Can the Par 3 curse at the Masters ever be broken?
Since its inception in 1960, the par 3 tournament has become almost as synonymous with the Masters as the Green Jacket and the white sand bunkers.
Yet behind the facade of happy families enjoying the Georgia sunshine and the game’s greats fine-tuning their wedge play lies something much darker.
That thing is a 63-year-old curse, which means no winner of the Wednesday par 3 tournament has ever gone on to slip into the coveted green jacket on Sunday.
The short course sets up much the same as its bigger sister, with lots of trees, flowers and water, and so should play into the hands of the eventual winners.
The 1,060-yard layout is so impressive that 1993 PGA Champion Paul Azinger once called it “the best golf course in the world.” But as with most fairytales, there is a curse, and Augusta is no different.
While a curse on the course or club was never placed by a player or witch doctor (see below), it is something that has nonetheless grown in stature with every year that goes by without the double being achieved.
Current world number one, Luke Donald, shot a 5-under 22 in 2011 to land the par 3 trophy. At the time, Donald said: “If I believed in jinxes I wouldn’t play in it. I see it more as a challenge.
“Somebody is going to break that record and hopefully it’s me. Nobody thought a 63 was possible here until Nick Price did it – and I see it as good preparation. You’re holing putts and controlling the spin.”
Donald almost went all the way, eventually finishing four shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel in a tie for fourth. As a result, the curse still stands, ready and waiting for its next victim.
“If I believed in jinxes I wouldn’t play in it. I see it more as a challenge”
Other famous sports curses
– The Red Sox decision to sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920 brought down an 83-year championship drought. Before the trade, the Red Sox had won five World Series, the Yankees none. From the trade to 2003, the Yankees won 26 series, the Sox zero. The curse’s reputation was enhanced by the Red Sox repeatedly coming close and falling short. The curse finally ended in 2004.
– Since 1999, the cover of the Madden NFL video game has featured a top player, many of whom have suffered injury or setback. 2004 cover-star, Michael Vick, suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for most of the season. When Donovan McNabb was chosen in 2006 he declared “I don’t believe in the curse at all.” He suffered a hernia in the first game of the 2005 season and was then injured again, forcing him to miss the last seven games. 2007 cover-star, Shaun Alexander, sustained a foot injury that caused him to miss six starts.
– Quarterback Bobby Layne led the Detroit Lions to three NFL Championships (1952,1953 and 1957). Despite this, the Lions traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958. As Layne left, he reportedly declared that Detroit would not win for 50 years. Over those 50 years, the Lions had the worst winning percentage of any NFL team.
– During the 1970 World Cup qualifiers, Australia’s football team hired a witch doctor to curse their opponents. Australia proceeded to beat Rhodesia, 3-1; however, when the players were unable to come up with the £1000 fee the witch doctor reversed the curse and the Socceroos lost their next match to Israel, partly because three players fell ill during the match. In 2004, Australian comedian/filmmaker John Safran traveled to Africa to reverse the curse. He found that the original witch doctor was dead, but hired a second one who performed a rite. The Socceroos not only qualified for the 2006 World Cup, they advanced to the second round, the best result they ever had.
– According to legend, the athletes appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated go on to experience bad luck. Baseball player Eddie Mathews was the first victim of the jinx, suffering a hand injury one week after he appeared on the cover, which forced him to miss seven games. The 1987 baseball preview featured the Indians with the declaration ‘Believe it! Cleveland are the best team in the American League’, only for the team to lose 101 games and finish dead last. Golfer Jim Venturi was named 1964’s Sportsman of the Year then spent the next season battling carpal tunnel syndrome. The curse was even blamed for the death of Pat O’Connor, pictured on the 1958 Indianapolis 500 preview issue, who was killed in a fifteen-car pile-up. Sports Illustrated analysed the phenomenon for a 2002 issue and concluded that 37% of their cover subjects suffered a demonstrable misfortune or decline in performance following their appearance.
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