Ted Potter Jr. wins Par 3 in playoff

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ted Potter Jr. has won the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National, the light-hearted precursor to the first major of the year.

Potter won on the second playoff hole Wednesday, making a birdie at No. 9 to beat Matt Kuchar. Phil Mickelson was eliminated on the first extra hole.

Still, don't bet on Potter to win the Masters.

No winner of the Par 3 Contest has gone on to win the green jacket. The Masters begins Thursday, with Tiger Woods an overwhelming favorite. Woods didn't take part in the Par 3 on Wednesday.

The Par 3 is held on a picturesque course covering 1,060 yards, tucked into the northeast corner at Augusta National.

The spot provides another of those quirky trademarks that sets the first major of the year apart from the next three.

Where else can you see a threesome that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player? Where else can you see former top-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki on the bag for her boyfriend, Rory McIlroy? Where else can you find 91-year-old Jack Fleck, who won the 1955 U.S. Open in one of golf's greatest upsets, taking a few whacks?

"It's fun down here," Fred Couples said. "It's a good little spot."

Especially when Nicklaus, Palmer and Player -- with 34 major championships among them -- stroll around the "little course" for an hour or so, providing a running commentary on the deteriorating state of their once-mighty games.

After the 83-year-old Palmer sliced one into the water, he said jokingly, "That was my last ball."

"I can loan you one," the 73-year-old Nicklaus quipped, as he hunched over to tee up his ball.

"Is my credit good?" Palmer asked.

"Good with me," Nicklaus said.

The Par 3 Contest was first played at Augusta in 1960, on a course designed by architect George Cobb and club founder Clifford Roberts. There are nine holes covering a tidy 1,060 yards, ranging from the 70-yard second to the 140-yard sixth. As Palmer can attest, there are two bodies of water that can come into play, DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond -- named after former president and club member Dwight Eisenhower.

Potter, Mickelson and Kuchar competed in a three-way, two-hole playoff after they tied at 4-under 23. Ernie Els and Nick Watney also shot 23, but they had already left the course and didn't take part in the playoff.

Couples was asked about the Par 3 jinx. He just shrugged it off.

"I wouldn't mind winning this once. But I've never been close," he said.

Augusta awards a prize to the winner, as well as those finishing closest to each hole. Or for going in the hole.

Like 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw, who aced the 115-yard seventh -- holding out his arms, grinning from ear to ear, and soaking in the applause.

Watney broke into a much more demonstrative celebration when he made a hole-in-one at the 135-yard ninth, running around the tee box chest-bumping with his playing partners and the caddies.

"I'm not sure what that was," Watney said. "I'm sure we looked like fools, but it was fun."

He feigned a leap into the pond, but thought better of it.

"I guess I chickened out," Watney said sheepishly.

Wozniacki, on the other hand, didn't come close to a hole-in-one when McIlroy handed her a club at the ninth.

She wound up, took a mighty swing -- and sent the ball dribbling into the water, just a few yards away.

Better stick to a tennis racquet.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.