Tom Watson is backing a ruling to set an age limit of 60 for former champions to take part in the British Open – despite coming within a whisker of taking the title at Turnberry on Sunday – aged 59.
Watson told CNN that the Royal and Ancient, who run the British Open, had made a “sensible decision and I concur with it.” It will mean that the eight-time major winner will be making his final appearance in the British Open at the ‘home of golf’ St.Andrews next year, but the American legend has no regrets. “There’s a time and an place for everything and it’s now time to let the young players have their say and have their place in the (British) Open Championship,” he added. Watson’s astounding performance at Turnberry where he was only beaten by fellow American Stewart Cink in a four-hole playoff has sparked a renewed debate about the age ruling, but he said that no-one could beat ‘Old Father Time’. “It’s hard to predict at my age what I’m going to feel like next year,” he said. “I’m not going to predict too much but right now I’m in good shape after having a brand new hip last year, it’s going well.”
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As he prepared for this week’s Senior British Open at Sunningdale, Watson relived with CNN the moment when he felt that he had a sixth British Open title in his grasp. Watson, who turns 60 in September, needed a par-4 on the 18th and was in prime position after a perfect tee shot. “Well it was almost championship walking up after my tee ball. “I just said if I got this ball onto the green I had the chance of doing something special. “When I hit my eight iron, I felt was the shot I wanted to hit, but as I watched the ball go to the back of the green I said ‘Oh Oh !’ and the rest is history.” Watson, who ended up making a bogey five after missing an eight-foot par putt, admitted he felt “deflated” and was never a factor in the playoff with Cink, losing by six strokes after a series of errant shots.
Watson won the 1977 British Open at Turnberry after the epic “Duel in the Sun” with fellow great Jack Nicklaus and came so close to a repeat 32 years later, but for his second shot to the 18th on Sunday. “My judgment was a little bit off, I had to go up a hill and into the wind and I just hit it a little too hard,” he said.