The R&A keeps rewriting the Open Championship exemption rules for Tom Watson, and it’s a great thing.
The governing body announced Tuesday it would be offering the five-time champion Watson an extension on his champion’s exemption which will allow him to play in the 2015 Open Championship at the Old Course at St. Andrews.
“Some of my finest memories in golf have come from playing in The Open Championship,” said Watson. “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 appearance will be Watson’s 37th in the Open Championship and also mark the 40th anniversary of his first time playing in the game’s oldest major. Watson won the 1975 Open Championship at Carnoustie, defeating Jack Newton in an 18-hole playoff. He would later win in ’77 at Turnberry against Jack Nicklaus in the “Duel in the Sun,” then again three more times in ’80, ’82 and ’83.
Watson nearly won the Open Championship at Turnberry in 2009, losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink in a bid to become the oldest major champion in history at age 59.
Changes to the Open Championship exemption criteria limit a past champion to being exempt until they turn 60 years of age — that is unless said champion finishes in the top 10 in an Open Championship in the prior five years. It was a category created for Watson, who would have lost his exemption otherwise despite coming so close to winning a sixth Claret Jug in ’09.