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April 5, 2007
The King returns
Arnold Palmer was back on the first tee at Augusta National this morning, taking over as the ceremonial starter for the Masters. Palmer is the latest in a series of past champions who have served in this capacity, a group that includes Sam Snead, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson.
Because of his relationship with both the Masters and its partrons, Palmer is a perfect choice to fulfill this role. Arnie wowed the fans who came out early to see him. They gave him a long and warm ovation. His tee shot went left, landing short of the bunkers on the left side of the fairway. But it didn't matter, it was nice to have him back at Augusta after a several year absence.
At dinner last night, some of my golf writing colleagues and I were discussing whether Jack Nicklaus would ever serve as an honorary starter.
Most of us agreed that it will be a long, long, time before Nicklaus, one of the game's greatest competitiors, agrees to hit a golf shot that means absolutely nothing. Perhaps in 10 years, when Nicklaus is around 75, he will be willing to accept such a role.
During the same dinner time discussion we tossed around what will happen when Tiger and Phil reach this stage in their careers.
We all agreed that Phil, like Arnie, would be a great cerenmonial starter. He has said Augusta is one of the few golf courses where he gets excited to play every time he steps to the first tee. He too is beloved by the golf fans, so it would be a great way for Phil and his fans to reconnect after his competitive days are done.
Tiger will be like Jack, He is far too competitive to want anything to do with being a ceremonial starter. It might take even more time than it will for Nicklaus for Tiger to agree to hit a ceremonial shot.
Well, round one is under way and Tim Clark and Ben Crenshaw lead at 1 under, but both are early in their rounds. It's much cooler today but it's dry and conditions should be good.