Masters Notes | Palmer tourney's honorary starter

Posted: April 04, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. - If there was ever any mystery about what drove Arnold Palmer all those years, the answer was on display yesterday.

The man is 77 and yet his competitive instincts are still so strong that he was choking back emotion as he lamented the end of his playing days and said it's time to sign on as the Masters' "honorary starter."

The role - the honorary starter tees off during an early morning ceremony tomorrow morning - has gone unfilled since Sam Snead's last appearance in 2002. Palmer had been mulling a standing offer from the club for the last couple of years.

"It's been on my mind," Palmer said yesterday, making the announcement with Billy Payne, the new chairman of Augusta National. "I just didn't want to rush it."

Even now, Palmer said, when he watches the younger generation pound 300-yard tee shots, it's a "hard pill to swallow" knowing he simply can't do that anymore.

"And I've known it for a number of years now," he said. "You realize it's over, and it's been my life for well over 50 years."

Player's 50th

Gary Player, as determined as ever to one-up old rival Palmer, is playing in his 50th Masters.

At 71, the three-time champion (1961, '75, '78) plans to play again next year and maybe beyond to beat Palmer's record of 50.

Asked whether he might one day retire from the Masters, then reconsider and unretire, as Palmer did three years ago, Player shook off the question.

"When I say that's my last, please, if I come and tee it up, steal the ball - take the ball off the tee and run away with it," he said, laughing.

Baby Quigley

Brett Quigley, set to play in his first Masters, may or may not actually tee it up tomorrow.

As he walked off the green at the 11th hole yesterday morning, Quigley "had a feeling" he ought to check on his wife, Amy, at home in Jupiter, Fla., due to give birth to their first child - a daughter - April 16.

As soon as he turned on his cell phone, he got a call from a friend of the family telling him that his wife's water had broken and that she was at the hospital. He needed to come home.

Without hesitation, he shook hands with his playing partners, Jeff Sluman and Lucas Glover, and caught a cart back to the clubhouse. From there, he headed to the airport.

"This is unbelievably good," the 36-year-old Quigley said. "This is my first Augusta and our first child, or should I say our first child and my first Augusta?"

Quigley hasn't withdrawn. The doctors told him the baby should be born by today, and he hopes to make it back for his tee time at 2:03 p.m. tomorrow.

Tee times

Defending champion Phil Mickelson tees off at 10:56 a.m. tomorrow, paired with U.S. Amateur champion Richie Ramsay of Scotland and Adam Scott of Australia.

Tiger Woods goes off at 1:52 p.m., paired with Paul Casey of England and Aaron Baddeley of Australia.

- Joe Logan

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