Tom Watson could be communing with his British fans for many years to come. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Sunday victory would give Watson another decade of Opens
TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) -- Tom Watson arrived at Turnberry knowing that his time at the Open Championship was running out. A recent change in the criteria meant former champions could no longer compete when they were older than 60.
Then again, a victory by the 59-year-old Watson would change that.
The age limit has been getting more attention as Watson has stayed atop the leaderboard this week at Turnberry, particularly given the nature of links golf that doesn't always require power to compete.
Watson prodded reporters by deferring questions to Royal & Ancient Chief Executive Peter Dawson.
Then came an announcement late Saturday that began "A point of clarification."
Turns out the Open exempts champions for 10 years, although it is listed this year only as champions from 1999-2008. R&A spokesman Malcolm Booth said that criteria still applies, no matter how old the champion is.
Watson, a two-time Masters champion, can play at Augusta National as long as he wants, but it likely won't be much longer. That course now is too long for him -- Watson shot 74-83 this year.
"I don't want to be a ceremonial golfer," Watson said. "When Peter Dawson called me to tell me about the 60-year age limit for the tournament, I said, 'Peter, I think that's a sensible decision.' You've got to let the younger kids play."
Even so, the Open is different.
"Being a ceremonial golfer is when you feel like you can't compete," Watson said this week. "I'm a ceremonial golfer at Augusta, I can tell you that. I can still beat this golf course somehow."
The Open returns next year to St. Andrews, the only course in Scotland where Watson has not won.