Nicklaus, Palmer, Player kick off 78th Masters

Augusta, GA ( - World Golf Hall of Fame members Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player opened the 78th Masters with their ceremonial tee shots at Augusta National Thursday morning.

The tradition of honorary starters at the Masters dates to 1963. The three former champions, who combined to win 13 Masters titles, struck their tee shots at the par-4 opening hole with Nicklaus knocking his ball just past the one hit by Player.

Nicklaus, 74, Palmer, 84, and Player, 78, teed off just before 7:40 a.m. ET, while 2009 British Open champ Stewart Cink and Tim Clark officially began the tournament soon after.

Play began under clear conditions with temperatures in the low 50s. The conditions were expected to be fine for all four tournament rounds with temperatures reaching the high 70s all four days.

World No. 1 and four-time champion Tiger Woods is missing the Masters for the first time as a professional. He had played the year's first major ever year since 1995 and collected 13 top-10 finishes against a single missed cut.

Defending champion and world No. 2 Adam Scott will play alongside reigning PGA champion Jason Dufner and 2013 U.S. Amateur winner Matthew Fitzpatrick for the first two rounds. Scott birdied the second playoff hole last year to defeat 2009 winner Angel Cabrera.

Three-time Masters winner Phil Mickelson is in the penultimate group out at 1:48 p.m. ET. He will play the first two rounds with reigning U.S. Open winner Justin Rose and four-time major champion Ernie Els.

The annual Par 3 contest was won by Ryan Moore. He starts his opening round at 12:09 p.m. ET with Thomas Bjorn and 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh.

A word of warning to Moore: no Par 3 winner has triumphed at the Masters the same year.