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Tom Watson Gets Another Shot at the Open Championship

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Patch    317

Pretty nice of the R&A; http://news.yahoo.com/watson-offered-another-chance-st-andrews-152136082.html


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.

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Don't always say nice things about the R&A;, but they've got this one right, as indeed they have with Portrush. Two decisions in the space of 2 weeks, what's going on!

A bit of me wants to claim responsibility for this one though and perhaps in my imagination I'll do so.

I rang them a few months ago about final qualifying and the conversation drifted round to Tom Watson and how inappropriate Hoylake might be (in my eyes) for what was likely to be his last appearence. They told me they had previously had an issue with Gary Player who was prepared to try his hand in final qualifying but they persuaded him not to (or something like that). It was considered a slightly undignified end to a glittering career to be eliminated on a low key windswept links midweek. So what if Tom decided to try and qualify I asked? Well there's nothing to stop him, but they clearly weren't comfortable with the notion. Use your discretion then I suggested given that 2015 is St Andrews, and give him a wildcard. You know he'd take it, the man has been faultless throughout his association with the Open, and if America ever needs to appoint an Ambassador to an independent Scotland, then Tom is the perfect choice (ok I'm sure there are career diplomats better qualified, but you know what I mean). The conversation continued for about 5 minutes and then drifted into something else

So there you have it, my lobbying paid off, even if Alex Salmond refuses to create the title 'Lord Turnberry' (not necessarily within Salmond's power to do, and it was never a serious email I sent to them anyway)

And just in case anyone is in any doubt..... No I'm not seriously suggesting that I'm responsible for getting Tom his wildcard, only recanting that I did speak to someone at the R&A; about it in passing, but then so too will plenty of others, and these things are decided by committee and thought through more deeply then a speculative telephone call from me!

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