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Jack Nicklaus hopes to continue ceremonial tee shot tradition at Masters

By Stephen Hennessey

This April, when the golf world's attention turns to Augusta National as it does at the start of every spring, it will mark two special 50th anniversaries.

In 1963, a then-23-year-old Jack Nicklaus, coming off his historic playoff win against Arnold Palmer at the 1962 U.S. Open, became the youngest winner in Masters history.

At the start of that tournament, Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod hit the first ceremonial opening tee shots. Now 50 years later, Nicklaus hopes to continue the tradition started in his first win, by again joining fellow legends of the game -- Arnold Palmer and Gary Player -- at Augusta.

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Nicklaus is greeted by Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne in April before hitting the ceremonial tee shot, with Palmer and Player. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

"I don't think that letter [from Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne] has come, one way or the other. But I would assume that it will," Nicklaus said Tuesday in a small teleconference with some media members ahead of the 50-year anniversary of his first green jacket. "It's not my call. but I would assume we'd probably do that. And how long we do it? I don't know. It's not my call. I mean, it's the Chairman's call. We'll just go from there, on a year-to-year basis and see what happens."

Kindred: Jack, Arnie and Player hope to continue tradition

Asked also if he'd be playing in the 2013 Masters, in honor of the special anniversary, Nicklaus was caught off guard. He had just competed with son Gary in the PNC Father/Son Challenge this past weekend, finishing T-6 and just four strokes back of winners Davis Love III and his son Dru. But Jack hasn't teed it up for real in the Masters since retiring in 2005.

Golf fans, of course, would love to see the Big Three competing for real, or at least playing a ceremonial nine holes, as Hutchison and McLeod did at the start of the tradition. Player joined Palmer and Nicklaus for the first time last year, with Jack joining Palmer at the start of Thursday in 2009.

But just to hear Nicklaus recollect on his Masters victories was a nice respite from the cold December weather.


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