New day for Black Knight

Gary Player will honor Masters as Masters honors him

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Fate put this threesome together.

The Masters tournament is only sealing that fate.

Augusta National and Masters Chairman Billy Payne announced last week that legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus will be joined next year by legendary friend and rival Gary Player as honorary starters at the Masters.

Even for a tournament renowned for its beloved traditions, this is a historic addition.

These three hold a select spot in golf lore, first for their rivalry during their peak winning years, then again for their enduring friendship -- which has led to their playing together in the laid-back Par 3 contest at the Masters, and the Champions Retreat course in Evans they designed together.

Now, another chapter: honorary Masters starters.

Masters patrons will now get another chance to see these three together, to enjoy what is still a competitive if lighthearted rivalry, and to thank them again for all the memories.

And how great for the game of golf. While the major football and basketball leagues deal with labor strife, and baseball shakes off the not-so-distant steroids era, golf will now showcase three of the modern sporting world's greatest ambassadors each April in Augusta.

Player put it off as long as he could. The fitness fanatic played a competitive Masters round as recently as 2009 -- his record 52nd.

Now, he completes the triangle. These three men traded green jackets from 1960-66, and in 1965 when Nicklaus won, the other two tied for second. That's what you call close.

And perhaps fate.


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