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Hoge risks Masters curse, edges LIV's Bubba in Par-3 Contest win


Augusta, United States: Tom Hoge overtook LIV Golf's Bubba Watson with an ace-birdie finish to win Wednesday's Masters Par-3 Contest, risking an Augusta National curse on the eve of the 87th Masters.

No Par-3 Contest winner has captured the green jacket in the same year, thus building the tradition of a Masters hoodoo.

Two-time Masters champion Watson, who aced the 70-yard fourth hole, led the Contest on 5-under and for a while it seemed the Saudi-backed upstart LIV Golf League might grab an Augusta National triumph of sorts before the Masters even began.

But Hoge, a 33-year-old American who won his only PGA title last year at Pebble Beach, had no problem going for the victory on the special 1,055-yard nine-hole layout.

At the 120-yard eighth hole, Hoge saw his ball backspin into the hole to match Watson for the lead.

"Was cool to see that go in," Hoge said.

At the 135-yard ninth, Hoge curled in a long birdie putt to seize the lead, Watson settling for a share of second with US compatriot Kurt Kitayama.

"Just a fun day out here with my wife caddying for me," Hoge said. "Good start to the week, so try to keep that going."

World number 26 Hoge, who resides in often-snowy North Dakota, was 39th last year in his Masters debut.

There were five aces in all in the Par-3 Contest, a relaxed event with kids and parents as caddies before the intense Masters spotlight shines.

- Scheffler aces ninth -

World number one Scottie Scheffler, the defending Masters champion, aced the ninth hole -- a good omen as he tries to match Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo as the only back-to-back green jacket winners.

"The slam dunk at the end was definitely very fun," Scheffler said.

Tom Watson in 1982 and Canada's Mike Weir in 2004 were the only other defending champions to make a hole-in-one in the Par-3 Contest.

Ireland's Seamus Power had the other two aces at the eighth and ninth holes, becoming only the third player with back-to-back aces in the Contest after American Claude Harmon in 1968 and Japan's Toshi Izawa in 2002.

"It's a dream come true," Power said. "To get one was special but to get the second one was a bit surreal. It was an absolute blast out there.

"I don't know whether it carries into tomorrow, but it's certainly a lifelong memory that I'll treasure for a long time." -- AFP

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