TURNBERRY, Scotland (AP) – Tom Watson unveiled a plaque to commemorate his famous Duel in the Sun with Jack Nicklaus 35 years ago upon his return Wednesday to Turnberry on the eve of the Senior British Open.
In 1977, Watson hit a 7-iron approach within 2 feet of the 18th hole in beating Nicklaus in a head-to-head battle to seal the second of his five British Open titles. The weather was remarkably similar 35 years later for the ceremony on the right side of the final fairway.
“This is a very special place for me,'' Watson said. “Obviously, the premier of many of my memories is the Duel in the Sun, when I just edged out the greatest player who ever played the game. I believed in myself after that.
“Unveiling the plaque is very special. I remember hitting the shot, which meant so much to me and so many other people.''
Watson is a three-time winner of the British Senior Open, notably at Turnberry in 2003, and heads a stellar field this week that includes seven former champions, 33 major winners with 85 titles between them and nine former Ryder Cup captains.
Watson will tee off Thursday alongside another former British Open champion at Turnberry, Greg Norman and Roger Chapman of England, who has won the first two senior majors on the Champions Tour this year.
“It's a huge privilege for me playing alongside Tom Watson,'' Chapman said. “I played alongside him in the pro-am yesterday, and I have to say it was a pleasure to play with an absolute gentleman. Tom was a hero of mine, in fact I named my second son after him.
“Playing with Tom and Greg on a championship course is nothing short of spectacular.''
Returning to action after a long-term shoulder injury, Norman is also pleased to be back at Turnberry.
“My win here in `86 is definitely one of the highlights of my career, and being made an honorary member of Turnberry tonight will be very special,'' Norman said.
Making his Senior British Open debut is another former major winner Fred Couples, who plays the first two rounds alongside fellow American Mark Calcavecchia, Open champion at Royal Troon in 1989, and England's Barry Lane, twice a winner on the European Senior Tour last year when finishing second in the money list to Peter Fowler of Australia.
“Turnberry is a beautiful place and I can't wait to get started in my first British Senior Open tomorrow,'' Couples said. “I feel like I will be one of the guys up there this week, but you have to play really good golf. You can't screw around and miss shots or you'll be bogeying a lot of holes.''
Calcavecchia, who finished in a share of ninth in the British Open at Royal Lytham last weekend, was also happy to be back.
“It's a beautiful course, a great course,'' he said. “I played pretty well in the two Opens I played here in `94 and 2009, so I've been looking forward to this for quite a while.''
Other American major winners in the field include 2010 Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Tim Kite and Craig Stadler as well as Bernhard Langer, a prolific winner of titles around the world.
Throw into the mix British former major winners Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam and Tony Jacklin, and Turnberry should provide plenty of exciting play in the next four days.