HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - If the great Jack Nicklaus’s British Open farewell at St Andrews nine years ago is anything to go by, expect an ocean of tears to be cried when Tom Watson bows out at the Home of Golf in 12 months’ time.
The 64-year-old Watson has been given a special exemption by the R&A (Royal & Ancient) organizers to play at St Andrews in 2015 to mark the 40th anniversary of his maiden appearance in the event and the first of his five wins in golf’s oldest major.
“When (chief executive) Peter Dawson said he would try to help out with a final exemption I had visions of playing when Arnold Palmer finished his career there,” the United States Ryder Cup captain told reporters on Monday.
“I had real strong feelings about Jack Nicklaus in his final round in the Open at St Andrews,” said a clearly emotional Watson.
“St Andrews is a very special place. People say it may not be the end but let’s face it, it is probably going to be the end of my Open career.
“It means a great deal. I just hope I can hold back enough of the tears to look presentable.”
Watson, who won the British Open in 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982 and 1983, explained how deeply he was affected by the Scottish farewell of 18-times major champion Nicklaus.
“I was crying like a baby from the tee to the green on 18,” he said. “Jack’s the greatest player in the game, he means a great deal to me, he was the man I wanted to beat.
“He told me on the last hole, ‘You’ve got to concentrate on this putt here, stop crying.
“I had to make a putt like this,” added Watson as he stretched out his arms to signify a distance of six feet, “to make the cut ... and I did.”
Watson was asked which players he would most like to accompany him for his Open swansong.
“Get Jack out of retirement,” he replied. “I’d like to play with him for my last go round in the Open Championship - that would be fun.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar