Gary Player joins Jack Nicklaus in getting 80th Masters under way

Gary Player was able to claim bragging rights for the second year running after joining Jack Nicklaus in getting the 80th Masters under way on Thursday.

Player and Nicklaus continued their role as honorary starters by each hitting a tee shot on the par-four first hole, with 80-year-old fitness fanatic Player - who made a hole-in-one during Wednesday's par-three contest - producing the longest drive by 20 yards from 76-year-old Nicklaus.

Arnold Palmer, who had been an honorary starter since 2007, was present to watch the other two members of golf's 'Big Three', who have 13 Masters titles between them.

But the 86-year-old had already said he would be unable to hit a shot due to a shoulder problem and looked frail as he was helped to a seat on the tee.

With the formalities out of the way, Jim Herman was set to get the tournament proper under way, the American claiming the last place in the 89-man field by winning the Shell Houston Open on Sunday.

Conditions were good for the early starters after heavy overnight rain, but the wind was forecast to strengthen during the day with gusts between 30 and 35mph predicted for Thursday afternoon.

That was bad news for world number three Rory McIlroy in his bid to win a first green jacket to complete the career grand slam, the 26-year-old being the last man out shortly after 2pm local time.

England's Danny Willett was also among the later starters and admitted he was still on a "tired cloud nine" following the birth of his first child last week.

"I'm happy to be here, but it was tough leaving them," Willett said of his wife Nicole and son Zachariah.

"I'm happy to be back here because it is a great place and it would have been a terrible shame to miss it, but if that had been the case then that's what I'd have done.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to play, so now I'm here I just want to enjoy it and make the most of it."

Herman, a former assistant professional at one of the courses owned by US presidential candidate Donald Trump, made a dream start when he holed from off the green on the first for birdie and picked up another shot on the par-five second.

However, a bogey on the fourth after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker dropped him back to one under and into a tie for the early lead with amateur Derek Bard, who had birdied the second.

Former champions Trevor Immelman, Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle had all opened with a par on the first, but Australian Steven Bowditch, who was playing alongside Herman, had dropped a shot there and carded a double bogey on the second.

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