ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Tom Watson may or may not be playing his final Open Championship this week, but there's no doubt that 2016 will be his last Masters Tournament.
Watson, whose eligibility as a five-time Open winner runs out this week unless he posts another top-10 finish, declared on Wednesday that he would compete one last time in April at Augusta National.
"When you get to that position in your career, you're just hoping to make it to Sunday, then it's really time to hang them up," Watson said. "With that said, I'm just going to make the announcement that next year's Masters is going to be my last Masters. I am not going to play any more after that. Even though I will be eligible to play, I won't play. The golf course is too big for me, and with my declining skills and length, I won't be playing that."
Watson counts two green jackets in 1977 and '81 among his eight major championship wins. Both times at Augusta he clipped his friend and rival Jack Nicklaus, whom he also bested in memorable majors at Pebble Beach and Turnberry.
Watson has been contemplating retirement from the Masters ever since the course was lengthened beyond 7,200 yards in 2002. He postponed his decision, in part, in deference to Ben Crenshaw, who held the stage for his swan song in April.
"I still wanted to play – I wanted to try to compete there and see if I could do it," Watson said of the 2015 Masters. "Through smoke and mirrors I shot a 71 in the first round, 1-under par. That's the best round I had at the Masters in a few years, but then I shot 81. And when you shoot 81, it's time to say goodbye. It truly is. Ben – that was part of the decision, I think, not to do the same year as Ben. But I knew my time was coming six, eight years ago at Augusta. I couldn't carry the ball far enough to play that golf course. ... Just couldn't do it. No tools. It's part of the tools that are missing."
Watson's toolset has long remained relevant in links golf, where the firmness of the turf and the vagaries of the weather have made him a stubborn competitor. He came within a par of winning a sixth claret jug at age 59 at Turnberry in 2009, where he eventually lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink.
But even in the Open Championship, his skills can't last forever. At age 65, he assumes this will be his final appearance in the major that most defined his career. He won't rule out playing again if he finishes in the top-10 and qualifies to extend his eligibility.
"I'm going to compete just like I've always competed. I've never stopped competing that way, ever," he said. "It's not a ceremony at all. I'm still trying to compete against these players out here.
"The other part of it is the final walk over the Swilcan Bridge. If it's Friday, it's Friday. And if it's Sunday, it's Sunday. I'll be walking over the bridge with my son Michael on the bag, which will be a very special time, and I hope I'm fighting for the top 10 going across that bridge. That's what I hope. But in reality if I'm not, it'll be a great final walk."
After a four-decade career in golf, Watson says he doesn't regret any of the bad shots or poor decisions that prevented him from accumulating more honors.
"The only regret I have is that it's the end," he said. "It really is. It's the end. It's 40 years. It's the end. And I regret I don't have the tools in the toolbox to be able to continue on."
This article was written by Scott Michaux from The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.