Tom Watson granted special exemption for 2015 Open at St Andrews

Tom Watson graciously applauds Stewart Cink after losing to him in a playoff at the Open at Turnberry on July 19, 2009
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Five-time winner Tom Watson is granted special exemption to play at the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews, 40 years after he lifted his first Claret Jug.

Tom Watson has been granted a special exemption to play at the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews.

The five-time winner's automatic invitation to the event, courtesy of his playoff defeat to Stewart Cink in 2009, expires this year when the tournament goes to Hoylake.

However, it was announced on Monday that the 64-year-old American will be able to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first Claret Jug victory, at Carnoustie in 1975, by participating in Scotland next year.

"I was hoping you were going to do this," Watson told R&A executive director Michael Tate during 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, who will captain the United States Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles this September, won The Open on five different courses between 1975 and 1983, but never at St Andrews.

Stewart Cink sinks a birdie putt on the 4th green on the North Course during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South on January 23, 2014
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