Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player - who boast 13 green jackets between them - started the 2014 Masters Tournament at Augusta National on Thursday

Words: Robin Barwick

Golf’s ‘Big Three’ of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player are leaders at the Masters in many regards. They have led in establishing much of the rich heritage of the Masters, and today they remain the bridge between the past at Augusta National and the present. They lead the way in the hearts of Masters patrons, and in leading off the golf this morning at Augusta as the honorary starters of the 2014 Masters, they also showed that they lead the way in showing both humour and humility.

“I’m not sure there is enough room,” said the self-deprecating Palmer as he teed up his ball at 7:40 this morning, with the quite broad first fairway ahead of him.

“He’s not kidding,” quipped Jack Nicklaus, standing by for his turn.

Both Player and Nicklaus, feeling the emotion in the atmosphere, wiped tears from their eyes as they stepped up to follow Palmer’s drive. Player ripped his drive down the fairway and gave a kung-fu kick in the air to celebrate.

“Oh, boy,” exhaled Nicklaus as he addressed his shot. “To only do this for real again,” he added wistfully.

Afterwards Nicklaus expanded on his comment when the three past champions faced the media: “I think we’d all love to wind the clock back a few years and play,” said the six-time Masters champion, “Because it is such a great tournament and a great thrill to stand on the first tee, have the butterflies and get that first tee shot over with and get going. Today there were no butterflies, but just happy to hit the first tee shot.”

With Nicklaus seated between Player and Palmer, he fielded many of the initial media questions before Player said: “Let Arnold say something, because…”

“….You were here a long time before we were,” finished Nicklaus, to laughter.

“Yes,” replied Palmer, “and I hope I’m here a long time after you”.

Palmer’s quick wit triggered the loudest laughter in the media centre so far this week. As has been the case for 60 years, journalists remain putty in Palmer’s hands.

Robin Barwick travelled to Augusta National courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, Global Sponsor of the 2014 Masters Tournament