Emotions were running high at this morning’s traditional ceremonial tee shots as patrons paid tribute to the late Arnold Palmer with a moment of silence.
Billy Payne followed Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player onto the first tee accompanied by Palmer’s wife, Kathleen, with Palmer’s green jacket hung appropriately over a chair on the first tee.
Standing under Augusta National’s famed Oak Tree, famed US golf presenter Jim Nantz, said: “I’ve only got one man on my mind right now.”
2017 Honorary Starters Ceremony https://t.co/Fb8hJq7CNN— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 6, 2017
Player was out-muscled by a matter of feet by a clearly emotional Nicklaus, who split the fairway, as the ceremony has almost turned into a long-drive contest.
One of the first questions in the sit-down with the press afterwards being, ‘Who won?’
“The official word that it was a little past, but Gary is claiming a tie,” said Nicklaus. “But it’s okay. Doesn’t make a difference either way. Neither one of us topped it, skied it or whiffed it. I didn’t have any butterflies. I just wanted to hit the golf ball.”
On the range beforehand, Player was warming up under the watchful eye of David Leadbetter, one of the world’s top coaches – but it seems he was outdone by Nicklaus, who had a little help from Grand Slam-chasing Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy said Nicklaus had been trying to hit it further than Player when they met last week, but kept hitting it left. Rory adjusted the weight in Nicklaus’ driver, and his ball flight improved.
“Perfect, there you go,” said Rory.
Before the tee-shots, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne addressed the crowd, a significant number of them wearing their ‘Arnie’s Army’ badge – given to every patron who walked through the gates this morning – and said Palmer was a friend to all. “Arnold Palmer was my friend,” said Payne. “He was yours, too.”