good time."

As lighthearted as the Par-3 Contest can be, many players still use the event to prepare a little more for the tournament rounds. The greens on the short holes are just as fast and tricky as the ones on the big course, Watson said.

Bo Van Pelt carries his son Crew, 4, a few steps on the 1,060-yard Par-3 Course as they head to the No. 9 green. (Michael Holahan/Staff)

Getting into the habit of hitting close shots and holing putts can only help when the weekend rolls around, Donald said, even if a curse might be tied to winning.

"It's another feather in my cap," he said. "It's not like winning the tournament, but it's still nice to pick up a trophy. These kinds of things are bound to change, too. Someone's going to break that record, and hopefully it will be me."

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