Tom Watson to join Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player as honorary starter for Masters

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Forty-five years ago, Tom Watson held off Jack Nicklaus by two shots to win his first green jacket.

Forty-one years ago, Watson again held off Nicklaus, as well as Johnny Miller, to win his second green jacket.

Come April, Watson and Nicklaus will hook up again at Augusta National.

Watson will join Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter ahead the first round of the Masters. The three combined to win the Masters 11 times.

In addition to his Masters wins in 1977 and 1981, Watson finished runner-up in 1978, 1979 and 1984 and had 15 top-10s in all in 42 starts. He is one of 17 players to win multiple Masters. His 72.74 scoring average ranks fifth in the tournament’s history. Watson’s 58 subpar rounds are second all-time behind Nicklaus (71). Watson holds the record for most consecutive years with at least one subpar round (21, 1975-1995).

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Tom Watson
Tom Watson

Watson, 72, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1988. He won 39 PGA Tour titles (tied for 10th all time). Eight of those victories were in major championships, including wins in the Open Championship in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983.

“Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places to be,” Watson said in a release on Tuesday from Augusta National Golf Club. “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 honored to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary, as an honorary starter in this upcoming Masters.

“In both of my victories, Jack was on my heels. And when Gary won his third tournament in 1978, I was there to help him put on the green jacket. Moments like those stand out in my career, and the opportunity to share the honorary starter tradition with Jack, Gary and the Masters patrons will be very special.”

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Watson will become the 11th honorary starter in the tournament’s history. The tradition began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod. Other honorary starters include Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Ken Venturi, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Nicklaus, Player and Lee Elder.

The 86th Masters is April 7-10.

“I am honored that Tom has accepted our invitation,” said Fred Ridley, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters. “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.”