"It is a wonderful, but in one respect, difficult day," Masters Chairman Billy Payne said to open the 2017 tournament at Augusta National. "For the first time in many many decades, someone is obviously missing from the first tee at Augusta National and the Masters. The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold Palmer, is surpassed only by love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts."
Palmer, the king of golf, died last September at the age of 87, making this the first Masters without him since 1954.
Palmer played in his 50th and final Masters tournament in 2004 and in 2007 he began serving as the honorary starter. Jack Nicklaus joined as an honorary starter in 2010 and Gary Player was added to the "Big Three" in 2012, according to Golf Week.
"Even though my friend Gary Player and I are a year older and maybe a few yards shorter, this first tee time on Thursday of the Masters never gets old. It was wonderful to pause and pay tribute to our dear friend Arnold, and I hope from above he offered us a thumbs-up for finding the fairway," Nicklaus tweeted. "It's not important but I must have also found a little extra as I might have nipped Gary. Perhaps I should give Rory McIlroy some credit and thanks for the little driver tweak the other day on the range at The Bear's Club. Best of luck to him and the rest of the field in the 81st Masters."
Before taking his tee shot today, Player joked: "Do we get a mulligan now that we're over 80?"