As reported by The R&A today, and via numerous sports news sources as well, Tom Watson has been given a 1 year exemption to play in The Open Championship until 2015. The 5-time Open Champ and 8-time Major winner is a worthy recipient of this exemption, an absolute legend of the game and had it not been for a very unfortunate bounce with his approach shot on the 72nd hole in 2009 at Turnberry he may well have had an exemption anyway – a few people find it difficult to remember who actually won The Open that year (it was Stewart Cink) but everybody remembered Watson’s wonderful performance leading the tournament for the majority of the 4 rounds played that year.
The biggest plus of this news is that it will allow Watson to play in the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, which will coincide with the 40th Anniversary of his first Open win at Carnoustie in 1975. Tom Watson never won at St Andrews, his best finish being 2nd place in 1984 to Seve Ballesteros, but it will be a fantastic tribute to one of the finest links players ever to grace golf and you never know he could contend at The Home of Golf next year, stranger things have happened!
Watson will cap off a tremendous couple of years by captaining the US Ryder Cup team in Scotland at Gleneagles in September 2014 and then probably making his final Major appearance at St Andrews the following July, similar to the great Jack Nicklaus there surely will be tears at the Swilcan Bridge and hopefully he can finish off his Open Championship career with at least a birdie if not by another wonderful performance in Scotland.