Already the smallest field among majors, the Masters is shrinking the field for the Par 3 Contest.
Augusta National has sent letters to its honorary invitees to inform them that the Par 3 Contest, held on the Wednesday before the opening round, will be limited to players in the field and past Masters champions.
“It’s sad,” former Open champion David Duval said.
“But I understand it. Maybe there’s not enough spots in the Par 3.”
US Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship winners are exempt to the Masters for five years.
After that, they become “honorary invitees”, along with all past US Amateur champions.
For years, that allowed them to be treated like anyone else in the field up until the opening round Thursday.
Now, however, the club is asking that they no longer play practice rounds or use the practice facility.
Augusta National said honorary invitees still have special access to the Masters, but that the Par 3 Contest will be limited because of increased participation and interest.
ESPN has televised the Par 3 Contest since 2008.
“As a person and an honorary invitee, I’m disappointed because it was my favourite day of the year,” former Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said yesterday.
“I loved it. I’ll still be there, though, and I’ll watch like everyone else.”
Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange rarely brings his clubs when he comes to the Masters, and he didn’t mind the change in policy.
“We had our time, and now it’s their time,” Strange said.
“My sense is that the Par 3 was getting a little bit crowded and taking a little bit too long, and they wanted to streamline it. I think that’s fine.”
The Masters pays homage to major champions more than any of the other majors by giving them special access, which includes two clubhouse badges, a $1,000 honorarium and a gift to commemorate them being there.
The Par 3 course at Augusta National was built in 1958, and Sam Snead won the first Par 3 Contest in 1960.
It has been a Wednesday tradition since then, with players often suiting up their children, wives, or friends in white coveralls to serve as caddies.
Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and the late Arnold Palmer up until a few years ago used to play together.
Some players have not competed out of superstition — no one has ever won the Par 3 and the Masters in the same year.
The Masters had 89 players in the field a year ago, and it has not exceeded 100 players since 1966.
Official World Ranking
1 Dustin Johnson (USA) 11.81pts ave, 2 Jason Day (Aus) 9.16, 3 Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 9.11, 4 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 8.36, 5 Henrik Stenson (Swe) 8.18, 6 Jordan Spieth (USA) 8.05, 7 Justin Thomas (USA) 5.64, 8 Adam Scott (Aus) 5.52, 9 Rickie Fowler (USA) 5.39, 10 Sergio Garcia (Spa) 5.34, 11 Alex Noren (Swe) 4.90, 12 Patrick Reed (USA) 4.83, 13 Justin Rose (Eng) 4.68, 14 Danny Willett (Eng) 4.24, 15 Paul Casey (Eng) 4.21, 16 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 4.11, 17 Bubba Watson (USA) 4.09, 18 Phil Mickelson (USA) 3.85, 19 Branden Grace (Rsa) 3.85, 20 Matt Kuchar (USA) 3.77.
Others: 57 Shane Lowry (Irl) 2.25, 87 Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 1.69,
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