Augusta, GA – Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player own 13 green jackets between them and the trio opened the 77th Masters with ceremonial tee shots at Augusta National Thursday morning.
The tradition of honorary starters at the Masters dates to 1963. All three former champions found the fairway with their tee shots at the par-4 opening hole.
Nicklaus, 73, Palmer, 83, and Player, 77, teed off at 7:50 a.m. ET before the first group that included 1988 winner Sandy Lyle, John Peterson and amateur Nathan Smith.
Play began under cloudy, foggy skies and temperatures in the low 60s. The conditions are playable early this morning, but rain and possible lightning are expected later in the afternoon. Rain is also a threat Friday, while the weekend forecast is nearly ideal, with plenty of sun and temperatures in the 70s.
A year ago, the annual Par 3 contest was shortened by storms, but the tournament itself was completed without interruption. The last weather delay was in 2008.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods is slated to tee off mid-morning just ahead of the group that includes defending champion Bubba Watson. Woods, who hasn't won a major championship since the 2008 U.S. Open, is paired with world No. 4 Luke Donald and Scott Piercy.
Watson is playing the first two rounds with Ian Poulter and U.S. Amateur champ Steven Fox.
Thursday's penultimate group consists of world No. 2 Rory McIlroy, 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and Fredrik Jacobson. The threesome will be preceded by three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, last year's runner-up Louis Oosthuizen and former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer.
On Wednesday, Ted Potter, Jr. emerged from a five-way tie atop the leaderboard to win the Par 3 contest, edging Mickelson, Ernie Els, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar in a playoff.
A word of warning to Potter: no Par 3 winner has triumphed at the Masters the same year.