AUGUSTA — Wednesday’s leaderboard at Augusta National Golf Club was straight out of 1977.
It had Tom Watson on top, a Nicklaus making a hole-in-one and the ageless Gary Player in the hunt. And while none will be teeing off today when the Masters begins, the legends gave the galleries in the Par-3 Contest something to remember.
The 68-year-old Watson needed only eight putts in nine holes to shoot a 6-under par 21 and win the 57th annual event. He became only the third Masters champion to win the Par-3 tournament twice, joining Sandy Lyle and Sam Snead.
Watson also replaced Snead as the oldest Par 3 champion -- by seven years. Snead was 61 when he won it in 1974.
The winner of the Par-3 Contest has never won the Masters in the same year, but that will not affect Watson, a two-time champion who played the tournament for the final time in 2016.
“When I birdied the first three holes, I said, ‘Well, let’s see if I can win this thing,’” said Watson, who also won the Par-3 Contest in 1982. “There’s no hex. I’m not in the big tournament, so there’s no pressure on me not to win.”
As well as Watson played in becoming the oldest Par-3 winner, he was challenged by 78-year-old Jack Nicklaus, who finished tied for third at 4-under. Nicklaus needed a hole-in-one on No. 9 to catch his old rival, but he left his shot 12 feet right of the hole.
However, there was a Nicklaus that made an ace.
Gary Nicklaus Jr., who goes by G.T., was caddying for his grandfather and was given a chance to hit a shot. Using a swing that was nearly a carbon copy of the six-time Masters champion, his tee shot landed above the hole and tracked down the slope and into the cup.
It was the first hole-in-one of the 15-year-old G.T. Nicklaus’ life, and it was something his grandfather said would happen earlier in the week.
“I said to him about three days ago, ‘Are you sure you want to hit a ball on 9?’” Jack Nicklaus asked. “He said, ‘Oh, yeah. I want to hit a ball.’ I said, ‘Well, then, I think you are going to make a hole-in-one this year.’”
As happy as G.T. Nicklaus was to make the shot of his life, Jack Nicklaus enjoyed it even more.
“To cap it off with G.T. making a hole-in-one on the last hole? Jack was crying like a baby,” Watson said. “It couldn’t have been any better. No better scene in golf.”
Jack Nicklaus had to agree.
“That was pretty special,” he said. “Curtis (Strange) asked me where that ranks (among my favorite Augusta moments), and I said it’s No. 1. My wins, that’s OK, but to have your grandson make a hole-in-one and watch him do it — man, that’s amazing.”
G.T. Nicklaus said he was unsure he was even going to get the chance. He said he hit five or six balls on the range just in case, but he still was not expecting to try until it happened.
“I was just trying to hit a good shot,” G.T. Nicklaus said. “For that to happen, it was just unbelievable.”
For the 83-year-old Player, he must have felt like a third wheel, but his 2-under score left him tied for ninth with 24-year-old Jordan Spieth.
Player had a continued appreciation for what he and his playing partners were able to do so late in their careers.
“Isn’t that encouraging for people who are playing the game?” said Player, a three-time Masters champion. “The average player thinking, ‘I can play golf when I’m 80, when I’m 68, when I’m 78, and enjoy it.’ To see the way they played (Wednesday) was remarkable.”