Tom Watson has been given an exemption by the R&A to play in the 144th Open Championship next year on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Home of Golf.
That will give Watson, a five-time winner of the oldest golf tournament in the world, a chance to say goodbye to the tournament on the famed Swilcan Bridge on the 18th hole.
“Some of my finest memories in golf have come from playing in the Open Championship,” said Watson, the Stanford graduate who is the captain of the United States team for the Ryder Cup matches in September at Gleneagles Resort in Scotland.
“I am very proud and honored to be given this opportunity to play once again in St. Andrews next year. It is a special place for everyone in golf, and I am very much looking forward to playing there again in front of the wonderful Scottish galleries.
“The Open Championship is unlike any other event in golf, and to be part of its history is a privilege.”
Only Harry Vardon of England, with six Open titles, has won the tournament more times than Watson, who is tied at five with Peter Thomson of Australia, James Braid of Scotland and J.H. Taylor of England.
The 64-year-old Watson almost claimed his sixth Open Championship in 2009 at Turnberry, where he took a one-stroke lead to then 72nd hole before closing with a bogey and losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
“Tom is the most successful Open champion still playing today and has made a huge contribution to the championship over the last 40 years,” said Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A. “His performances in winning the Open on five occasions were truly outstanding, and to come so close to winning a sixth championship in 2009 demonstrates his longevity in the sport.
“We are delighted that he will he will be able to play in the Open next year, and I’m sure golf fans everywhere will look forward to seeing him play again at St. Andrews.”
Watson will be making his 37th appearance in the tournament this month at Royal Liverpool and next year he would equal Jack Nicklaus at 38 for second on the all-time list behind Gary Player of South Africa, who played in the Open 46 times.
Watson’s Open titles came in 1975 at Carnoustie, in 1977 at Turnberry, in 1980 at Muirfield, in 1982 at Royal Troon and 1983 at Royal Birkdale.