St Andrews is set to complete a full set of majors when it stages the Senior Open Championship for the first time in 2018.
The historic over-50s major on the Old Course will add to 29 Open Championships and two Women’s British Opens hosted at the home of golf.
The announcement was welcomed by Tom Watson, who made an emotional farewell to the Open Championship on the Swilcan Bridge last summer but has now been handed the chance to compete at St Andrews once more.
“Only last July, I played what I believed would be my final competitive round of golf at The Open, and the reception I received as darkness fell on that Friday evening will stay with me always,” said the five-time Claret Jug winner.
“However, the R&A, the European Tour and the St Andrews Links Trust have shown the spirit of cooperation that exists in the game.
“By agreeing to bring this wonderful Championship to the home of golf in July 2018, they have allowed not just me, but many other great champions, an opportunity to return to a venue that means so much to everyone who plays the game.”
Colin Montgomerie is also licking his lips at the prospect of the over-50s major visiting the game’s cradle for the first time, having performed well on the Old Course in the past.
He was part of a winning Scottish side in the Dunhill Cup in 1995; finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in The Open in 2005 and won the Dunhill Links Championship the same year.
“This is great news and will surely deliver the best field ever assembled for the Senior Open Championship,” said the three-time Senior major winner. “All credit to the powers that be to get the Senior Open at St Andrews for the first time.
“Even now, more than two years out, I am excited about the prospect. It’s a real coup for the R&A, the European Senior Tour, St Andrews Links Trust, Rolex and everyone associated with the event to get us playing senior golf at St Andrews.
“It will be great to see Tom Watson back, at the age of 68, where we thought he would play in a major for the last time in 2015.
“However, there will be a lot of other players, like Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer for instance, who will be excited by the prospect. It will be a real celebration of over-50s golf.”
Nick Faldo, who captured the second of his three Open victories on the Old Course in 1990, concurred, saying: “It is absolutely fantastic to see the Senior Open Championship going to St Andrews in 2018.
“This certainly gives me another golfing goal and I only hope my game is good enough to give it a go on the Old Course!
“It’s a great image, even now, to visualise so many legends of the game gathering again in that famous setting. As a golfer, and a golf fan, I will look forward to it enormously.”
The announcement was made at a press conference in the R&A Clubhouse, where Martin Slumbers and Keith Pelley, the chief executives of the R&A and the European Tour respectively, both spoke excitedly about the historic prospect.
“There have been many great championships held at St Andrews over the years and it is entirely fitting that the Senior Open should be played at the home of golf in 2018,” said Slumbers.
“We know that the galleries in St Andrews are passionate about golf and I’m sure they will turn out in strong numbers to see so many renowned senior players competing. It promises to be another wonderful event for golf fans in Scotland.”
Pelley added: “The Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex is, without question, the premier tournament in the Senior game and it is fitting, therefore, that it is to be played for the first time at golf’s most iconic venue.
“Some of the most celebrated players in history have laid claim to the title over the years and we are already looking forward to seeing who will join them on the roll of honour.”
Carnoustie stages this year’s 30th anniversary event before it returns to Royal Porthcawl for the second time in four years to Royal Porthcawl in 2017.