Three years after his unforgettable attempt to make golfing history ended in heartache, Tom Watson will make an emotional return to Turnberry, scene of so many of his greatest moments, when he joins the field for The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex from July 26-29.
The American agonisingly missed out on becoming the oldest Major Champion in history when, at the age of 59, he led The 2009 Open Championship going into Turnberry’s 72nd hole.
Needing a par for a record-equalling sixth Claret Jug, Watson could only manage bogey meaning he joined compatriot Stewart Cink in a play-off, which the younger American duly went on to win.
However, Watson’s remarkable performance captured the imagination of the golfing world and wider sporting public, coming 32 years after he was part of another of the game’s most enthralling battles, the famous Duel in the Sun with Jack Nicklaus, also over Turnberry’s iconic Ailsa Course.
Watson emerged victorious on that occasion, winning The 1977 Open Championship, and he also won the first of his three Senior Open Championships in dramatic fashion at Turnberry in 2003, beating Carl Mason in a play-off after Mason had led by two shots going into the final hole.
The 62 year old, who won the US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid last year, returns to Turnberry hoping to become the most successful player in the history of The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex, having also won the replica Claret Jug at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in 2005 and Muirfield in 2007. This year’s Championship is the 26th staging of the event.
Watson also finished tied third in last year’s Championship at Walton Heath, won by his compatriot Russ Cochran, and his presence in the field is certain to be popular with the Scottish crowds, with whom he has such a strong affinity.
Watson is closely affiliated with The Senior Open Championship’s new Presenting Patron, Rolex, and the leading Swiss watchmaking brand is proud to count such a legendary player among its valued family of Testimonees. Considered one of golf’s most enduring professionals, Watson’s etiquette, passion and excellence exemplify Rolex’s philosophy and values.
Paul Bush OBE, Chief Operating Officer for EventScotland said: “The Senior Open Championship is always a special tournament that brings together masters of the professional game, and it is fantastic news that Tom Watson will once again join the field in 2012.
“Scotland is the home of golf, and in Turnberry we have a course that has played host to so many iconic moments in golf; not to mention some highlights from Tom’s incredible career. As we build towards the 2014 Ryder Cup we are delighted to be supporting the Championship for the sixth time, which will give younger fans the chance to see the likes of Watson, Sam Torrance and Barry Lane, who have all contested the famous biennial match between Europe and the USA.”
Andy Stubbs, Managing Director of the European Senior Tour, said on behalf of the Championship: “We are delighted that Tom will once again be joining us for The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex and I’m sure golf fans around the world cannot wait to see him return to Turnberry where he has played his part in so many of the game’s most memorable moments.
“Anyone who was present at either the Duel in the Sun, or his heart-warming performance in The Open Championship three years ago, will remember those occasions for the rest of their lives, and we all look forward to seeing whether Tom can conjure another piece of history in July.”
Discounted advance tickets for The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex can now be purchased online, with season passes now available at £60 and any one day tickets at £18. They can be booked online at www.europeantourtickets.com as well as www.senioropengolf.com where other discounts and offers can also be found.
Hospitality packages are also now available at £95 per person inc VAT, which includes admittance to the course along with a three-course lunch and glass of champagne in Turnberry’s signature restaurant, 1906, reserved parking, a Championship programme and a draw sheet.
American Cochran won The 2011 Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath, England, holding off the challenge of former Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia, three-time Senior Open Champion Watson and 2010 United States Ryder Cup Captain Corey Pavin.