Even after his near victory at age 59, Tom Watson was at the end of the line at the Open Championship. Royal and Ancient rules—designed to keep the Major competitive—had set the age of 60 as the final year of eligibility for former champions. So the 2010 Open would be Watson’s last.
But cooler heads apparently have prevailed and Watson has been granted another five years exemption into the Open Championship. A recent change now allows former champions to compete through age 65 if they finish in the top ten in one of the previous five tournaments. Greg Norman also would be granted an extension under these rules, thanks to his finish in 2008.
No word on what happens if someone manages to contend at age 65. That seems unlikely, but so did Watson’s triumph at age 59.
I doubt, however, if the exemption would have been made for anyone but Watson. He is beloved by the fans over there and sometimes mentioned as the greatest links player of all time.