WATCH: Honorary Starters Get 87th Masters Underway

Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player continued the tradition at Augusta National, with the opening tee shots signalling the start of The 87th Masters

Player, Watson, Nicklaus stand on the first tee
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Masters is an event that is steeped in tradition, with one of those being the Honorary Starter ceremony that takes place prior to the first tee time of the competition. 

It's one of the biggest honors a former champion can have, with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player striking their tee shots off the first tee to signal the start of The 87th Masters.

The trio have a combined 11 Green Jackets between them, as well as 140 Tournament appearances, with the World Golf Hall of Famers carrying on their Honorary Starter roles from 2022.

A tradition that first started back in 1963 with Jock Hutchison (1963-1973) and Fred McLeod (1963-1976), the ceremony has seen legends of the game continuing the ceremony. These include 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), Lee Elder (2021) and Watson (2022-present).

The most recent player to take up the mantel is Watson, who boasts an incredible record at Augusta National, with the American a two-time Green Jacket winner, in 1977 and 1981, as well as a three-time runner-up finisher.

A sign with Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson's name

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the build up to the event, there had been a possibility that Watson wouldn't be present at the ceremony, as the 73-year-old underwent shoulder replacement surgery in November 2022. However, just under a week ago, he confirmed that he had recovered enough to take his place on the first tee on Thursday.

As the three legends took to the tee, we were treated to Player delivering a kung fu type kick after his drive, Nicklaus producing a humorous quip of "that's the hard part done" as he put his tee into the ground, and Watson delivering a swing that even a player half his age would be proud of! Following the tee shots, Augusta National Chairman, Fred Ridley, announced that "The 87th Masters is officially underway".

Matt Cradock
Staff Writer

Matt joined Golf Monthly in February 2021 covering weekend news, before also transitioning to equipment and testing. After freelancing for Golf Monthly and The PGA for 18 months, he was offered a full-time position at the company in October 2022 and continues to cover weekend news and social media, as well as help look after Golf Monthly’s many buyers’ guides and equipment reviews.

Taking up the game when he was just seven years of age, Matt made it into his county squad just a year later and continues to play the game at a high standard, with a handicap of around 2-4. To date, his best round came in 2016, where he shot a six-under-par 66 having been seven-under through nine holes. He currently plays at Witney Lakes in Oxfordshire and his favourite player is Rory McIlroy, despite nearly being struck by his second shot at the 17th during the 2015 BMW PGA Championship.

Matt’s current What’s In The Bag?

Driver: Honma TW747, 8.75°

Fairway Wood: TaylorMade Rocketballz Stage 2, 15°, 19°

Hybrid: Adams Super Hybrid, 22°

Irons: Mizuno MP54, 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland 588 RTX 2.0 Tour Satin, 50°, 56°, 60°

Putter: Cleveland TFI 2135 Satin Cero

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x