Tom Watson has declared that tomorrow’s final round of the Senior British Open will be his last competitive round of golf in the UK.
The 69-year-old, a winner of five Open Championships and three Senior British Opens, made the announcement after the third round of this year’s tournament at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Watson carded a third round two-over 72 to sit in a share of 56th with 18 holes to play. That, he says, will be his final competitive round on these shores.
“I don’t have the tools in the toolbox,” he said. “I’ve mentioned that before. I just don’t have what’s required to really compete successfully so, therefore, I’m declaring now that this is my last Senior British Open Championship.
“I've had a good career playing professional golf all these years. I've run across so many fine people who have helped me and supported me. First of all, my wife who is battling cancer now. It's going to give me some time to go out and compete with her.”
Watson’s first-ever Open appearance, at Carnoustie in 1975, yielded the first of his eight career majors. Further Open wins followed in 1977 at Turnberry – in the iconic ‘Duel in the Sun’ with Jack Nicklaus in 1977 – as well as Muirfield (1980), Royal Troon (1982) and Royal Birkdale (Royal Birkdale).
He added wins in the senior equivalent of the championship at Turnberry (2003), Royal Aberdeen (2005) and Muirfield (2007).
Along with Gary Player and Bob Charles, he is one of only three players to have won both the Open and its over-50s counterpart.
A decade ago, aged 59, he came within a shot of becoming the oldest senior major winner in history, ultimately losing out in a play-off for the Open at Turnberry to Stewart Cink.
Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, described Watson as "one of golf’s greatest ever champions".
“He has made a huge contribution to the growth and success of the Senior Open and I know he was thrilled when we made the decision to bring the championship to the Old Course in St Andrews for the very first time last year," he added.
“Tom has brought great joy to the tens of thousands of fans who have watched him play in the Senior Open over the years and they will fondly remember him for his brilliant golf, sportsmanship and warm personality.”