Tom Watson confirms he’s recovered enough from shoulder-replacement surgery to be honorary starter at 87th Masters

Pencil Tom Watson in for his role next Thursday as one of the honorary starters for the 2023 Masters.

After considerable concern that a shoulder injury would prevent him from hitting one of the three opening drives at Augusta National Golf Club on April 6, Watson confirmed to Golfweek that he will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player and strike an opening drive to launch the 87th Masters.

“I’m feeling fine and I will be able to hit the tee shot, not very well, but I’ll be able to hit it,” Watson said.

Watson was involved in a go-kart accident in November that required left shoulder replacement surgery and jeopardized whether he’d be able to make even one swing as part of one of the tournament’s beloved traditions.

A course worker sets the pairing sign for Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at the No. 1 tee during the first round of the 2022 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Adam Cairns-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports)

Watson, who became an honorary starter last year, set a goal of being able to hit his drive alongside Nicklaus and Player. To do so, he has been doing pool exercises and physical therapy to strengthen his shoulder four times a week.

“My only job right now is to rehab it,” said Watson in March on “Beyond the Fairway” podcast with former PGA Tour pro Jay Delsing.

Asked to explain what led to the 73-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer being involved in a go-kart accident on his Kansas farm, Watson said, “For my kids I had a go-kart 25-30 years ago and they’d run it up and down the driveway here. They had a large time, had a grand time. I have grandkids now, ages 6-10, and I said, ‘I need to get a go-kart for these kids.’ So, I got one, but it was a little bit small for adults so I got one for me too.

“I said, ‘Why don’t I build a track,’ a dirt track with hairpin turns and straightaways and 90s and a few little bumps so you can get a little bit of air in it. We were having a large time and I turned around this corner and the kart tipped over and I stuck my arm out rather than keeping my arm inside the cage. I have a roll cage on there that works just fine unless you stick your arm out. I screwed up my arm up pretty badly and so now I’m in the recuperative stage.”

Honorary starters Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player pose for pictures with Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley at the no. 1 tee box during the first round of the 2022 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. (Photo: Adam Cairns-Augusta Chronicle/USA TODAY Sports)

As his shoulder has gradually gotten stronger, Watson resumed hitting golf balls. The two-time Masters champion said he hit a bunch of drives Wednesday, adding to his confidence he will be able to swing his swing on the first tee at Augusta National.

“They’re going straight but they’re not going far,” he said. “Of course, when you hit it short you don’t hit it very crooked.”