The Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, will return to The Westin Turnberry Resort in Scotland, from July 27-30, 2006. It will be the sixth time the Championship has been staged on the famous Ayrshire links and the 20th Championship in total since the inaugural event took place, also at Turnberry, in 1987.
Defending champion next July - in a tournament again co-sanctioned between the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the European Seniors Tour and the US Champions Tour, and featuring a prize fund of £1 million - will be Tom Watson, an entirely befitting scenario considering the American’s career is interwoven into the rich history of the Ailsa Course.
Not only did Watson triumph over Jack Nicklaus to win the memorable ‘Duel in the Sun’ Open Championship in 1977, he also overcame a duel of a different nature at Turnberry in 2003, the last time the Senior British Open Championship was staged there, beating England’s Carl Mason at the second hole of a sudden-death play-off.
The win gave Watson the distinction of being only the second player to win The Senior British Open Championship and The Open Championship at the same venue, the other being New Zealander Bob Charles who won at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1993, 30 years after picking up the Claret Jug at the Lancashire venue.
The mention of Charles is apposite too for the left hander also tasted Senior British Open Championship success at Turnberry in 1989, sandwiched between two victories for South African Gary Player and two years after England’s Neil Coles – the current Chairman of the European Seniors Tour Committee – claimed the inaugural title.
Watson will return to Scotland as defending champion thanks to another play-off success in this year’s Senior British Open Championship at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in July where he beat Ireland’s Des Smyth at the third extra hole, with Greg Norman third.
The return of Norman to the Ailsa Course is also guaranteed to generate interest amongst the spectators, all of whom will want to see the charismatic Australian back at the place where he claimed the first of his two Open Championship successes in 1986.
Andy Stubbs, on behalf of the Championship Committee, said: “It is wonderful news that we are to return to the Westin Turnberry Resort for the Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, and highly appropriate that Tom Watson will return as defending champion.
“He is one of the true legends of golf and all of us who love the game will have fond memories of what he has achieved, particularly at Turnberry, over the years. Tom will be one of the main attractions next July, but as more and more great players reach the magical age of 50, the stature of the tournament keeps on growing, establishing it as one of the true golfing highlights of the year.
“The tournament consistently provides top quality, five star entertainment and we are again grateful for the assistance of Event Scotland in helping secure one of the Home of Golf’s most celebrated courses for our flagship event.
“Of course, the golfing skills exhibited on the course will be matched off course by the excellence of the surroundings and by the fantastic facilities of The Westin Turnberry Resort. It is rightly regarded as one of the top hotels in the world and will provide a fitting accompaniment to such a great Championship.”
Stewart Selbie, General Manager of The Westin Turnberry Resort, said: “Turnberry has a superb reputation for Open Championship golf and we are delighted to be hosting The Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management, over the legendary Ailsa Course in 2006, our centenary year. In particular we are thrilled to be welcoming several past Open Champions, one of whom is Tom Watson, the defending champion, and previous winner of the title the last time the event was held at Turnberry in 2003.”