SANDWICH, England, (Reuters) – Tom Watson was within a whisker of achieving a golfing miracle when he almost won the 2009 British Open and the veteran American believes a “50-something” could challenge strongly for the Claret Jug again this week.
The five-times Open champion failed to hole a four-footer for victory on the 72nd green at Turnberry two years ago before losing to countryman Stewart Cink in a playoff.
With fellow former major champions Sandy Lyle, Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Mark O’Meara, all now into their sixth decade, teeing up on Thursday, Watson said he felt the course could suit the older player and perhaps produce a first over-50 major winner.
“I don’t see why it’s not feasible for a 50-something to win this week,” Watson, 61, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.
“Links courses are great equalisers. You don’t have to pound the ball or hit the ball particularly long although they have added length to many of the holes here.”
The oldest player to win a major was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he lifted the U.S. PGA in 1968. Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at 46 in 1986 while the oldest British Open winner was Old Tom Morris, also 46, in 1867.
The oldest British Open champion of the modern era was Roberto Di Vicenzo, who was 44 in 1967.
Watson conceded that some of the holes at the extended 7,211-yard, par-70 layout would prove particularly difficult for him to negotiate.
“There are two 240-yard par-threes at the third and 11th where length is definitely an advantage,” he said while attending a MasterCard presentation at Royal St George’s.