Tradition strikes again at Masters start

Thu Apr 9, 2015 11:29am EDT
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By Larry Fine

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Tradition struck again at the Masters with three giants of golf -- Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player -- hitting the first shots on Thursday to launch the 79th Masters Tournament.

Player won bragging honors by driving a few feet past six-times winner Nicklaus, who stole the spotlight on Wednesday with an ace at the Par-3 Contest.

The 85-year-old Palmer, who skipped the Par-3 event because of a cranky shoulder injury, yanked his tee shot left toward the ninth green.

Crowds packed the first tee in front of the stately Augusta National clubhouse with defending champion Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler, who was teeing off in the last group of the day, among the current players taking in the spectacle.

"It shows that they have respect for the game," said South African Player, 79.

Two Scottish-American major winners Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod initiated the tradition of honorary starters in 1963, and they were followed by luminaries Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Ken Venturi over the years.

Another change in the starters' lineup could be on the horizon.

Palmer, nicknamed "the King" for his role in popularizing the game with his dynamic style in the early days of TV coverage, is slowing with age.   Continued...

Golfing greats Arnold Palmer (L), Jack Nicklaus (C) and Gary Player pose for a picture after participating in the honorary starters ceremony before the start of the 2015 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 9, 2015.   REUTERS/Jim Young