1 of 5 | Golf legend Jack Nicklaus raises his arms after teeing off on the first hole during the honorary starters ceremony at the 2023 Masters Tournament on Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Photo by Bob Strong/UPI | License Photo
April 6 (UPI) -- Jack Nicklaus and fellow golf legends Gary Player and Tom Watson teed off the 2023 Masters Tournament through the traditional honorary starters ceremony Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
The six-decade tradition preempted Thursday's first round at the annual major tournament.
Mike Weir and Kevin Na later teed off in the first group at 8 a.m. on No. 1, a 445-yard par 4. The remaining groups for the 87-player field will tee off through Thursday afternoon.
The 87th Masters will air from Thursday through Sunday on ESPN and CBS and stream on ESPN+, Masters.com and the Masters Tournament app.
Nicklaus has taken part in the annual starters ceremony each year since 2010. Player joined Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer for the tradition in 2012. Watson joined Player and Nicklaus in 2022.
Nicklaus, Player and Watson won a combined 11 green jackets and made 140 appearances in the major tournament.
Player -- a nine-time major champion and three-time Masters winner -- stepped up to the tee box first on hole No. 1. He smacked his ball off the tee, prompting a small cheer from the crowd.
Nicklaus followed with the second drive. The 18-time major champion and six-time Masters winner waved off an assistant who tried to help him place his tee on the ground.
"That's the hardest part," Nicklaus said. "I promise."
Nicklaus raised his arms in the air to prompt another round of applause.
Watson -- an eight-time major winner and two-time Masters champion -- took the final drive. He joked with the gallery before he swiped his ball off the tee and concluded the ceremony. Masters chairman Fred Ridley followed that shot by saying: "ladies and gentleman, the 2023 Masters is now officially underway."
The honorary starter tradition started in 1963. Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod were part of that Masters ceremony. Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Lee Elder are among other former participants in the tradition.
Na withdrew from the tournament Thursday morning. Weir was even through 13 holes. Tiger Woods, who teed off a few hours later, made par on his first hole.
Phil Mickelson hits out of a bunker on the 7th hole during a practice round at the Masters tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on April 5, 2023. Photo by Bob Strong/UPI | License Photo