Why Is Tom Watson A Starter At The Masters?

This year Tom Watson will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter at Augusta National

Tom Watson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tom Watson first played in The Masters in 1970, he last played in it in 2016. In the interim the 72-year-old won the Green Jacket twice, in 1977 and 1981, was second three times and his worst finish throughout the 80s was a tie for 14th.

This year he will provide plenty of competition for Gary Player for the longest drive after being included as an honorary starter for this year’s Masters where he will also join six-time winner and his Duel In the Sun adversary, Jack Nicklaus.

“Augusta National in April is one of my favourite places to be,” Watson said. “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 honoured to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary.”

Aside from the two wins Watson boasts the fifth best scoring average (72.74) in tournament history and he made 42 straight starts from 1975-2016 which is the fifth-longest streak in tournament history. Watson tops the list for most consecutive years with at least one sub-par round (21, 1975-1995).

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Last year Lee Elder joined Nicklaus and Player on the tee having been the first black man to play in the tournament in 1975. Sadly Elder died in November last year and so now Watson will make up the threeball.

“I am honoured that Tom has accepted our invitation,” Augusta chairman Fred Ridley said. “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.”

Historically the position of the Honorary Starter has come and gone with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod kicking it off in 1963. Other legends of the game to get The Masters underway include Byron Nelson (1981-2001, non-consecutive), Gene Sarazen (1981-1999), Ken Venturi (1983), Sam Snead (1984-2002) and of course Arnold Palmer (2007-2016). Nicklaus has been doing it since (2010 while this will be Player’s 10th year.

The first round of the 86th Masters is set for Thursday, April 7.

How many Masters has Tom Watson won?

Tom Watson has won two Masters, in 1977 and 1981. In his early days Watson was known as a bit of a choker but at Augusta in '77 he shot a final-round 67 to stay two clear of a fast-finishing Jack Nicklaus. The first prize that year was $40,000. 

Four years later he trailed Nicklaus by four shots at the halfway stage, led by one going into the final round and prevailed by two from Nicklaus and Johnny Miller. 

Who has Tom Watson replaced as Masters honorary starter?

Lee Elder, who sadly died at the end of the year, was an honorary starter in 2021. From 2017 to last year Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have been getting The Masters underway - from 2007-2016 Arnold Palmer was the star of the show.

Who are the Masters honorary starters?

Jack Nicklaus has been a starter since 2010 while this will be Gary Player’s 10th year, this will be Tom Watson's first year as an honorary starter. The tradition goes back to 1963.

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.