TOM Watson has spoken of how thrilled he is to have been offered one more chance to walk over the Swilcan Bridge in an Open Championship.
It follows the R&A extending a special exemption for the five-times winner to take in next year’s event at St Andrews.
The appearance will be Watson’s 37th in the world’s oldest major and is also set to mark his 40th anniversary as an Open competitor.
“I was hoping they were going to do this – to let me walk across the Swilcan Bridge one last time,” said the 64-year-old, who will captain the Americans in this year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. “I remember when I did that in 2010 thinking it would be my last Open at St Andrews and it was a pretty sad time,” he added.
“This allows me to again walk across that bridge and indeed if everything works out well I will be entered for the Open if my body is still in good shape.
“But I’ll be there even if I have to drag myself there because I appreciate this exemption more than you will know.
“St Andrews is the place where I want to finish my career unless I can finish in the top ten and qualify for more Open Championships.”
Watson finished second to Seve Ballesteros at St Andrews in 1984 before joining Jack Nicklaus on the Swilcan Bridge in 2005 years later when the Golden Bear made an emotional farewell to the event.
“Tom is the most successful Open champion still playing today,” said R&A chief executive Peter Dawson.
“We are delighted that he will be able to play in The Open next year and I’m sure golf fans everywhere will look forward to seeing him play again at St Andrews.”
Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that the 2017 and 2018 events will be held at Royal Birkdale and Carnoustie respectively.
Those venues will follow Royal Troon on the rota, with Royal Portrush having been invited to host the event in 2019.
The 150th staging of the championship is due in 2021 and it’s expected the R&A would want to have The Open at St Andrews for that historic milestone.
Where Turnberry fits in remains to be seen, though some light could be thrown on that when new owner Donald Trump hosts a press conference at the Ayrshire resort today.