Nicklaus has never had a hole-in-one in 163 rounds on the Augusta National competition course, but an ace at the 130-yard fourth was a nice consolation prize.
His shot across the DeSoto Springs Pond landed a few feet beyond the pin, took one hop forward and then put on the breaks and sucked back perfectly and disappeared into the hole.
“I had an interview this morning, and I said ‘well, all I’ve got to do is go out and win the Par-3 and make a hole and one’, and I make a hole in one,” Nicklaus told reporters afterwards.
Alas, that was the highlight of the six-time Masters champion’s day, as he later “choked” and put a ball in the water at the eighth hole.
World number one Rory McIlroy, in the group behind, saw Nicklaus’s ace from the nearby third green.
“I’m fortunate that I get to spend a little time around Jack, and I saw him practising for this day at the Bear’s Club the last couple of weeks down on Florida and he was taking it pretty seriously,” McIlroy said.
There were five aces in all, matching the record from 2002, and Colombian Camilo Villegas made two of them on a steamy afternoon in front of thousands of patrons who packed every nook and cranny on the compact nine-hole layout that is tucked away behind the 10th tee of the main course.
Woods, playing the Par-3 for only the second time, had two caddies – his daughter Sam and son Charlie – while girlfriend Lindsey Vonn swapped her ski suit for a lime green dress as she walked inside the ropes, completing an apparently perfect family outing.
Star sightings were everywhere. McIlroy was out-famed by his caddie, diminutive One Direction boy band member Niall Horan.
Though One Direction’s fan base skews somewhat younger than the average Masters spectator, 21-year-old Horan was widely recognised, according to Morgan Hoffman, who played with McIlroy.
“It was completely crazy,” Hoffman told Reuters.
For the record, American Kevin Streelman won the Par-3 in a playoff with Villegas, thereby disqualifying himself from any chance of winning the tournament proper, if past history is any guide.
No player has ever won the Par-3 and the main tournament in the same year, though that may be a coincidence more than the jinx it has come to be known as.
Streelman’s victory provided a special moment for his caddie, 13-year-old Ethan Couch.
Couch, who has a brain tumour, was invited by Streelman to caddie after they hooked up through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
(Editing by Steve Keating.)