SOUTHPORT, England – Fifteen years after winning the British Open at Royal Birkdale, Mark O'Meara is making a return to the course for the Senior British Open.
O'Meara won the British Open in 1998, and on Tuesday he was extended an "honorary membership" to the club in recognition of his achievement.
"The Open here in 1998 was a dream come true for me. To hold the claret jug here on the 18th green was the icing on the cake of my career," O'Meara said Wednesday, a day before the tournament starts.
"It's going to be tough this week, especially if the wind kicks up. I've played it in really severe conditions before. You just have to be patient and sometimes par is a very good score."
O'Meara will be playing alongside defending champion Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie for the first two rounds.
Couples shot a 9-under 271 to win at Turnberry last year, but said that he thought his 9 over for a share of 32nd place last week at Muirfield at the British Open would have been good enough to win a Senior Open.
"I honestly think if the Senior Open had been last week and I shot 9 over I would have won," Couples said. "I played well last week at Muirfield. It was as unique as any golf I've ever played. The ball was going so far. Not so much uncontrollable, just difficult to get it close."
Montgomerie, who turned 50 last month, is hoping to claim a major as a senior, an honor that eluded him despite a successful career on the regular tour.
"I feel I'm teeing up now with a chance of winning on the senior tour, which hasn't been the case in recent years on the European Tour," Montgomerie said. "Having said that it's been an eye-opener in my first few events as a senior. The standard of golf is high, yet it's been a lot of fun."
Tom Watson, who won the last of his five British Open titles at Birkdale in 1983 and is a three-time winner of the Senior British Open, will also be in a strong field that includes Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Tom Kite, Craig Stadler and Bernhard Langer.