Open Champions with victories spanning over 50 years, from five-time winner Peter Thomson in 1954 right up to 2009 Champion, Stewart Cink, have confirmed their intention to participate in The Open Champions’ Challenge. 28 of 32 Champions have accepted the invitation to play four holes of the Old Course, the first, second, 17th and 18th on Wednesday 14 July, the day before the 150th Anniversary Open Championship gets underway.
Crowds of over 30,000 are expected to line the fairways to watch the event, which will see Seve Ballesteros return to the golf course after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008. The three-time Open Champion, who was the first to confirm his appearance in the Challenge, is set to return to St Andrews to a rapturous reception, 26 years after he famously triumphed on the Old Course in 1984.
Speaking recently, the Spaniard said: “I am happy and looking forward to playing the Champions’ Challenge. I think I can do very well and say thank you to all my fans at St Andrews, where I have many great memories.”
One year on from his phenomenal runners-up performance at Turnberry, five-time winner Tom Watson will join Ballesteros and 26 other legends of the game for what will be a nostalgic and memorable event for golf fans worldwide.
Tiger Woods, the current world number one and winner of the last two Opens at St Andrews, has also confirmed that he will be taking his place in the Challenge before commencing his bid to become the first man to lift the Claret Jug on the Old Course three times.
“We’re very pleased that there will be such a distinguished and full field for this special occasion,” said The R&A’s Chief Executive, Peter Dawson. “We have six more Open Champions taking part in this special celebration than there were a decade ago at the Millennium Open. It’s sure to be a wonderful celebration befitting the 150th anniversary of golf’s oldest Major.”
Sadly, 1946 Open Champion Sam Snead, who entertained the galleries so memorably with a tap-dance on the Swilcan Bridge during the Millennium Champions’ Challenge, and 1951 winner Max Faulkner, passed away in 2002 and 2005 respectively.
The oldest surviving Open Champion, Kel Nagle, along with Jack Nicklaus, Nick Price and Johnny Miller, is unable to take part.
Seven teams of four Open Champions will compete for a prize of £50,000, which will be donated to a charity of the winning team’s choice. The best individual score per team on each hole will count. In the event of a tie, the team with the highest average age will prevail.
The Open Champions’ Challenge will be streamed globally on Opengolf.com via a high-quality feed. The live feed will also be available on the Opengolf iPhone application, which will be launched at the end of June.
The BBC will broadcast highlights of the event at prime-time on the Wednesday evening. Coverage will also be televised in the United States and Japan.
Tickets for Wednesday’s play can be purchased for the price of £40 online at Opengolf.com or by contacting the Ticket Office on +44 (0)1334 460010. Concessions are available for senior citizens and youths.
The Open Champions’ Challenge will begin at 3.40pm and is expected to conclude by 6.00pm.
The Champions competing, together with the years of their victories, are as follows:
Peter Thomson (AUS) 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1965
Gary Player (RSA) 1959, 1968, 1974
Arnold Palmer (USA) 1961, 1962
Bob Charles (NZL) 1963
Roberto de Vicenzo (ARG) 1967
Tony Jacklin (ENG) 1969
Lee Trevino (USA) 1971, 1972
Tom Weiskopf (USA) 1973
Tom Watson (USA) 1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983
Severiano Ballesteros (ESP) 1979, 1984, 1988
Bill Rogers (USA) 1981
Sandy Lyle (SCO) 1985
Greg Norman (AUS) 1986, 1993
Sir Nick Faldo (ENG) 1987, 1990, 1992
Mark Calcavecchia (USA) 1989
Ian Baker-Finch (AUS) 1991
John Daly (USA) 1995
Tom Lehman (USA) 1996
Justin Leonard (USA) 1997
Mark O’Meara (USA) 1998
Paul Lawrie (SCO) 1999
Tiger Woods (USA) 2000, 2005, 2006
David Duval (USA) 2001
Ernie Els (RSA) 2002
Ben Curtis (USA) 2003
Todd Hamilton (USA) 2004
Padraig Harrington (IRE) 2007, 2008
Stewart Cink (USA) 2009
Open Championship www.opengolf.com
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