On a wet Wednesday marked by weather delays and periods of heavy rains, it was appropriate the annual Par-3 tournament concluded with two of Webb Simpson’s four children throwing balls into Ike’s Pond.
Simpson, the Quail Hollow resident, and playing partner Bubba Watson were the only group to finish the nine-hole tournament before lightning closed Augusta National. It was the first time in 56 years the event was canceled.
Simpson was glad fans at least got to see some of the family-friendly event on the eve of the Masters.
“It’s the thing I look forward to most about this tournament. It’s a special day,” Simpson said. “They’ve never had to cancel one, I was told this morning. So it would’ve been a bummer.”
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Simpson, 31, actually was leading the tournament after birdies on three of the first five holes. And then he got distracted.
“I never take it to serious. I had a good start,” He said. “But then, too many kids out there. But we had a great time.”
Simpson’s four children range in age from 6 years old to 10 months -- and he and his wife Dowd aren’t done, yet.
“I don’t think so,” Simpson said. “Gonna keep going.”
Simpson hopes to get his game going, too. In five tournaments since losing the Phoenix Open to Hideki Matsuyama in a playoff in February, Simpson has finished no better than 39th and missed two cuts.
The 2012 U.S. Open winner has never fared well in Augusta, although he made the cut past two years. Simpson says he’s feeling good since taking 15 pounds off his 6-foot-2 frame.
No matter what happens this week, Simpson says he’ll cherish the memory of Wednesday when he and his family -- his wife and children all wore caddie uniforms -- beat the rain.
“I’ve got four kids,” Simpson said. “Today’s the type of thing I’m going to remember my whole life.”
▪ Wednesday was a tough day for the patrons, as Augusta National calls its fans. Rain closed the course for a couple of hours in the morning. The gates re-opened at 12:30 p.m. before heavy rains and lightning shut things down for good an hour later.
▪ The new media center -- an impressive, stone-and-wood structure that overlooks the driving range -- has drawn lots of curious visitors this week. On Wednesday that included Adam Scott, who was wearing his green jacket (Scott won here in 2013) while a club member gave him a tour.
▪ John Daly hasn’t played the Masters since 2006, but he still shows up in Augusta to hawk merchandise and sign autographs at the Hooters on Washington Road. A tradition like no other.
▪ Phil Mickelson was self-deprecating talking about his improved fitness and diet. Mickelson tries to stay away from certain sweets, saying, “Any type of processed sugar is just a catasphrophe for me to eat. Still do, though, at times.” Good for Phil. That said, no way he’s only 200 pounds, his listed weight.
▪ Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player will open the tournament at 7:40 a.m. Thursday with the ceremonial tee shots. Officials will also honor Arnold Palmer, the four-time Masters champion who died in September. Patrons will receive commemorative “Arnie’s Army” badges.
▪ Billy Payne says he has no plans to allow cell phones as long as he’s the Augusta National chairman. No one -- players included -- is allowed to have a phone on the course. Payne says he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate to have them on the grounds.
▪ If Nicklaus out-drives Player on Thursday morning, credit Rory McIlroy. The world’s No. 2-ranked golfer recently adjusted Nicklaus’ driver. “He’s trying to hit it longer than Gary,” McIlroy said. “I told him if he hits it longer than Gary, I want a mention because I adjusted the weight in his driver. He kept hitting it left. I said, If you adjust this, it might help.”
▪ Danny Willett last year joined Nick Faldo as the only two English players to win the Masters. Willett leads a record 11 Englishmen in this year’s field, a list that also includes Justin Rose and Lee Westwood, who finished in at tie for second behind Willett in 2016.
They said it
“I think golf in England is in great hands at the moment. ... So I don’t think it will be long before you see the guys starting to step it up again in major championships.” – Willett.
“Certainly he’s a great addition when he is competing. He creates a lot of interest. He’s exciting and fun to watch and play with, and he’s fun to compete with. His lack of presence here is difficult because he would bring so much to the tournament..” – Phil Mickelson on Tiger Wood, who’s missing the Masters for the third time in four years.
“You don’t want to have 5-footers from above the hole when the wind is blowing. They are already as challenging as anywhere here, and they become a less than 50/50 chance from 5 feet with the wind blowing.” – Jordan Spieth on how wind could affect play Thursday and Friday.
Thursday will be dry, but windy, with a high of 65 degrees and winds of 20 to 30 mph, and occasional gusts over 40 mph.