Jack Nicklaus wiped away tears before piercing the first fairway to officially open the 2017 Masters.

The tears, of course, were for close friend and Masters icon Arnold Palmer who passed away last year. It's the first time in 60 years Palmer is absent from Augusta National for the year's first major. Just 12 months ago, the four-time champion was a non-playing part of the ceremony due to his declining health, forced to watch Nicklaus and fellow legend Gary Player hit their tee shots to open the tournament. This year, his friends did it in his honour.

Augusta chairman Billy Payne gave an emotional tribute to Palmer, including honouring his widow Kathleen. With "Arnie's" green jacket draped on a chair, Payne said, "It is a wonderful but in one respect difficult day. The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold is surpassed only by the love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts."

Payne then asked the crowd to remember Palmer with a moment's silence.


It was then down to business, in front of an eager, yet chilly crowd on a crisp morning. Nicklaus and Player had been building up to the moment, with some ribbing about who would be able to drive the furthest. Player, a three-time champion at Augusta, opened proceedings with a well placed drive down the right-hand side of the fairway. Even at the tender age of 81, he still had all the attributes of someone who knows how to swing a club.

But, he was outdone by an emotional Nicklaus, who had to take a moment before his adoring fans welcomed his tee shot, straight down the middle, with rapturous applause and cheers. It went past Player's ball by a matter of metres. Nicklaus, famously known as the Golden Bear, then gestured to the skies as if to honour his late friend.

Everyone who passed through the gates at Augusta today is proudly honouring Palmer. As each person scanned their ticket, they were presented with an "Arnie's Army" badge, in reference to the name given to his fans during his playing days.

Augusta will honour Palmer in a permanent way in the years to come, with chairman Payne indicating they're still to decide the best way to do his name justice.