Tom Watson makes honorary starters a threesome

Joins Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to open 86th Masters Tournament
Tom Watson joined Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as an honorary starter. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Mist fell over Augusta National as Tom Watson joined Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus as the newest honorary starter at the 86th Masters Tournament. 

The legends teed off a half hour later than planned after overnight rains soaked the course, pushing tee times back for a tournament headlined so far by the imminent return of Tiger Woods. Player, dressed in all black, had the honor and hit first, followed by Nicklaus, in yellow.

A two-time Masters champion and eight-time major winner, Watson, in a periwinkle top and the youngest of the group at 72, hit third and became the 11th honorary starter in tournament history.

“I was definitely the shortest,” Nicklaus said afterward. “Gary and Tom were close.”

“Oh, come on,” Watson said. “I got him by fifty.”

Turning more serious, Watson said he isn’t in the same league as the other two honorary starters and pronounced himself “humbled” to be given the role. He cited Nicklaus, 82, as having the greatest golf mind, and recalled the first Masters he ever played, as an amateur in 1970, and being grouped with Player, 86, for the Par 3 Contest.

The three won a combined 35 major titles, including 11 Masters. Player and Nicklaus are among the five players who have won all four professional majors, the career Grand Slam. The others: Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Woods, the only active player in the group.

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Five-time Masters winner Woods hasn’t played in an official PGA TOUR event since the (November) 2020 Masters. He had his fifth back surgery a month later, and nearly lost his right leg in a single-car accident in Los Angeles in February 2021. With Joaquin Niemann and Louis Oosthuizen for the first two rounds, he’s making his first official start in 18 months.

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