AUGUSTA, Ga. — As the sun began to bathe Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday morning, Jack Nicklaus stood on the first tee, removed his hat and looked to the sky to salute Arnold Palmer.
It was one of many touching tributes to Palmer, who passed away in September, as the 81st edition of the Masters commenced. It is the first Masters Palmer has not attended since 1955. A white lawn chair with a green jacket draped over it was on the first tee in honor of Palmer. A moment of silence was observed. Palmer’s widow, Kit, was on the tee.
Nicklaus, 77, the record six-time Masters champion, and Gary Player, 81, a winner of three green jackets, hit the ceremonial tee shots. Nicklaus, who had Rory McIlroy adjust his driver on Tuesday, pumped his drive down the middle of the fairway, just a few yards past the tee shot of Player.
“This is a wonderful and difficult day,” Masters chairman William Payne said. “Arnold Palmer was more than a King. He was my friend. He was your friend.”