Arnold Palmer, for the first time since 2007, will not be among golf’s original Big Three as they hit the ceremonial opening tee shots at the Masters next month, according to Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte.
Palmer, whose role at his own PGA Tour event this week at Bay Hill will be dramatically reduced from what it has been, will be at the first major of the year at Augusta and expects to attend the Champions Dinner.
Arnold Palmer says even though he won't hit ceremonial tee shot at the Masters, he'll be there to watch Nicklaus and Player "sweat it out."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) March 15, 2016
The seven-time major winner and golf legend known simply as "Arnie" has curtailed official activities since injuring his shoulder in 2014. Though his ability to play or even hit balls has been limited, and tour player Sam Saunders said his grandfather would be less visible this week, his appearance on the grounds on Monday was a huge hit with golfers on the range.
The King. With two sets of clubs on the back of his cart. Love it. pic.twitter.com/4p3VwR1h03— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) March 14, 2016
In lieu of his traditional pre-tourney press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the host will hold a private Q&A off camera.
Rosaforte said Palmer’s decision not to help tee off the Masters was not surprising given the state of his shoulder. Though he added that the King "looked great, he was alert, his spirits were up, and he’s very excited about hosting this tournament one more time," one can’t help but worry about Palmer's health at 86 years old.
"I know he's still going to be around; he's still going to be out there. I know all the guys want to see him and he'll want to see all the guys, so hopefully he'll be feeling good and will be able to come out and play a pretty big role," Saunders told Jason Sobel about the winner of four green jackets.
"He's doing okay. I don't think his liveliness is quite there like it has been, but I think that's pretty common for the age," Saunders observed. "All the guys coming to the tournament and seeing the familiar faces will definitely get his spirits up."
At Augusta, the show will go on with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, but for sure, Palmer’s role as one of the honorary starters will be missed.
"I think just having him standing there would be good. Being part of that is so special to him," said Saunders. "Those are the things that if he's having a bad day and he gets to do something like that, it certainly gets his spirits going and he feels better."