Tom Watson should now be eligible to play in the Open beyond 2010 following a rule change extending the entry age for past champions with a recent top-ten finish.
Watson is now 60, and under the old rules next year’s Open at St Andrews would have been his last, as a result of a separate rule change in 2007, which reduced the age of exemption for past champions from 65 to 60. But now a top-ten finish by a former champion in any of the previous five Opens will guarantee them an entry.
In a post-tournament interview following his dramatic performance at Turnberry, Watson revealed details of a conversation with Peter Dawson, the R&A Chief Executive, on the Saturday night, with Dawson apparently rejecting the idea of a rule change; yet it seems following the performance of Watson, and that of Greg Norman at Royal Birkdale in 2008, the R&A has felt obliged to act.
“We have introduced this new category as a direct response to seeing two of our great Open champions, both in their fifties, challenging to win our championship these last two years,” explained Dawson. “Our intention, following the rule change in 2007, was never to remove players still at the top of their game from competing in the Open.”