AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Self-deprecation was the language spoken by Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player when they stepped to the first tee at Augusta National as honorary starters Thursday morning.
"I just don't want to fan it," Palmer said to his fellow Big Three members as the annual gathering began.
Palmer's participation in the ceremony was uncertain in recent weeks after the 85-year-old dislocated his shoulder at the end of last year, an injury that forced him to sit out of Wednesday's Par-3 Contest.
After being introduced by club chairman Billy Payne, Palmer settled in. "Oh, I got it on the tee," he quipped, laughter following. "When it goes out of sight, don't be surprised."
Suffice it to say, Palmer didn't fan it, delighting the crowd but a little low hook.
Next came Player, 79, looking his usual fit self. After he striped his drive down the middle of the fairway, and the applause died down, a voice in the crowd stood out.
"Show off!" cried Nicklaus.
Nicklaus then stepped to the tee. "Ahead of the markers, right?" he said. A few waggles later, he followed with a smooth drive of his own.
Despite the creaky old-guy jokes the three men offer at the expense of each other, their appearance is still revered by those watching, a crowd that included Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley. Fowler was present on the first tee 20 minutes before the opening shots, despite having at 1:59 p.m. tee time, the last one on Thursday.