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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Augusta's pitch and putt curse
By Matt Slater
Golf editor

Golfers are a lot like generals. A full arsenal of weapons, good decision-making and courage help, but ultimately it is usually luck that separates winners from losers.

PAR THREE CONTEST WINNERS
Padraig Harrington won the 2004 Par Three Contest
2004 Padraig Harrington
2003 Harrington/David Toms
2002 Nick Price
2001 David Toms
2000 Chris Perry
1999 Joe Durant
1998 Sandy Lyle*
1997 Sandy Lyle*
1996 Jay Haas
1995 Hal Sutton
1994 Vijay Singh*
1993 Chip Beck
1992 Davis Love III
1991 Rocco Mediate
1990 Raymond Floyd*
1989 Bob Gilder
1988 Tsuneyuki Nakajima
1987 Ben Crenshaw*
1986 Gary Koch
1985 Hubert Green
1984 Tommy Aaron*
1983 Hale Irwin
1982 Tom Watson*
1981 Isao Aoki
1980 Johnny Miller
1979 Joe Inman Jr.
1978 Lou Graham
1977 Tom Weiskopf
1976 Jay Haas
1975 Isao Aoki
1974 Sam Snead*
1973 Gay Brewer*
1972 Steve Melnyk
1971 Dave Stockton
1970 Harold Henning
1969 Bob Lunn
1968 Bob Rusburg
1967 Arnold Palmer*
1966 Terry Dill
1965 Art Wall Jr.*
1964 Labron Harris Jr.
1963 George Bayer
1962 Bruce Crampton
1961 Deane Beman
1960 Sam Snead*
* denotes a Masters champion in another year
As a result, golfers are perhaps the most superstitious crowd in all of sport.

American golfer John Cook will only mark his ball with coins milled in US states in which he has had success.

Jesper Parnevik, who could fill a book with his superstitions, never marks his ball with the coin "heads" up.

And while Tiger Woods might tell everybody that he wears red on the final day of a tournament because it looks good, the world number one is not so in control of his own fate as to ignore golf's most famous curse.

When Woods tied with Padraig Harrington and Eduardo Romero after the nine regulation holes of last year's Par Three Contest at Augusta, the American took the highly superstitious step of skipping the play-off, leaving Harrington to claim the prize at the third extra hole.

And why did the three-time Masters champion miss the chance of adding his name to the impressive roll of honour that is listed to the right?

Because none of these players went on to win the main event in the same year.

Played on the Wednesday of Masters week ever since its introduction in 1960, the event has become synonymous with sparkling wedge play, light-hearted banter, players letting their kids caddie for them, and, most importantly, the Par Three Curse.

Built in 1958 by designer George Cobb and club co-founder Clifford Roberts, the par-27 course is arranged around two ponds behind the clubhouse.

At just 1,060 yards, the pretty lay-out has given up 55 holes-in-one in the contest's 45 years, with five coming in 2002.

The course record of 20 is shared by Art Wall, in 1965, and Gay Brewer, in 1973.

But what the official records do not tell you, is just how many potential winners have remembered the curse and simply dumped their tee shots at the ninth into Ike's Pond.

David Toms, who won in 2001, later admitted he had considered doing just that.

The Davis Loves in tandem in the Par Three Contest
Davis Love IV watches Davis Love III at work in the Par Three
"I didn't know if I should put my ball in the water or not," said Toms, who ultimately decided to cock a snoot at lady luck and fire his tee shot at the flag.

Harrington took the same gung-ho attitude with destiny in 2004.

When asked about Woods' absence from the play-off and the possibility that it might have had something to do with the curse, Harrington said: "It does not bother me.

"I am Irish - I have all the luck to back me up and overcome it. Somebody's got to do it and hopefully I will be the one.

"This is early in the week to be making a speech - I would prefer to be making it on Sunday - but if you don't win this you can't make two speeches."

The 33-year-old Dubliner said much the same thing after sharing first place with Toms in 2003. He would go on to miss the cut.

You would have thought a player with 26 second-place finishes to his name would have been more circumspect when it came to curses.

It will be interesting to see what Harrington's approach will be this year if he finds himself with a chance of victory on the ninth tee.

My bet is that his approach will be dumped in Ike's Pond.



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