Tom Watson said he was "truly humbled" to make his first appearance as an honorary starter of the Masters on Thursday, as action got under way at Augusta.

After a half-hour delay caused by overnight storms, Watson joined fellow golf greats Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player in hitting the first tee shots of the championship.

The ceremonial role – none of the three are playing in the tournament – is one that only goes to golf's most notable stars from history, with the late Arnold Palmer having long been part of the group.

Watson, in a purple windcheater, hit the third tee shot after Player, in his customary black, and Nicklaus, in yellow sweater and cap, were the first to tee off.

"I would like to say how honoured I am to be with Gary and Jack," said Watson, as he approached the tee.

He spoke of the proud tradition and observing Palmer, Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson being honorary starters in Masters history.

"To be a part of this thing, I am truly humbled," said 72-year-old Watson.

He then hit the best-looking drive of the three men, who joined together in a huddle after receiving the acclaim of the early-morning crowd.

Watson won the Masters in 1977 and 1981, with the American adding one U.S. Open title and five Open Championship victories.

He played his final Masters, and final major, at Augusta in April 2016.

Player, now a fighting fit 86, won the Masters three times, while 82-year-old Nicklaus is the event's record six-time champion.

Gary Player believes Tiger Woods will never win another major or be "a real force again" in golf.

Fifteen-time major winner Woods is recovering at his Florida home after the car crash in Los Angeles that saw him suffer severe leg injuries.

The 45-year-old hopes to return to competition, but the day that happens is a long way off.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff said Woods was driving at over 80 miles per hour in a 45mph zone on February 23 when he lost control of his Genesis SUV and came off the road, hitting a tree. He was said on the day of the crash to have been fortunate to survive the impact.

Player, who won nine majors in his own storied career, says it is hard to see Woods reviving the all-conquering game that brought him so much glory.

However, he expects the American superstar, who has battled back problems over the last seven years, to play again.

"Oh yes, my answer is emphatically yes," Player told Stats Perform News. "Yes, I do believe he will come back, and I do believe he will play in tournaments, but I don't believe he will win another major.

"He is getting on in age. Yes, I won the Masters at 42, [Jack] Nicklaus won it at 46, but he has been playing with a bad back. He has had four or five operations on his back - it's fused. He's had knee problems, he has had so many problems and eventually they can wear you down."

Woods has also spoken in the past of a "sleep disorder", and South African all-time great Player pointed to that as another possible factor that makes it improbable the former world number one will rise to the top of the game once more.

"So I don't think he will ever come out and be a real force again, but I hope I'm wrong," Player said. "I pray I am wrong, but that is just my opinion.

"I am not being naive and I am not being arrogant in my opinion - according to doctors, some doctors say he won't, some doctors say he will - but the will of a man is more important than a doctor's opinion sometimes."

Player, 85, is one of only five players, along with Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen, to have won golf's modern career Grand Slam by triumphing at each of the Masters, Open Championship, US PGA Championship and U.S. Open.

He said he missed Woods "terribly" during the recent Masters week.

"I can only tell you at the Masters dinner, with 33 champions in the room, it was brought up and everybody said, 'hear, hear', how much we miss Tiger and we hope he'll be back soon," Player said.

"To the contrary, most people say he will never play again, I know in my heart... Tiger Woods is a special man. He will come back and play the tournament again."

Hideki Matsuyama's maiden major triumph has elevated golf to a new level, according to Gary Player.

Matsuyama entered the history books as he became the first Japanese man to prevail at a major after winning The Masters on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, with five PGA Tour titles under his belt prior to his Augusta triumph, held his nerve to win by one shot and claim the famed green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Having clocked up seven top-10 finishes across golf's four headline tournaments, Matsuyama catapulted himself into esteemed company with his Georgia glory and Player, a nine-time major winner, knows there is a huge gap between winners and also-rans. 

And he feels Matsuyama's success has taken the sport "up a notch".

"Now you see there are lots of ifs and ands, but finishing second, only your wife and your dog knows about it – that's if you've got a good dog," the South African, who donned the green jacket three times, told Stats Perform News.

"So now he comes along and he wins the Masters in great style and I said to him, 'I'm very happy that you won because you can be president or prime minister of Japan and I won't need a visa!'.

"No, his play was exemplary, he kept his cool, and what wins golf tournaments is not long driving as we are brainwashed about, it's the putter and the mind.

"I'm so happy he won because I want to see people win golf tournaments where golf is going to be the benefactor.

"More clubs will be sold around the world now and golf went up a notch. I always wanted to have the best world record as a global golfer, not just in America only, so for me to see an international player win, I'm always happy to see anybody win but it's going to do golf so much good. I can't tell you.

"If this wasn't during COVID you would have had people flying over from Japan the night before, the press people. He would have had 60 representatives of the media in Japan because they've been thirsting and hungry and starved for a major championship winner. And a golfing nation of that status has been deprived of that, and there they've got it at last. Thank goodness."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.