Watson gets final chance to play at St. Andrews

Tom Watson will get one more chance at St. Andrews in the British Open.

The R&A on Tuesday extended the exemption of Watson, allowing him to play one more time in 2015 when golf’s oldest championship returns to the Old Course at St. Andrews. Watson holds The Open record for winning on five links courses — Carnoustie, Turnberry, Muirfield, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale.

But he has never won at the Home of Golf.

“I’ll be there if I have to drag myself,” Watson said.

Watson was tied for the 54-hole lead with Peter Oosterhuis in 1978 at St. Andrews and closed with a 78 as Jack Nicklaus won his third claret jug. His best chance at St. Andrews was in 1984, when he was tied for the lead with two holes to play. He made bogey behind the road on the 17th, while Seve Ballesteros made birdie on the 18th in the group ahead to capture the title.

Former champions are exempt until they are 60, though the R&A created a new exemption after Watson was runner-up at Turnberry in 2009 when he was 59 and lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink. Past champions who finish in the top 10 are exempt for five years.

Watson’s exemption was to run out this year at Royal Liverpool.

Michael Tait, the executive director of The R&A, announced the special exemption for Watson at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, where Watson is playing this week. He presented Watson with a solid silver player’s badge for 2015, which has five claret jugs on it.

The 2015 Open will mark the 40th anniversary of Watson’s first Open title at Carnoustie. He figured his last time playing the Old Course would have been in 2010 when he missed the cut. Much like Jack Nicklaus in his last appearance in 2005, Watson made birdie on the 18th hole.

“Walking across the Swilcan Bridge the last time, thinking that was going to be the last time, was a pretty sad time,” Watson said. “This allows me again to go across that bridge. If everything works out well, I’ll be entered in the tournament. … This is the place I want to finish my career playing The Open Championship.”

Watson, the Ryder Cup captain this year in Scotland, will be 65 next year for The Open.

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