Augusta, Georgia (Sports Network) - Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Playerown 13 green jackets between them and the trio opened the 77th Masters withceremonial tee shots at Augusta National Thursday morning.
The tradition of honorary starters at the Masters dates to 1963. All threeformer champions found the fairway with their tee shots at the par-4 openinghole.
Nicklaus, 73, Palmer, 83, and Player, 77, teed off at 7:50 a.m. ET before thefirst group that included 1988 winner Sandy Lyle, John Peterson and amateurNathan Smith.
Play began under cloudy, foggy skies and temperatures in the low 60s. Theconditions are playable early this morning, but rain and possible lightningare expected later in the afternoon. Rain is also a threat Friday, while theweekend forecast is nearly ideal, with plenty of sun and temperatures in the70s.
A year ago, the annual Par 3 contest was shortened by storms, but thetournament itself was completed without interruption. The last weather delaywas in 2008.
World No. 1 Tiger Woods is slated to tee off mid-morning just ahead of thegroup that includes defending champion Bubba Watson. Woods, who hasn't won amajor championship since the 2008 U.S. Open, is paired with world No. 4 LukeDonald and Scott Piercy.
Watson is playing the first two rounds with Ian Poulter and U.S. Amateur champSteven Fox.
Thursday's penultimate group consists of worl No. 2 Rory McIlroy, 2011 PGAChampionship winner Keegan Bradley and Fredrik Jacobson. The threesome will bepreceded by three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, last year's runner-upLouis Oosthuizen and former world No. 1 Martin Kaymer.
On Wednesday, Ted Potter, Jr. emerged from a five-way tie atop the leaderboard to win the Par 3 contest, edging Mickelson, Ernie Els, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar in a playoff.
A word of warning to Potter: no Par 3 winner has triumphed at the Masters thesame year.