American Ryan Moore was a popular man heading into the first round of the 78th US Masters on Thursday after shouldering the “curse” of the par-three champion.
Since the pre-tournament contest started in 1960, nobody has ever become par-three and Masters champion in the same week, a fact which sometimes sees players deliberately not shoot the best score possible.
That was not the case for Moore however, who made six birdies and missed short putts for three others to finish two shots ahead of Kevin Stadler and 1979 champion Fuzzy Zoeller.
Asked about the “curse”, Moore - whose best finish in five Masters appearances was a tie for 13th in 2005 - said: “I’m not afraid of it. You never know, someone has got to break that curse at some point in time, so hopefully it’s me.
“It was fun having my boy out there and playing a round with a couple of friends. That’s what it’s for, to kind of make you relax a little bit and just go and enjoy yourself the afternoon before.”
Most players treat it as light relief and invite family or friends to act as their caddies, including the ‘Big Three’ of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, who were back together to hit ceremonial drives as honorary starters for the tournament proper at 0740 local time on Thursday.
Former Open champion Stewart Cink and South African Tim Clark made up the first competitive group five minutes later, with defending champion Adam Scott starting his bid for back-to-back titles at 1041 alongside Jason Dufner and England’s 19-year-old US Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick.
Tournament favourite Rory McIlroy was in the group behind Scott along with young American duo Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who were among the 24 rookies in the 97-strong field.