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Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 2:30am

The Masters Underway

The Masters is underway.

Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player all hit their ceremonial first tee shots Thursday morning to mark the beginning of the year's first major.

Palmer, the four-time champion, started the proceedings by striping his shot squarely down the center of the fairway. Then Player, making his debut as a ceremonial starter, flew his along the same line, about 40 yards past The King. Nicklaus also hit the fairway.

Three-time champion Phil Mickelson, wearing his green jacket, was there for the start even though he has the day's last tee time, at 1:53 p.m.

Tiger Woods had a 10:35 a.m. tee time -- just behind defending champion Charl Schwartzel and just ahead of No. 1 ranked Luke Donald -- and Rory McIlroy was set to go off at 1:42 p.m.

The chairman of Augusta National had promised the course would be ready for the first round of the Masters despite a "significant" storm that downed "several" trees and left several bunkers "completely washed out."

Billy Payne said 1.4 inches of rain fell on the course during Tuesday night's storm, and conditions Wednesday remained "extremely wet." But he said Wednesday crews had been working around the clock to prepare the course for play.

Bad weather yesterday afternoon shortened the Par-3 tournament. More showers are possible this afternoon.


GPB's Joshua Stewart contributed to this report.