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Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 23:30 UK

Sabbatini claims Masters warm-up

Rory Sabbatini
Sabbatini finished joint runner-up at last year's Masters

South African Rory Sabbatini shot a five-under 22 to win the traditional par-three competition which takes place the day before the Masters.

Sabbatini, who finished joint runner-up at last year's Masters, was a shot ahead of Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and American Woody Austin.

No par three winner has ever gone on to become Masters champion the same year.

"I wanted to win," Sabbatini said. "You can't break the curse unless you've won the par three to begin with."

The event takes place on a nine-hole course which is near to the 10th hole at Augusta.

"It's a great way to relieve some of the stress or pressure you feel heading into a major," said two-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, whose small son Evan was on the bag this year.

"Guys really have fun on the nine holes, and someone like myself who has little children who caddie ... sharing that time together is some of the greatest time we have had together in this game."

Ireland's Padraig Harrington, a two-time winner of the par-three contest, said the competition has its daunting moments.

"People don't realize, you stand on that first tee, it's a 100-yard shot and you can't tell where the wind is coming from," he said.

"First shot of the day, your bearings are off, and the crowd is six or eight or 10 feet from the hole and you're thinking don't hit it in the crowd.

"It's one of the most nerve-wracking shots of the week."

There were holes-in-one from American Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger at the second, 70-year-old Charles Coody on the third, Fred Couples on the seventh and Wayne Grady at the ninth.

The 78-year-old Arnold Palmer, a four-time Masters champion and Thursday's honorary starter, won one of the "nearest the pin" prizes after a shot to within two feet of the opening flag.

Tiger Woods was among the players who did not take part in the event.

"It's changed over the years," he said. "Used to be I thought it was a lot of fun, but now it is a little bit distracting to be ready for the tournament."

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne insists there are no bad feeling about Woods's decision.

"I think all golfers choose to prepare differently for the Masters tournament," said Payne, who hopes one day Woods might return with daughter Sam on the bag.

see also
Masters tee times
08 Apr 08 |  Golf
Guide to Augusta National
07 Apr 08 |  Golf
Masters coverage on the BBC
19 Oct 07 |  Golf

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