Honorary starters begin action at Augusta National

4/11/2013 2:37:00 PM
Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player  (Getty Images)
Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player (Getty Images)
Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus got the 77th Masters Tournament under way at Augusta National, with Player again hitting a drive which the rest of the field would be more than happy with.

Player joined Nicklaus and Palmer as honorary starters for first time last year and the 77 year old South African repeated his feat of 12 months ago, finding the right-hand side of the fairway some 250 yards from the tee.

The 83 year old Palmer also split the fairway, albeit around 50 yards shorter, while Nicklaus, 73, hit marginally the longest drive but pulled it slightly into the pine straw.

With that the trio who used to be known as golf's 'Big Three' - they have 13 Masters titles between them - retired to the clubhouse and allowed the tournament proper to begin.

Conditions were good for the early starters, with no wind and slightly overcast skies, but possible thunderstorms were forecast for later in the day.

On the 25th anniversary of his victory here, Sandy Lyle had the honour of hitting the first shot in the tournament itself, but the Scot soon found the course remained as treacherous as ever.

After just missing the fairway, Lyle was partially blocked out by the trees and saw his approach fail to hook enough and miss the green.

His pitch shot looked straightforward, but caught a slope six feet from the flag and rolled away from the hole and back off the other side of the putting surface.

Thankfully Lyle was more successful with his second attempt and dropped just one shot, but he was unable to birdie the par five second and then bogeyed the tough par three fourth.

The first birdie of the day had come from American Larry Mize, who won the title the year before Lyle, while England's David Lynn followed suit in the group behind.

At one under par they shared the early lead with Brian Gay and Kevin Na, while Ted Potter - winner of the par three contest yesterday and therefore "cursed" not to win the main event on Sunday - had parred the first.

The first hole, ranked the hardest on the course in 2012 at an average of 4.39, soon claimed another high-profile victim as Lee Westwood ran up a double bogey six.

Westwood, seeking a first Major title at the 60th attempt, quickly repaired some of the damage with a birdie on the par five second as he looked to improve on a Masters record which reads second, 11th, third in the last three years.

Sweden's Carl Pettersson was the first player to reach two under with birdies at the first and second, and he was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Gay, who had birdied the sixth.