Nicklaus, who had eschewed the ceremonial position in recent years, played in his final Masters in 2005 and was the oldest champion in 1986 when he won at 46 years old. He played in the Wednesday Par 3 Contest last year alongside Palmer and Gary Player.
“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. He is so deserving of this honor, and thus I felt it was his time, not mine,” Nicklaus said in a statement. “Recently, I was invited by both Augusta National and Arnold to join him on the first tee, and because he enthusiastically supported the invitation, it became an easy decision for me.”
Palmer took over the role of honorary starter in 2007, following the tradition that began in 1963 with Fred McLeod and Jock Hutchison.