Big Three begin Masters with ceremonial tee shots
April 09, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- April 09, 2015
- Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player kicked off the 2015 Masters Tournament. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The sun poked through the trees and over the clubhouse at Augusta National on Thursday morning, the air a cool 70 degrees with applause gently rising from a thicket of patrons, Green Jackets and a smattering of players as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player made their way past the big oak and to the first tee.
After Palmer had taken a spill and dislocated his shoulder last December there was some question as to whether he would be able to hit his ceremonial tee shot at this year’s Masters. He skipped the annual Par 3 Contest a day earlier but to the King this tradition was never in doubt.
The crowd around the first tee box swelled 20 deep, bigger than it has ever been since golf's Big Three came together in 2012.
Rickie Fowler wasn’t scheduled to tee off for more than six hours, but he was there inside the ropes. So was defending champion Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley. Larry Mize and Johnny Miller came, too. Nicklaus (75), Palmer (85) and Player (79) have aged but they never get old, and everyone wanted a glimpse.
“I can tell you that as a competitor that's played in it a lot of times, I appreciated it very much indeed,” Player said. “It shows that they have respect for the game. I remember when Jock Hutchison used to tee off here, I used to go watch him, always.”
Nicklaus, on the other hand, never came to see anyone tee off.
“I never got upthat early,” he laughed. “I think it was nice to see the young guys out there. I think some people like to get up early … I sort of geared it around what I had to do that day. I think that's a nice gesture to do what they did and come out, but I think the important thing for them today is play well, and that should be their focus. It shouldn't be us, but Ithink it's a nice gesture on their part.”
Palmer led off. He cracked a joke then took his swing. The ball went low and left but it didn’t matter. Mission accomplished.
Asked later what he was thinking, Palmer said, “Don’t fan it.”
“I don't think he's kidding,” Nicklaus cracked. “He said exactly the same thing to me.”
Player went next, splitting the fairway and landing halfway up the hill on the first hole. Nicklaus, who has the most Green Jackets among the group with six, teed off last and his ball settled a few yards behind Player’s. And with that the 79th Masters was under way.