Tom Watson, five-time winner of The Open and three-time Senior Open Champion, has announced that tomorrow’s final round of The Senior Open Presented by Rolex at Royal Lytham & St Annes will be the last competitive round of his storied links golf career.
The 69-year-old, who has competed in The Open an astonishing 38 times and has made the cut in all 18 of his appearances at The Senior Open, will bid farewell to his beloved fans in the United Kingdom tomorrow at Royal Lytham & St Annes during the final round of Europe’s only Senior Major.
In a press conference after his third round, Watson confirmed this will be his last appearance at The Senior Open and that he has also played his final U.S. Senior Open, but will continue to play professional golf in a limited capacity.
“I’ve thought quite long and hard about the decision I’ve made,” Watson said. “It has to do with really a pretty sensible assessment of how I play the game now.
“I don’t have the tools in the toolbox. I’ve mentioned that before, that sometimes you lose the tools in the toolbox. I just don’t have enough tools in the toolbox to really compete successfully.
“So, therefore, I’m basically declaring now that this is my last Open Championship, Senior Open Championship. And I’m also going to hang up the spikes in the U.S. Senior Open.
“I’ve had a good career playing professional golf all these years. I’ve run across so many fine people who have helped me and supported me. First of all, my wife who is battling cancer now. It’s going to give me some time to go out and compete with her.”
The Kansas City, Missouri native first competed in The Open in 1975 and claimed his first Major Championship victory in thrilling fashion as he became only the third golfer in the modern era to win The Open on his first attempt when he defeated Jack Newton in an 18-hole play-off at Carnoustie.
Watson would go on to be named the Champion Golfer of the Year again in 1977 at Turnberry, 1980 at Muirfield, 1982 at Royal Troon and 1983 at Royal Birkdale. Upon turning 50 years old, the American continued his dominance as he lifted the Senior Open Trophy first in 2003 at Turnberry—becoming only the third player in history to win The Open and The Senior Open—again in 2005 at Royal Aberdeen and a third time in 2007 at Muirfield.
As well as the unparalleled list of links triumphs, Watson will also be forever remembered for The 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry when, as a 59-year-old he was unbeaten over 72 holes, eventually losing to Stewart Cink—23 years his junior—in a four hole play-off.
“It’s not to say that I don’t love the competition,” added Watson. “I love the competition. But I’m going to focus my competition on something a little bit different, on the back of a horse now.
“And over the years we’ve been around each other. I’ve seen a lot of people from the press over the years over here. Really enjoyed the times I’ve spent. It’s not to say I won’t be over here again. I’ll be back at The Open next year as an ambassador for R&A.
“But my competitive days in The Open Championship are finally over. And as I said, I’m good with it. It’s a decision that I am very happy with.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “Tom is one of golf’s greatest ever champions and his extraordinary career has seen him win The Open five times and the Senior Open three times, a record that stands him apart from every other golfer.
“He has made a huge contribution to the growth and success of the Senior Open and I know he was thrilled when we made the decision to bring the championship to the Old Course in St Andrews for the very first time last year.
“Tom has brought great joy to the tens of thousands of fans who have watched him play in the Senior Open over the years and they will fondly remember him for his brilliant golf, sportsmanship and warm personality.”