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Palmer, Nicklaus, Player commence 78th Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player – a group that has a combined 13 green jackets – began the proceedings at the Masters with the ceremonial first tee shots early Thursday, but as is the tradition there was nothing ceremonially between these three competitors.

“I think Jack outdrove me by a yard or two which isn’t too bad considering he used to outdrive me by 50 (yards),” Player laughed.

The poignant moment of the proceedings was when Nicklaus opined, “I’d love to do this (play the event) for real.”

All three players hit the fairway with their opening shots, although Palmer – who has been struggling with an ailing back and is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday – was well short of the other two legends.

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“It’s been a wonderful journey with these two,” said Player, who joined the ceremonial threesome in 2012.

The tradition started in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod and golf’s Big Three was asked following Thursday’s sendoff how long they planned to continue their starting duties.

“As long as they ask me to do it,” Palmer said.

Even Tiger Woods, who is missing this year’s championship for the first time since 1994 following back surgery, appreciated the moment.

“It never gets old watching the honorary starters tee off. One of the oldest and best traditions in the game,” Woods tweeted.