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Legends Hold Court As 79th Tourney Tees Off

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Legend

Honorary starters… Arnold Palmer (left), Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player made the ceremonial tee shots to open the 79th Masters at Augusta.

His swing might not be as powerful as when he claimed his four Masters titles, but 85-year-old Arnold Palmer still held court as he punched out a drive to start the 79th Masters at Augusta National.

Flanked by fellow golf legends, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, Palmer – his ailing shoulder holding him back – saluted thousands of eager patrons in the cool early morning conditions at Augusta before the ‘King’ pulled the ball a little left onto the ninth fairway. Palmer won the green jacket in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.

South African Player, the winner in 1961, 1974 and 1978, can still get the ball away well at 79, belting one halfway up the hill on the first, much to the delight of the assembled crowd.

Nicklaus, who thrilled all on Wednesday with a classic hole-in-one at the par-three contest, tried his best to match Player and, while he was straight as an arrow, he ended up just five metres short of Player’s ball.

Now 75, the ‘Golden Bear’ holds a record six Masters wins after getting the best of the competition in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and a vintage performance in 1986.

“Don’t fan it,” Palmer jokingly told himself before hitting his shot. “I don’t think he’s kidding,” Nicklaus added. “He said exactly the same thing to me.” Player said he appreciated the players who came out to watch him hit.

“It shows they have respect for the game,” he said. Not long after the Big Three left the tee, the tournament began for real. Charley Hoffman and Brian Harman were the first group to hit the course.

Australia’s hopes began with 2013 champion, Adam Scott and Adelaide amateur, Antonio Murdaca.

Former world No 1 Tiger Woods is off in the second last group, while Australian world No 5, Jason Day, is in the final group.


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