Tom Watson (Getty Images)
Tom Watson will be aiming for a unique treble when he returns to Royal Birkdale for this year’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, 30 years after winning The Open Championship at the Merseyside venue.
Watson is bidding to win a third Senior Open title on a course where he previously won a Claret Jug, having already completed the ‘Open-Senior Open double’ at both Turnberry and Muirfield.
The 63 year old American won the last of his five Open Championships at Royal Birkdale in 1983, finishing one shot clear of compatriots Hale Irwin and Andy Bean.
He now has the chance to replicate that famous victory when The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex visits the venue for the first time, from July 25-28.
“I have great memories of my win at Birkdale and I will certainly relive those memories when I get back there for The Senior Open this summer,” he said. “That’s the fun thing about being my age – I get to relive some of the successes that I have had, and Royal Birkdale is one of my favourite courses.
“I may not be able to do it again, although it is certainly my intention to go back to Birkdale and try to do it again.
“Winning at another course I’ve won The Open at would be nice, wouldn’t it? But I don’t look at it that way. I try to take them one tournament at a time. I just hope my game is in a good shape and it gives me the confidence to perform well and possibly win the golf tournament. It’s always great to go back to somewhere you have previously won, but all I’m looking for is to be in good shape when I get there.”
Watson currently shares the record for the most Senior Open Championship victories with South African Gary Player, both players having won the prestigious title three times.
Watson’s Senior Open triumphs came at Turnberry in 2003, where he had memorably won The Open Championship in 1977, at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in 2005, and two years later at Muirfield, scene of his Claret Jug victory in 1980.
New Zealander Bob Charles is the only other player to have achieved the Open-Senior Open double at the same venue, returning to Royal Lytham & St Annes to win The Senior Open in 1993, 30 years after he lifted the Claret Jug.
Thirty years on from his Open Championship win at Royal Birkdale, Watson will hope history repeats itself just a few miles down England’s west coast, when he also becomes only the second presiding United States Ryder Cup Captain to play in The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, following Corey Pavin who finished runner up to Bernhard Langer at Carnoustie in 2010.
Watson, who finished tied tenth in last year’s Senior Open at Turnberry, will be hoping to go one better than Pavin, just 14 months before he leads America against Paul McGinley’s European Team at Gleneagles in 2014.
“It’s always a strong field for the Senior Open,” said Watson. “Obviously it is a Major Championship so you have all the best players there. And that makes it exciting for us as pros, because we are playing again the best competition, and it is exciting for the fans. It’s one of the most important events that we play.
“Royal Birkdale is also one of my favourite courses on the Open rotation. It truly is. It’s not because I won there but it’s because I really like the design of the golf course. It has a variety of holes to it. It’s like Muirfield, which is hosting The Open this year. The variety of directions these holes play – that’s part of why I like certain golf courses and Birkdale certainly fits right in there.”
Fred Couples, the former World Number One and Masters Champion, is the defending champion after winning his first Senior Open Championship at Turnberry last year.
Watson and Couples will be part of an impressive cast of the game’s all-time greats at Royal Birkdale and you can now take advantage of a special advance ticket offer to reserve your place at The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, from July 25-28.
Season tickets bought before June 30 can now be purchased for just £70 – a significant saving of £10 on the gate price.
One day tickets purchased before June 30 cost £25, a saving of £5 on the gate price, while practice day tickets are also available at the reduced price of £12, a saving of £3 on the gate price. Under16s are admitted for free when accompanied by an adult and parking is also free.
Tickets can be bought online via www.senioropengolf.com
or by calling +44 (0)800 0232557, with details of hospitality packages also available.
Royal Birkdale, which last hosted The Open Championship in 2008 when Padraig Harrington claimed his second consecutive Claret Jug, will become the 11th different course to host The Senior Open Championship. It will be only the second venue in the north west of England to host the Championship, following Royal Lytham & St Annes (1991-1994).