There was an undeniable excitement leading into the first major of the season as Masters week 2018 kicked off earlier this month at Augusta National Golf Club. Five-time Memorial Tournament winner Tiger Woods was in the field for the first time since 2015 and looking for a fifth Green Jacket. Rory McIlroy was primed to become only the sixth player in history to complete the career Grand Slam. Not to mention there was a host of the game’s biggest guns all poised to make a run at the coveted Green Jacket.
Before the tournament began, however, the Par 3 Contest held annually on Wednesday at the Par-3 Course at Augusta National provided some excitement of its own. There’s a certain magic about this endearing event that is now televised around the world. It is above all a family affair with wives, girlfriends, children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews all happily serving as caddies. The competitors for the Par 3 Contest are made up of players from the current year’s Masters field as well as past Masters champions. Two-time Memorial winner Tom Watson was the winner, making him, at age 68, the oldest to win the Par 3 Contest, surpassing 1984 Memorial Tournament honoree Sam Snead, who won it in 1974 at 62 years old.
However, while Watson’s win was the performance of the day, the highlight of the event came when 15-year-old Gary Nicklaus, GT for short – the grandson of Memorial Tournament host and founder Jack Nicklaus – scored the first hole-in-one of his life. The shot came on the final hole, in front of not only his grandfather, but also Watson and Gary Player, another past Memorial honoree.
The elder Nicklaus, winner of a record six Green Jackets, was quoted as saying that the shot by his grandson was his “No. 1 moment at Augusta.”
The high drama and memorable highlights continued throughout the week and culminated on Sunday when Patrick Reed, the leader at the beginning of the final round, fended off spirited runs from some of the games brightest stars to capture his first major championship by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and by two over Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, who fired a closing 64. Reed, who attended nearby Augusta State University, carded a final-round 71 and finished at 15-under 273, becoming the fourth consecutive first-time major champion at Augusta, following Spieth, Danny Willett and Sergio Garcia.
Seven winners of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide competed in the 2018 Masters. Justin Rose, winner in 2010, led the way with a solid T-12 finish, his fifth consecutive top-15 at Augusta. Rose was followed by Hideki Matsuyama (19th), Matt Kuchar (T-28), Woods (T-32), Fred Couples (T-38) and Vijay Singh (49th). Defending Memorial winner Jason Dufner found himself one shot outside the cutline after rounds of 73 and 77.