AUGUSTA, Ga. – Jack Nicklaus saw the shadows stretching across the first tee Thursday morning at the Masters as he and Arnold Palmer prepared to start the tournament with a ceremonial tee shot.
"I saw all those shadows and I said, 'I don't know if we can hit out of our shadows,'" Nicklaus said.
As usual, they came through.
In a Masters tradition that never gets old, thousands of fans gathered around the tee and lined both sides of the fairway to watch Nicklaus and Palmer hit tee shots to get the 75th Masters under way.
Palmer, the 81-year-old with four green jackets, hit his shot to the base of the hill in the fairway. Then came Nicklaus, the six-time champion who turned 71 in January, pounding a shot at least 30 yards beyond Palmer.
They represent more than just 10 green jackets.
Nicklaus said as they warmed up on the practice range, Palmer noted that he first hit shots at Augusta in 1955. Nicklaus arrived in 1959 to play the Masters as an amateur.
"That's 56 and 52 years. That's a long time," Nicklaus said of the 108 appearances between them. "I guess it's still kind of fun to lop it off the first tee and be part of a great event."
The honorary starter has been around since 1963, and there was a time when the starters hit more than just an opening tee shot. One shot was all Nicklaus wanted to hit.
Palmer walked off the tee and headed upstairs in the clubhouse to have breakfast. Nicklaus held court under the oak tree, as he often does, for about five minutes.
There was a time when Nicklaus, golf's greatest champion with 18 majors, did not like the idea of anything related to ceremonial golf. But he realizes he stopped being competitive a decade ago, and he waited a few years so that Palmer could have the tee to himself.
"I don't have any objection to it," Nicklaus said. "I'm having a good time with it. People enjoy it. It's Augusta's way of honoring its past champions and people such as Arnold and myself. It's really quite nice they allow us to do this."
As for the rest of the week? Nicklaus is going fishing.
"I'm not going to sit around and watch a golf tournament," he said. "I'll come in and watch in the evening. But it's not like there's going to be business happening this week. Anyone in the game of golf is here. I can go sit in an office and wait for no phone calls, or go fishing. And that's what I'm going to do."