Augusta National Golf Club has announced that Tom Watson has accepted an invitation to become an Honorary Starter for The Masters.
Beginning this year, the two-time champion will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in getting the first men's major of the year underway.
“I am honoured that Tom has accepted our invitation,” said club chairman Fred Ridley. “I look forward to commemorating his love for the game and impact on tThe 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.”
Watson won the 1977 and 1981 Masters Tournaments and finished runner-up three times in his 15 top-10 showings at Augusta National.
He is one of17 players to win multiple Masters Tournaments and his 72.74 scoring average ranks fifth in tournament history. After competing in the Masters as an amateur in 1970, Watson made 42 consecutive starts from 1975-2016, the fifth-longest streak in tournament history. His 58 sub-par rounds are second all-time behind Nicklaus (71) and he holds the record for most consecutive years with at least one sub-par round (21, 1975-1995).
“Augusta National in April is one of my favorite 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 honored to join my friends and fellow competitors Jack and Gary as an Honorary Starter in this upcoming Masters.
"In both of my victories, Jack was on my heels. And when Gary won his third tournament
in 1978, I was there to help him put on the Green Jacket. Moments like those stand out in my career, and the opportunity to share the Honorary Starter tradition with Jack, Gary and the Masters patrons will be very special.”
The tradition of Honorary Starters at The Masters began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison (1963-1973) and Fred McLeod (1963-1976) performing the duties.
Other Honorary Starters include Byron Nelson (1981-2001, non-consecutive), Gene Sarazen (1981-1999), Ken Venturi (1983), Sam Snead (1984-2002), Arnold Palmer (2007-2016), Nicklaus (2010-present), Player (2012-present) and Lee Elder (2021).
The introduction of the Honorary Starters and ceremonial tee shots historically precede the first tee time of the tournament’s first competitive round, signaling the official beginning of Masters competition.
The 86th Masters Tournament is scheduled for April 4-10, 2022