Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, has revealed that two-time Masters champion Tom Watson will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as an Honorary Starter beginning Thursday, April 7, 2022, at the 86th Masters Tournament.
“I am honoured that Tom has accepted our invitation,” said Ridley. “I look forward to commemorating his love for the game and impact on the Masters with his millions of fans across the globe as he hits a tee shot alongside two of the Tournament’s other all-time greats, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.”
Watson won the 1977 and 1981 Masters Tournaments and finished runner-up three times in his 15 top-10 showings at Augusta National. He is one of 17 players to win multiple Masters Tournaments, and his 72.74 scoring average ranks fifth in Tournament history.
After competing in the Masters as an amateur in 1970, Watson made 42 consecutive starts from 1975-2016, the fifth-longest streak in Tournament history. His 58 subpar rounds are second all-time behind Nicklaus (71), and he holds the record for most consecutive years with at least one subpar round (21, 1975-1995).
“Augusta National in April is one of my favourite places to be,” Watson said.
“With the many fond memories of both watching the Masters as a youngster and then competing in the Tournament for so many years, I am greatly honoured to join my friends and fellow competitors, Jack and Gary, as an Honorary Starter in this upcoming Masters.
“In both of my victories, Jack was on my heels. And when Gary won his third Tournament in 1978, I was there to help him put on the Green Jacket. Moments like those stand out in my career, and the opportunity to share the Honorary Starter tradition with Jack, Gary and the Masters patrons will be very special.”
The tradition of Honorary Starters at the Masters began in 1963 with Jock Hutchison (1963-1973) and Fred McLeod (1963-1976) performing the duties. Other Honorary Starters include Byron Nelson (1981-2001, non-consecutive), Gene Sarazen (1981-1999), Ken Venturi (1983), Sam Snead (1984-2002), Arnold Palmer (2007-2016), Nicklaus (2010-present), Player (2012-present) and Lee Elder (2021).
The introduction of the Honorary Starters and ceremonial tee shots historically precede the first tee time of the Tournament’s first competitive round, signalling the official beginning of Masters competition. The 86th Masters Tournament is scheduled for April 7-10.