Golf: Watson to join Nicklaus, Player as Masters honorary starter

Golf greats (from left) Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Tom Watson are pictured on the final day of practice for the 2018 Masters golf tournament. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS) - Two-time US Masters champion Tom Watson will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player this year as an honorary starter at the tournament, Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley said on Tuesday (Jan 11).

Watson, who won the 1977 and 1981 Masters and was runner-up three times among 15 top-10 finishes at Augusta National, will help kick off the year's first Major ahead of the opening round on April 7.

"Augusta National in April is one of my favourite places to be," Watson, 72, said in a news release.

"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 honoured to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary, as an honorary starter in this upcoming Masters."

The tradition of honorary starters at the Masters began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod performing the duties.

Nicklaus has been an honorary starter since 2010 while Player joined in 2012.

Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first Black man to compete in the Masters, joined Nicklaus and Player for the ceremonial start in 2021. He died in November.

Watson is one of 17 players to win multiple Masters and his 72.74 scoring average ranks fifth in tournament history. He made 42 consecutive starts from 1975-2016, the fifth-longest streak, and his 58 sub-par rounds are second all-time behind Nicklaus (71).

"I look forward to commemorating his love for the game and impact on the 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," Ridley said.

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