Watson set for Open swansong

Five-time champion Tom Watson does not want to go out with a whimper when he plays his final Open Championship next month.

Last year’s Open at Royal Liverpool was meant to be Watson’s final appearance, but the R&A tweaked their rules to allow him a special exemption to sign off at St Andrews, the ‘Home of Golf’.

“The anticipation is getting closer and closer to my final Open championship and it’s going to be a very special time,” the 65-year-old told Reuters.

“I feel maybe a little bit melancholy but the memories of all the years playing in the Open will make it pretty happy. I’ve had a wonderful experience playing here in the Open for these last 40 years.”

Watson doesn’t just want to make up the numbers next month, and hopes at the very least to make the cut.

“I want to walk across the Swilcan Bridge on the Sunday, that’s my goal, and anything else will be gravy,” he said.

Watson’s Open swansong is sure to be an emotional experience, particularly as his son will be alongside him.

“I very much look forward to it,” he said.

“My son Michael will caddie for me and it will be great to have him on my bag and walk the golf course for the last time in an Open championship.

“I know it will be a sad time finishing up my Open championships but it will be a happy time to be able to finish it here at St Andrews with my son Michael on my bag.”

Watson is hopeful that the St Andrews layout could be a bit of a leveler and allow him to mix it up with the world’s best.

“There’s an equaliser in the course as far as the run of the ball, the runout,” he said. “A lot of the youngsters, the long hitters, will be laying up short of the bunkers and for an old guy like me I just hit my driver and may end up in pretty much the same place.

“But there are a lot of other things you have to do well. First and foremost you have to have a very good touch with your putting because you have so many long putts here.

“It’s the only course in the world I’ve ever played where you can play a good round of golf and you can have 10 60-foot putts.”

Of his five Open victories (1975, ’77, ’80, ’82, ’83), Watson said it is the second one at Turnberry that holds the fondest memories for him.

“The one that stands out the most is the one in 1977 at Turnberry where I played with Jack in the last two rounds and I prevailed by a shot,” he said.

“That was kind of a watershed moment in my career that gave me the belief I can play against the best players.”

Incredibly, Watson again came close to winning the tournament in 2009 when he led going into the final round and ended up in a play-off for the title.

“I actually gave myself a pretty good chance of winning the tournament even though I was 59,” he said.

“I was there until the end and unfortunately the ball went over the (18th) green and I couldn’t get the ball up and down from the back. Stewart hit every ball perfectly in the playoff and he was the champion.

“It goes into the category of woulda, shoulda, coulda.”