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Golf’s ‘Big Three’ led off another Masters

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Jack Nicklaus hits a ceremonial drive on the first tee during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Jack Nicklaus hits a ceremonial drive on the first tee during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Spectators make their way down the first fairway at sunrise for the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Arnold Palmer touches fists with Jack Nicklaus after hitting his ceremonial drive on the first tee during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Craig Stadler hits off the first fairway during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Gary Player, right, touches fists with Jack Nicklaus after hitting a ceremonial drive on the first tee during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The tee shot is ceremonial, yet there was a sense that competition still exists between the “Big Three.”

Or at least two of them.

Arnold Palmer, 84, hit the opening shot Thursday morning down the middle of the first fairway, barely up the hill. He was followed by 78-year-old Gary Player, who hit his tee shot some 40 yards past Palmer. Last to hit was Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Masters champion who turned 74 this year. Nicklaus hit a tee shot on the same line as Player, and it took once last bounce and rolled about a yard or two by Player.

“But it’s not bad when you think he used to outdrive my by 50,” Player said. “But he did hit on a sprinkler. You didn’t see that?”

Palmer’s drive was the most meaningful. He said at Bay Hill he would be having back surgery after the Masters that will help him enjoy the game more. Nicklaus said for Palmer to be an honorary starter “adds a year to his life.”

“I’ve never seen a man who loves the game as much as Arnold Palmer,” Nicklaus said.

— Doug Ferguson, https://twitter.com//dougferguson405

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Masters Watch follows golf’s first major of the year and all the activities surrounding the big event in Augusta, Ga., as seen by journalists from The Associated Press. It will be updated throughout the day.

Associated Press

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