Gary Player will get some competition for long drive amongst the Masters Tournament’s honorary starters.
Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters, announced today that two-time Masters champion Tom Watson will join Player and Jack Nicklaus as honorary starters beginning this year.
The first round of the 86th Masters is set for Thursday, April 7.
“I am honored that Tom has accepted our invitation,” Ridley said in a release. “I look forward to commemorating his love for the game and impact on the Masters with his millions of fans across the globe as he hits a tee shot alongside two of the Tournament’s other all-time greats, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.”
Watson won the 1977 and 1981 Masters and finished runner-up three times in his 15 top-10 showings at Augusta National. He is one of 17 players to win multiple green jackets, and his 72.74 scoring average ranks fifth in tournament history.
He won eight majors in total among his 39 PGA TOUR titles, and later racked up 14 more victories on PGA TOUR Champions.
After competing in the Masters as an amateur in 1970, Watson made 42 consecutive starts from 1975-2016, the fifth-longest streak in tournament history. His 58 subpar rounds are second all-time behind Nicklaus (71), and he holds the record for most consecutive years with at least one subpar round (21, 1975-1995).
“Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places to be,” Watson said of his upcoming tee time with Nicklaus and Player.
He noted that Nicklaus pushed him down the stretch in his two Masters titles, and when Player won the Masters for the third time in 1978, it was Watson who was there to help him slip on the green jacket.
“With the many fond memories of both watching the Masters as a youngster and then competing in the Tournament for so many years, I am greatly honored to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary,” Watson added.
The tradition of honorary starters began with Jock Hutchison (1963-1973) and Fred McLeod (1963-1976). Others to perform the duties included Byron Nelson (1981-2001, non-consecutive), Gene Sarazen (1981-1999), Ken Venturi (1983), Sam Snead (1984-2002), Arnold Palmer (2007-2016), Nicklaus (2010-present), Player (2012-present) and Lee Elder (2021).