Gary Player will join Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer as an honorary starter for the 2012 Masters Tournament, reuniting golf’s so-called Big Three at the first major tournament of the year.
Player became the Masters’ first international champion in 1961 when he captured the first of three titles at Augusta National Golf Club. He made his 52nd and final appearance in 2010.
“I am thrilled to join my friends Jack and Arnold as an honorary starter,” Player said in a statement released by the private club in Augusta, Georgia. “Augusta National is a special place that holds many memories for me.”
With Player, 75, joining Palmer and Nicklaus, the tournament’s starters will account for 13 Masters championships, including seven consecutive victories from 1960 through 1966.
The last time all three competed in the Masters was 2004, the year Palmer, now 81, made his 50th consecutive start. Nicklaus, now 71, joined Palmer as an honorary starter in 2010, five years after his final competitive appearance.
The three have been linked throughout their professional careers.
When Player won his first Masters title, Palmer, the defending champion, placed the winner’s Green Jacket on the South African. In 1975, a year after Player won his second title, he presented the winner’s jacket to Nicklaus for his fourth victory.
South African Champions
While it took until the 25th Masters for Player to become the event’s first international champion, three of the last four winners have been non-U.S. players, including South Africans Charl Schwartzel (2011) and Trevor Immelman (2008).
Before Palmer agreed to hit the opening tee shot in 2007, the tournament had gone without a ceremonial starter since Sam Snead died in 2002. The tradition, which began in 1963, takes place before the first official group begins the opening round.