After I birdied the 2nd, 3rd and 4th holes in the par-3
tournament the day before the Masters, Stewart Cink, my playing
partner, said, "Joe, hit one in the water. You don't want to win
this thing." I knew about the famous jinx, that no par-3 winner
has then won the green jacket, but I'm not superstitious, so I
kept firing at the flags. I birdied the 5th and 9th holes, shot
22, and won.
I should have taken Stewart's advice. On Thursday, the day after
my 35th birthday, I dunked four balls into Rae's Creek and shot
87. On Friday, the day after my 11th wedding anniversary, I
broke Frosty, barely, with a 79 that left me dead last.
That made my first Masters tough to swallow, but I have no one
to blame but myself. I made all the rookie mistakes. I go to
most tournaments on Monday night and play one practice round and
the pro-am. For the Masters, I got to Augusta on Sunday morning
and practiced from dawn till dusk for four days. I was grinding
so hard, I never even explored the clubhouse or tasted the
blueberry cobbler. By Thursday morning I was drained, mentally
and physically, and I totally lost control on the course. I was
trying to be perfect on every shot, and that strategy doesn't
work, especially at Augusta.
Despite all the calamity, I had an amazing week. I'll never
forget the first practice round on Sunday afternoon, when my
caddie, Bob Low, and I were alone at Amen Corner. As much as I'd
seen those holes on TV, they're much prettier in person, and I
got goose bumps. I learned some lessons about patience, and I
left with a crystal bowl for winning the par-3. When Hayes, my
one-year-old, grows up, I'll be able to take him to the Masters,
bring him to the brick wall next to the first tee of the par-3
course and show him the champion's plaque. My name will always
be on it.
Joe Durant won the 1998 Motorola Western Open.
COLOR PHOTO: ERIC RISBERG/AP Catch 22 Durant won the par-3, but was up Rae's Creek during Thursday's 87.