Veterans receive Open reprieve

Published:

Open legend Tom Watson's place in the next five British Opens is safe after all.

The 60-years-old five-times Open champion so nearly clinched a fairytale victory at Turnberry in July but despite his momentous bid for a sixth Claret Jug he would have lost his exemption status because of the R&A's age rules.

However, now the R&A has amended the ruling so that former champions who finish in the top 10 in the previous five Opens receive a five-year exemption.

The year before of course Aussie veteran Greg Norman, a double Open champ, went close to celebrating a Open hat-trick before eventually being pipped by Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter.

Said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson: "We have introduced this exemption as a direct response to seeing two of our great Open champions, both in their 50s, challenging to win our championship these last two years.

"We rightly reduced the age of exemption for past champions from 65 to 60 two years ago and our intention was never to remove players still at the top of their game from competing in the Open."

Watson, at 59, almost became the oldest ever Open winner this year, but he missed an eight-foot putt and bogeyed the final hole before losing a play-off to fellow American Stewart Cink.

The 2010 Open will be played at St. Andrews from July 15-18.