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Six years after Tom Watson played the Masters for the 43rd time, the two-time champion returns in April to strike the ceremonial tee shot alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

Watson, who stood up to Nicklaus in his Masters victories in 1977 and 1981, becomes the 11th player to hold honorary title since 1963.

All but four were Masters champions, including Lee Elder, the first black golfer to complete the Masters in 1975. Elder was asked to be an honorary single starter last year, although his health prevented him from swinging a club.

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While the club isn’t specific, Watson is likely to be a regular at the first tee every Thursday morning, a straightforward act that draws thousands of fans around the tee and spreads across both sides of the fairway.

A generation behind the “Big Three” of Palmer, Nicklaus and Player, Watson was the next great golfer. He won eight majors during his Hall of Fame career, all except the PGA Championship. His best moments have been with Nicklaus, beating the Golden Bear twice for a green jacket, having beaten him at Pebble Beach at the US Open and winning the legendary “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry during the ‘British Open 1977.

He played his first Masters in 1970 as an amateur, then returned in 1974 after winning the Western Open for the first of his 39 PGA Tour victories. Watson never missed another Masters until he played the last time in 2016.

“Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places,” Watson said in a statement.

The Masters |  Tom Watson named Honorary Starter alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player

“With the many fond memories of watching the Masters as a youngster and then participating in the tournament for so many years, I am very honored to join my fellow competitors, Jack and Gary, as an honorary starter to this tournament. next Masters. “

Watson has said that competing with Nicklaus and helping Player put on the green jacket when the South African won for the third time in 1978 are stand-out moments in his career.

Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion, has been an honorary holder since 2010, while Player made his debut in 2012.

Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod started in 1963. Others were Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen, then Arnold Palmer. Plus, Ken Venturi completed a year when Nelson couldn’t.

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