sport

Watson returning to St Andrews

Five-time winner Tom Watson has been granted a special exemption to compete in next year's Open Championship.

Watson, who will skipper the United States in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in September, was presented with a solid silver players' badge to mark his participation at St Andrews in 2015, the 40th anniversary of his first Open Championship appearance - and first victory - at Carnoustie in 1975.

The 64-year-old's exemption from losing a play-off to Stewart Cink at Turnberry in 2009 runs out this year, but that has been extended for another year to make him eligible to compete at the home of golf.

"I was hoping you were going to do this," Watson told R&A executive director Michael Tate in a press conference announcing Royal Birkdale and Carnoustie as The Open venues in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

"Walking across the Swilcan Bridge (in 2010), thinking that was going to be the last time I walked across it in the Open at St Andrews was a pretty sad time.

"If everything works out well I will be entered into the tournament and playing well. I hope my body is still in good shape and I will be there if I have to drag myself there to be honest with you.

"I appreciate more than you will know the extension of the exemption. It's very special for me to be able to finish out my career - unless I finish in the top 10 - playing in the Open Championship, 40 years from the first time I played."

Watson will make his 36th appearance in the Open next month and said he was pleased to tee it up alongside 2006 Hoylake winner Tiger Woods, who returned to action last week after back surgery.

"I am delighted to see Tiger back," Watson added. "I hope he's healthy and I hope he's not in pain. As I've said, I want him on the Ryder Cup team if he's healthy and playing well."

Birkdale will host the Open for the 10th time from July 20-23, 2017, and the first time since Padraig Harrington won his second consecutive Claret Jug in 2008 after triumphing at Carnoustie a year earlier.