2010 British Open: Tom Watson Gets Another Shot at Father Time

Ron FurlongAnalyst IIJuly 10, 2010

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - JUNE 18:  Tom Watson looks on from the eighth green during the second round of the 110th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 18, 2010 in Pebble Beach, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

It's been a year. A year since Tom Watson turned back the clock and nearly won the British Open at age 59.

Watson is back once again at the British Open for another shot. This year on the hallowed, ancient grounds of St. Andrews.

It was at Turnberry in Ayrshire, Scotland, that Tom Watson nearly pulled off the miraculous feat of winning a major championship at the age of 59 last July. A bogey on the 18th hole, after missing a nine-foot putt, put him in a playoff with Stewart Cink, who won the playoff.

Watson hasn't played a ton of golf this year, but when he has played he has done well. Five starts on the Champions Tour and in those, one win and three top tens.

He's played with the younger boys twice this year, at the year's two majors. He made the cut and contended at the Masters and made the cut again at Pebble Beach.

Watson is considered without a doubt one of the greatest links players of all-time. His five (nearly six) British Open titles attest to that. Despite the age, Watson has to be one of the twenty or so guys who you would think has a legitimate shot at winning at St. Andrews.

Tom has never won at 'The Old Course', although he has played well there. In 1978 he finished in 14th; 1984, 2nd; 1995, 31st; 2000, 55th and 2005, 41st (as a 55 year old). He failed to make the cut only once when the Open has been played at St. Andrews, and that was in 1990.

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For a while it looked as though the Open at St. Andrews this year figured to be Watson's swan song at the British Open. However, because of Tom's runner-up finish last year at Turnberry, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (the R&A) has adopted new critieria. They have amended the old rule that limited participation to past champions to age 60 and less. The R&A have changed the rule so that it reads if you are a past champion and finish in the top ten, you have five more years of eligibility.

Meaning, Watson is cleared through 2014. Perhaps longer if he can squeeze out another top ten finish. Maybe at St. Andrews this week?

"I'm in reasonably good form this year and I'm looking forward to putting it to the test again this year at St. Andrews," Watson told Reuters on Wednesday.

Watson, along with Arnold Palmer and Padraig Harrington, will receive an honorary degree from the University of St. Andrews on Tuesday evening. Tom is tickled about the honor, and in time will appreciate it more fully. For now he is concentrating on doing his best to defy the odds once again and compete for his sixth Open title.

Asked at a recent news conference who he would place his money on, Tom answered, "Right here. I've got long odds."

Not a bad bet, perhaps.

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