Feb
17
2010
Just Let Tom Watson Play the US Open
By Stephanie Wei under General

Apparently Tom Watson’s remarkable showing at the British Open last year — not to mention his lifetime of achievements — wasn’t good enough for the USGA to grant him a special exemption to play in the US Open at Pebble Beach just yet.

Doug Ferguson reports the USGA concluded its annual meeting ten days ago without handing out any special invitations:

“The decision was that our committee is going to look at it in April,” said Mike Davis, senior director of rules and competition. “They feel like if there’s any special exemption, they want to look at it closer to the time of the Open.”

Nick Price in 2005 was the last player to receive a special exemption to the U.S. Open. Watson would appear to be a logical choice.

Obviously, the 60-year-old Watson has shown he can still compete. We all remember his almost history-making performance at Turnberry, where only an eight-foot putt stood between him and becoming the oldest player to win a major. But placing second was pretty impressive. You know, especially when he can practically order from the senior citizen’s menu at Denny’s.

More recently, at last month’s Dubai Desert Classic, which is the fourth-strongest field in the professional ranks, he finished tied for eighth.

Don’t forget his amazing duel with Jack Nicklaus at the 1982 US Open at Pebble, where Watson chipped in on the 17th to take the lead and ultimately win. Now that would be a thrill to see him perform such mind-blowing heroics 28 years later — or at least to have a shot.

What’s the deal with the red tape, anyway? Adam Schupak offers this interesting bit:

Decisions regarding special exemptions generally are made around the time of the Masters, according to USGA spokesperson Rand Jerris. Some insiders tell me it’s a done deal and the USGA just waited for the end of Jim Vernon’s reign as president to avoid any implication of favoritism, because Vernon and Watson are old fraternity brothers.

Naturally, that’s the conclusion people would draw. I guess Watson will just have to wait until May for the official word.

[Photo by Richard Mackson/Getty Images]