Five Things: Donald wins Par 3 Contest

Luke Donald during the Par 3 contest prior to the 2011 Masters.

Luke Donald during the Par 3 contest prior to the 2011 Masters.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s golf’s version of Christmas eve, except the celebration won’t begin with a fat man coming down a chimney. Instead, it will be kicked off by two legends sharing a teeing ground. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer will hit honorary tee shots at 7:40 a.m. Thursday. Here’s what you need to know about the final day of preparations:

1.) Luke Donald has been getting a lot of attention this week ever since Martin Kaymer declared Donald as the pre-tournament favorite. Donald may have gone from first to worst among prognosticators after his Par 3 Contest performance, though.

Donald shot 5-under 22 to win the Par 3 Contest. No player has ever gone on to win the Masters after winning the Par 3 Contest.

2.) The beauty of the Par 3 Contest is that it’s not open just to current Masters competitors, but former major winners and USGA champions (if they remain amateur). Jack Fleck, 89, was among the legends that took part in the contest. Fleck, the 1955 U.S. Open champion, hit the flagstick with his tee shot at the second hole.

“I wish I’d played better out there, but they clapped me all the way around,” Fleck said of the massive crowds. “I probably hit about three good shots. I don’t care how old I am, I shouldn’t swing the club like that.

“But at least I came,” he said with a smile. “I’ll never quit.”

3.) This year’s Masters field is the largest since 1966. That is cause for concern among Augusta National Golf Club, which prefers a smaller field. In his address to the media Wednesday, chairman Billy Payne said, “It is a borderline to be able to present the kind of competition that we want to,” Payne said. “(The field) is more than we normally have.”

4.) It’s been years since Tiger Woods played the Par 3 Contest. One of the players who’ll be paired with Woods for the first two rounds, Graeme McDowell, also skipped the nine-hole event. McDowell rushed to his rental home to watch his beloved Manchester United take on Chelsea in a Champions League quarterfinal game.

5.) Zach Johnson may not have been the most famous athlete in his group for the Par-3 Contest. Tennis star Andy Roddick looped for Johnson on Wednesday afternoon. It was Roddick’s first time at Augusta National.

“I was coming here with some buddies and I said, wouldn’t it be cool if I could caddie for someone,” Roddick said. “So we have some mutual friends who are business partners for a couple years and so not only did I get to walk with someone, I got to walk with a former champion.”

– Jim McCabe and Jeff Babineau contributed

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