I am honored that Jack Nicklaus has accepted our invitation, Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said. We are delighted and fortunate to have such a great ambassador and icon of our sport take part in this tradition. He has inspired generations of golfers and having Jack join Arnold on the first tee next April will be a special thrill for his many loyal fans around the world.
Nicklaus has appeared in the Masters 45 times as a competitive player and won on a record six occasions (1963, 1965, 1966, 1972, 1975 and 1986).
I have had such a long-standing appreciation and love affair with Augusta National and the Masters Tournament, and this honor is a wonderful way for me to say thank you to the many patrons who have supported me over the decades, Nicklaus said. I am also delighted to join my longtime friend Arnold on the tee. I have always had great respect for Arnold and his legacy at the Masters, and I did not, in any way, want to infringe on the opportunity for Arnold to have and enjoy this Masters tradition for himself.'
Jock Hutchinson and Fred McLeod were the first honorary starters, in 1963. Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Ken Venturi, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer have continued the practice.
Honorary starters serve the tournament by hitting tee shots off the first tee prior to the first competitive round.