Emotions high at ceremonial tee shots

2016 04 Getty Images 5195663061
• Palmer sits out hitting opening tee shot
• Player described it as "very special moment"
• Masters Tournament now underway

THE MASTERS | Ceremonial Tee-Shots

“It was more about Arnold this morning than anything else.”

Jack Nicklaus knew there was something particularly special about this year’s ceremonial tee shot at Augusta National. Traditionally, Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer have opened the Masters Tournament by driving off the first tee - but this year one of the ‘Big Three’ didn’t feel ready for it.

Palmer, now 86 years of age, was asked midweek by Nicklaus at the Champions Dinner if he wanted to hit his tee shot. “I don’t care if you putt it off the tee,” Nicklaus said to him. “I think everybody would love to have you do anything.”

“Let me think about it,” Palmer replied.

This morning, Nicklaus said the King didn’t want to step up. “I’m good,” Palmer told him.

Nicklaus later added: “I think probably the right thing. Arnold’s balance is not good and that’s what they were worried about. But I think he was delighted to be out there. I think we were delighted to have him there. Both Gary and I felt it was more about Arnold this morning than anything else, and I think that was just fine.”

Player said he dedicated his opening tee shot to Palmer and described it as a “very special moment”. “It was quite remarkable,” added the South African.

Emotions were high in the crowd when Palmer, looking frail, was helped onto the first tee amid applause from the Augusta patrons. One Augusta National member wiped tears from his eyes, whilst a number of patrons spoke about the emotion of the moment. “Well that was somethin’” said one. “I’m glad I got to see that.”

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