Augusta: Anirban Lahiri primed himself well amidst the relaxed atmosphere at the Par-3 contest, where he played alongside two former Masters champion, Nick Faldo and Angel Cabrera at the Augusta National here.
Lahiri, who had his wife Ipsa, taking pictures and manager Neeraj, on the bag as caddie, enjoyed himself thoroughly and hit some great shots, too.
"This is just what you want, a relaxed atmosphere, before the action hots up in the main event," said Lahiri.
His regular caddie, Rajeev, relaxed for the day and walked around the course, watching his boss having fun. Interestingly, the Par-3 Contest, is said to be jinxed as no winner of this fun event had ever won the main event in the same year.
The winner this time was Jimmy Walker, who will play his first round with Lahiri and Soren Kjeldsen on Thursday. Lahiri shot three-under for a score of 24, while Walker shot a record score of 19 with six birdies and an ace. There were no less than nine aces, including a rare occurrence of two players in the same group matching each other with a hole-in-one.
Justin Thomas, a college friend of Jordan Spieth, aced the fourth hole and off the next shot, the third player in the group, Rickie Fowler did the same. Spieth managed to get only to eight feet from the cup.
On Thursday morning, legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, who have nine Green Jackets between them, gave the 80th staging of the Masters the traditional start with their ceremonial tee shots.
However, 'The King' Arnold Palmer, 86, sat on a chair at the first tee and watched, deciding not to take a swing because of ill health. So it was left to Nicklaus and Player to hit the shots that traditionally begin the first major championship of the year.
Interestingly, Player had Indian businessman, KP Singh of DLF, on his bag for the ceremonial tee shot. Player recently designed DLF's new golf course in Gurgaon.
"That was a lot of fun, having Mr KP Singh on the bag for a while. We are trying to work out something for the future with youngsters and maybe a programme with Augusta," said Player.
Nicklaus and Player between them have made 97 Masters appearances and they either won or finished second 15 times and together they have 23 top-5s and 37 top-10s.
With Palmer unable to take a shot, and needing to be helped to stand up, Nicklaus was overcome with emotion.
Nicklaus, 76, said, "Well, I think that everybody was happy to see Arnold out on the tee. I think Arnold was happy to be on the tee. I think he would have preferred to hit a golf ball. I talked to him at the Masters dinner. I said,
'Arnold, when you're out there, what if you just -- what if we just take you up and had you hit, I don't care if you putt it off the tee, I think everybody would love to have you do anything'. He said, let me think about it.
So this morning I talked to him and I said, What do you want to do? He said, I'm good. I said, fine, let's leave it alone. So I think probably the right thing. Arnold's balance is not good and that's what they were worried about. But I think he was delighted to be out there. I think we were delighted to have him there. I think both Gary and I felt it was more about Arnold this morning than anything else."
Player, 80, and looking fitter than athletes 30-40 years younger, added, "I endorse those remarks obviously. The three of us travelled extensively around the world promoting golf not getting these enormous appearance monies that they do today, which is wonderful that they do get it. I think that we had a very unusual friendship amongst competitors. It was so fiercely competitive, and we made it very clear we wanted to beat the hell out of each other. And when we did, we looked the other man in the eye and said, Well done."
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