AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ten swings. That’s all Jack Nicklaus took on the dew-filled driving range Tuesday morning in preparation for his inaugural opening tee shot at the Masters.
“I told Arnold, ‘We want to hear the ball hit the club, and then we don’t want to hear the ball land,’ ” Nicklaus joked.
With the sun peeking up over the tops of the pine trees as the clock struck 7:45 a.m., Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer etched another chapter in Masters history with their ceremonial swipes on the first hole at Augusta National. Palmer was first – “Put your ear muffs on. It’s going to be loud,” he joked – and swatted a fade down the right side of the fairway.
“That’s pretty good,” Nicklaus said before walking to his ball. “How’d you do that?”
“Keep your eye on the ball,” Palmer replied.
Nicklaus was next, and played his familiar fade up the right side as well, his ball landing about 30 yards past Palmer’s, just short of the fairway bunker. Nicklaus’ son Jack II and wife Barbara smiled. Nicklaus’ granddaughter Christie, a high school junior in North Palm Beach, Fla., and the daughter of Jack II, was on hand to caddie. She missed three days of school this week for the occasion.
“It was overwhelming,” she said looking back at the few thousand patrons that lined the first tee and fairway. “Plus, he joked that he was going to put lead weights in the bottom of the bag.”
Augusta used to let the honorary starters continue with their round. Now, they just hit it and wave. Nicklaus didn’t stick around much longer after his tee shot. The six-time Masters champ was off for a bonefishing trip in the Bahamas. There isn’t a TV on his boat, and he said he doesn’t plan to watch any live coverage this week. For someone who humbly accepted a new role in his Masters legacy, Nicklaus still found something unique about another trip to this historic place.
“You know,” he said. “I’ve never been up this early in Augusta.”