Arnold Palmer swings away to start the Masters

Arnold Palmer, 85, hit the opening shot of the Masters out of bounds to cheers and applause

It took all the strength that Arnold Palmer could muster to fulfill his annual role as honorary starter for the Masters.

The 85-year-old golf legend had to skip the pre-tournament par-3 contest this year because of a shoulder injury, but showed up at Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday to join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player for the traditional kickoff.

Bending down to place his ball, he drew a laugh from the crowd, saying: "Oh, I got it on the tee."

Palmer warned that that his shot might veer out of sight -- "Don't be surprised" -- and, sure enough, he sent a hook out of bounds to the left.

But the crowd cheered and Billy Payne, the club chairman, offered a congratulatory handshake.

"I hit it," Palmer said.

Nicklaus showed his age too, groaning as he took a practice swing. The 75-year-old scored a hole-in-one during the par-3 contest on Wednesday.

Palmer, Nicklaus and Player have won a combined 13 Masters titles.

Follow David Wharton on Twitter @LATimesWharton


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