Thursday, April 7, 2016

With Palmer watching, Nicklaus and Player start the Masters

It was a bittersweet start to the Masters on Thursday morning. 

Yes, the Big Three congregated on the first tee for the official start of the tournament, but only two-thirds of golf's great triumvirate stepped up to the first tee at Augusta National and took a swing.

After a formal welcome from Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, Payne then encouraged the crowd to give a rousing ovation for 86-year-old Arnold Palmer, who announced earlier this year that he wouldn't hit a a ceremonial tee shot for the first time since 2007. Palmer remained on the tee, seated in a chair.

Payne then introduced three-time winner, the 80-year-old South African Gary Player, to hit the first tee shot, which he striped down the middle. Both Palmer and Nicklaus ribbed Player, who made his 31st lifetime hole-in-one in Wednesday's Par-3 Contest, for using a fluorescent yellow ball.

Then came the six-time green jacket winner Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus was a little stiff after the early morning warm-up on the range wore off. However, as he was about to hit his shot, he stopped to wipe a tear or two from his eye, perhaps aware that this may be one of the final times the Big Three gets together on the first tee of a Masters.

He joked, "I don't know whether I'm getting tears, or I'm just ooollldddd."

Then Nicklaus hit his drive high and a little off to the left side.

As the trio walked off the tee, with Nicklaus helping Palmer by holding his right arm, the combatants who have become good friends each were said to be crying.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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