Golf legends open 80th Masters at Augusta

He might not have hit the ball this time around but 86-year-old Arnold Palmer has still held court, with the four-time green jacket recipient joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to open the 80th Masters at Augusta National.

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Despite being unfit to swing a club like he has done in years past and needing a golf cart to chariot him to the opening tee, Palmer saluted thousands of eager patrons in the cool early morning conditions at Augusta, receiving a standing ovation.

Known as ‘The King’, Palmer won the green jacket in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964.

South African Player, who thrilled all and sundry on Wednesday with a classic hole-in-one at the par-3 contest, having already celebrated his 80th birthday, then put a ceremonial ball in play with a solid drive down the middle.

Player won in 1961, 1974 and 1978, and looked like he might be able to break his age if they let him continue after the ‘Black Knight’ belted one halfway up the hill on the first fairway.

Nicklaus tried his best to match Player but pulled his drive a little left, finding the fairway about 10 yards short of his old adversary.

Now 76, the ‘Golden Bear’ holds a record six Masters wins after getting the best of the competition in 1963, 1965, 1966, 1972 and 1975 before a vintage performance in 1986.

American Jim Herman was then given the honour of hitting the first competitive ball in play shortly after, with Australian Steven Bowditch in the same group setting the pace for the opening round.

Overnight thunderstorms have softened the course with windy conditions expected to arrive throughout the day.

Australian Marc Leishman will go out with three-time champion Phil Mickelson and Swede Henrik Stenson at 12:43am (AEST).

Australia’s lone Masters champion Adam Scott gets going at 1:05am with Americans Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka.

Masters rookie Cameron Smith follows at 1:16am while world No.1 Jason Day is off late in the day at 3:06am.

“It will give me a chance to sleep in and then get an idea of what the scores are out there,” Day said on Masters eve.

“The conditions are likely to be tough but I’ve done all I can do with my preparation and now just excited to get out there.”

Defending champion Jordan Spieth tees off at 11:48pm.