April 5 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Between them, they’ve played in 147 Masters and won a combined 13 Green Jackets.
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player got things started at Augusta National when the three honorary starters teed off early Thursday morning. They did so to a large gallery that included three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who was dressed in his own Green Jacket.
“I've been wanting to do that every year and this worked out great because I had the last tee time,” Mickelson said after his round. “I think that it's an experience that I really enjoyed watching those guys hit it, what they have meant to the game of golf. They are what this game is all about.”
Said Player: “I thought it was remarkable.”
The three tee shots were just as remarkable. All three found the fairway on the first hole -- not that any of them could tell who drove it the farthest.
“I don't think any of us can see that far,” Nicklaus cracked. “We can hear them all land, though.”
Palmer led off, hitting his tee shot down the middle before grinning and saying "How'd I do that" to the delight of an army of fans surrounding the tee box.
Just two weeks ago, the 82-year-old was hospitalized because of a blood pressure scare.
“They switched some medicine on me,” Palmer said. “I got a little reaction with the pressure going up, and they just wanted to be cautious. That's normal when you have that kind of a situation.”
Player teed off next, followed by Nicklaus.
"Now let's get out of the way," Nicklaus said, smiling.
There was a time when the honorary starters here played nine holes. That was a long time ago, though, and Nicklaus is fine with keeping it that way.
“We all would love to still be able to play,” Nicklaus said. “ But if you go out and look at where our tee shots were, I think you would understand why we aren't.”