Thursday, April 09, 2009

Arnold-palmer-first-tee-sho AUGUSTA, Ga. – Moments before patrons were allowed to power walk onto the grounds of Augusta National and claim prime viewing spots, there was a subdued laughter on the first tee. With Arnold Palmer moments away from making his entrance and hitting the ceremonial first tee shot to start the 2009 Masters, a tournament official moved the tee markers 10 feet forward.Palmer and Masters chairman Billy Payne walked from the clubhouse to the tee at precisely 7:45 a.m. EST. Payne welcomed the crowd and made an introduction that was completely unnecessary. "No one has meant more to the great game of golf than our honorary starter," Payne said in the morning sunshine. "He is a fierce competitor and loved around the world. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming four-time Masters champion, Mr. Arnold Palmer."Palmer, 79, teed up a ball moments later and smacked it into the blue sky and down the right side of the fairway.Palmer then slid a Masters green jacket over his yellow golf shirt, posed for photos with Payne and other members of the club, and made his way back to the clubhouse.For years, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson answered the call and hit shots to start the Masters. Now, with Gary Player announcing this week that he will no longer compete here and Jack Nicklaus on hand as a guest, it seems to be only a matter of time before a second triumvirate of honorary starters is created. With 13 Masters wins between them, Palmer, Nicklaus and Player should be allowed to tee it up wherever they please.(Photo: Fred Vuich/SI)

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