AUGUSTA, Ga. — For the first time in Masters history, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player — the original “Big Three’’ — joined together as honorary starters to strike the ceremonial first tee shots Thursday morning at Augusta National.
The three legends, who have played a combined 147 Masters and won 13 Green Jackets, hit the fairway, though not as far out as they once did. Palmer is 82 years old, Player 76 and Nicklaus 72.
“I don’t think any of us can see that far,’’ Nicklaus joked. “We can hear them all land, though.’’
Despite the fact his tee time wasn’t until 1:53 p.m., the last of the day, prominent in the crowd as a spectator to see the three legends hit one shot each at 7:40 a.m. was Phil Mickelson, who stood behind the tee wearing his Green Jacket.
TIME FOR TEEL Gary Player, Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus applaud Arnold Palmer during yesterday's ceremonial tee-off at the Masters.
“I thought it was remarkable,’’ Player said of seeing Mickelson there.
“It was a nice compliment,’’ Nicklaus said.
“It was wonderful,’’ Palmer said.
“I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time,’’ Mickelson said. “I’ve watched it on TV every year and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do it with Mr. Player doing it for the first time. It was a really cool experience and for anyone that comes to the Masters it’s worth coming out and watching.’’
For a short time, there was a belief Luke Donald, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, had signed for a wrong score on his scorecard, a mistake that would have disqualified him.
But the issue was clarified when a smudge in the transmission of the card showed he had a 3 on the fifth hole, not the 5 he actually carded and signed for. Donald finished with a 3-over 75.
Randal Lewis, the 54-year-old U.S. Mid-Amateur winner, shot 81 and called it “my all-time favorite 81, without a doubt.’’
Lewis, who was paired with two-time Masters champion and current European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal, called the experience “just a dream come true.’’
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel was one of 16 players to shoot an even-par 72. There were 28 players who shot under par. .
Jack Nicklaus, Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, AUGUSTA, Ga., Green Jackets