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File, Associated Press
ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, MARCH 31-APRIL 1 - FILE - In this April 9, 1962, file photo, Arnold Palmer hits from sand trap on the second hold during a playoff in the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., as Gary Player, left, and Dow Finsterwald. Palmer claimed his third green jacket by winning the three-way playoff.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Gary Player can't wait for his latest Masters honor as ceremonial starter at Augusta National, even if he'll be playing the course he's won on three times.

Player joins friends and longtime competitors Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as honorary starters to open the year's first major next Thursday. The 76-year-old Player says he's thrilled with the role, which is the latest honor for a golfer who first came to Augusta in 1957 and became one of its greatest competitors over the next half century.

Player won three Green Jackets in 1961, 1974 and 1978, the last making him the oldest competitor ever until Nicklaus took that distinction with his dramatic victory eight years later.

Player made a record 23 straight cuts at Augusta National.