European Tour

Faldo, Watson in Open farewell

Nick Faldo (File)
Nick Faldo (File)

London - Golfing greats Tom Watson and Nick Faldo are both set to make their final British Open appearance at this year's edition of the sport's oldest major at St Andrews, it was announced on Monday.

Watson, a five-time British Open champion who came within a whisker of winning a sixth title at the age of 59 in 2009 before losing a play-off at Turnberry, has been granted a special exemption from organisers the Royal and Ancient to play in this year's edition of a tournament first staged in 1860.

The American's appearance at the 'home of golf' in July come 40 years after he won his first British Open title at Carnoustie, another Scottish course.

For Faldo, Britain's most successful golfer with six major titles to his name, the 2015 British Open also signals an anniversary as it will be 25 years since he won the second of his three Open titles on the celebrated Old Course at St Andrews, the R&A's base.

The Englishman also lifted the Claret Jug when the British Open was played at Muirfield, near Edinburgh, in 1987 and 1992.

Faldo, whose 58th birthday falls on the Saturday of this year's Championship in July, said he was looking forward to crossing St Andrews' famed Swilcan Bridge once again and celebrating his career in golf.

"The Open and St Andrews will forever hold a significant place in my heart," he explained on Monday. 

"My fondest moments on my journey with this great sport are woven with pictures and emotions in this setting. It all means a huge amount to me.

"I look forward to celebrating all that golf has given me as I cross that storied bridge and the wonderful memories I share with many people. I am grateful for it all and grateful to golf," Faldo, now mainly a television golf analyst rather than an active competitor, said.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson added: "Sir Nick Faldo is an inspirational figure in British golf and has enjoyed a remarkable career in The Open.

"He has delighted the galleries over many years with his three victories and consistently outstanding performances. I'm sure there will be great anticipation among the galleries at St Andrews to see him play in The Open once again and he will receive a rousing ovation worthy of a great champion."

Eight-times major winner Watson, long highly regarded for his sportsmanship as well as the calibre of his golf, is a hugely popular figure in Scotland and can also be expected to draw huge crowds at St Andrews.

The 65-year-old, the losing US captain against Europe at last year's Ryder Cup at Scotland's Gleneagles course, became the oldest player to break par at the Masters when he shot a one-under 71 in the opening round at Augusta National earlier this month.

Officials have increased spectator viewing areas, with 10 000 fans able to watch from seats on the first, 17th and 18th, with a two-tiered grandstand created.

Meanwhile the grandstand behind the infamous 17th, the Road Hole, will have a capacity of more than 4 000, with a total of 21,000 seats around the entire course.

Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, executive director of championships at the R&A, said: "There is always an incredible atmosphere at The Open and particularly when it is held in St Andrews. 

"We want to make sure as many spectators as possible can experience that unique atmosphere and enjoy wonderful views of the play on the opening and closing holes at St Andrews."

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