Masters Par-3 Contest a chance for ‘fun with the family’

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Seven months ago, Gary Woodland was undergoing a frightening surgery to remove a lesion on his brain.

Wednesday, he was playing in the annual Master Par-3 Contest and watching his 6-year-old son, Jax, roll in the final putt of the round for him with an unforgettable look of utter delight on his face.

That was just a few minutes after Woodland got his first-ever hole-in-one in the competition.

Gary Woodland of the United States speaks with Sergio Garcia of Spain on the ninth green during the Par Three Contest. Getty Images
Jon Rahm of Spain holds his son, Kepa, during the Par-3 Contest. Getty Images

It’s been quite a turnaround in seven months.

“This is my 12th time playing the par-3, and I’ve had some close calls,’’ Woodland said. “It was nice to see one go in. Nice to see my kids’ reaction. They were so excited.

“I will say, my son making the putt on the last was more exciting for me than that ball going in [for the ace]. For him to make the putt was everything. That’s what this is all about. He’s thought about it all day. He’s known that was going to be his shot.

“He told me to hit it a lot closer than that, so I was apologizing I didn’t hit it closer for him. That was so cool just so see his reaction … that was very special.’’

Max Homa of the United States with his wife Lacey and son Cam during the Par-3 Contest. Getty Images
Brooks Koepka of the United States walks the fairway with wife, Jena Sims, son, Crew, during the Par-3 Contest . Getty Images

Woodland called the Par-3 Contest — in which many players had their wives, girlfriends and kids with them, hitting putts and retrieving balls with unbridled joy — a chance to “let your hair down a little bit, have fun with the family’’ before the real competition begins Thursday.

“We all know what is at stake starting tomorrow,’’ Woodland said. “You think about this tournament from when it ends to the following year.’’

There were a total of five holes-in-one for the day.

Tommy Fleetwood of England shakes hands with son, Franklin, on the ninth green during the Par-3 Contest. Getty Images
Rickie Fowler of the United States and his wife, Allison Stokke, hold their daughter, Maya, during the Par-3 Contest. Getty Images

Rickie Fowler, playing in his first Masters since 2020, won the Par-3 at 5-under par, which means he’s now the most recent player to battle the Par-3 jinx — no winner has ever gone on to win the Masters tournament.

“Great way to start the week,’’ Fowler said. “The Par-3 Contest is something special — with the tradition of the Masters and being able to go out there, and now being able to spend with it my family. I’ve been around plenty of the little kids over the years, but it’s a little different when we have our own out there. So it was s special way for us first time having my daughter with my wife and I, and something we’ll always have.’’

Fowler played with Jordan Spieth, whose wife Annie and son Sammy were also there. Sammy and Fowler’s daughter, Maya, were born four days apart.

Keegan Bradley of the United States watches his son take a shot from the ninth tee during the Par-3 Contest. Getty Images

“They hit a couple shots,’’ Fowler said. “That was the best part — just having them out and watching them run around. It’s been kind of long time coming to get back to here. Special place. One of my favorites. I’m looking forward to getting started tomorrow.’’

And breaking the Par-3 Contest jinx.

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