Miami – Four-time Masters champion Arnold Palmer will not hit the ceremonial opening tee shot at Augusta National this year for the first time since 2007.
Palmer, 86, said from the PGA Tour event named for him at Bay Hill in Orlando on Tuesday that he had told Augusta National officials of his decision.
“Am I disappointed by that? Well sure, but time moves on,” Palmer said in comments posted on the PGA Tour website.
“I would love to go on doing it forever, but I don’t have the physical capability to hit the shot the way I would want to hit it,” Palmer said. “So I’ll have to be content to watch.”
In a statement on Tuesday, tournament chairperson Billy Payne said he had spoken to Palmer on Monday.
“It makes no difference whether he hits a drive,” Payne said. “He is a true legend in golf and will be welcomed as usual on the first tee with the other Masters honorary starters. It will be a great day.”
Palmer has made few appearances this week at the Florida tournament he founded, and opted out of his usual pre-tournament press conference.
Although Palmer’s presence around the game is less regular these days, today’s young stars are well aware of the iconic player’s impact on the game.
Palmer, who played in 50 Masters tournaments from 1955-2004, was golf’s first television superstar, with charisma that inspired a legion of fans that came to be known as “Arnie’s Army”.
“Let’s be honest, it’s kind of a nerdy sport,” Australia’s Jason Day said on Tuesday. “Arnold Palmer made golf sexy.”