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

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Jack Nicklaus (L) will be joined by fellow golf greats Tom Watson (R) and Gary Player as honorary starters at the 2022 Masters in April in Augusta, Ga. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/b944cd1bca8dcf6a43fe5be88d66e032/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Jack Nicklaus (L) will be joined by fellow golf greats Tom Watson (R) and Gary Player as honorary starters at the 2022 Masters in April in Augusta, Ga. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Tom Watson will join fellow Hall of Fame golfers Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an honorary starter at the Masters in April in Augusta, Ga., Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley announced Tuesday.

"I am honored that Tom has accepted our invitation," Ridley said in a news release. "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."

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Honorary starters take ceremonial tee shots before the first tee times of the annual major tournament. Late golfers Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were the first honorary starters at the 1963 Masters.

Watson, 72, won the 1977 and 1981 Masters Tournaments. He placed second three times at Augusta. His 39 career PGA Tour wins are 10th in golf history. He totaled eight major tournament titles.

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"Augusta National in April is one of my favorite places to be," Watson said. "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.

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"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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The 2022 Masters Tournament runs April 7 to 10 at Augusta National Golf Club. Hideki Matsuyama is the defending champion.

Nicklaus, 81, claimed six of his record 18 major titles at Augusta. He also totaled five PGA Championship titles, four U.S. Open wins and a trio of British Open crowns.

Player, 86, won the Masters in 1961, 1974 and 1978. He also claimed first place three times at the British Open, twice at the PGA Championship and once at the U.S. Open.

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Nicklaus first served as an honorary starter in 2010. Player joined Nicklaus for the ceremonial tee shots in 2012. Lee Elder, the first Black golfer to play at the Masters, joined Nicklaus and Player as an honorary starter last April at Augusta. Elder died in November. He was 87.

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