Watson gets exemption at British Open

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Tom Watson's place in the next five British Opens is safe after the Royal & Ancient's decision to change an exemption rule.

The 60-year-old five-time British Open champion finished runner-up this year but would have lost his exemption status because of the R&A's age rules. However, golf's governing body outside the United States said Monday it has amended one of its rules so former champions who finish in the top 10 in the previous five Opens get a five-year exemption.

That also applies to Greg Norman , a two-time champion who tied for third at the 2008 British Open.

"We have introduced this exemption as a direct response to seeing two of our great Open champions, both in their 50s, challenging to win our championship these last two years," R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson said. "We rightly reduced the age of exemption for past champions from 65 to 60 two years ago, and our intention was never to remove players still at the top of their game from competing in the Open."

Watson, at 59, almost became the oldest British Open champion at Turnberry this year, but he missed an 8-foot putt and bogeyed the final hole before losing in a playoff to Stewart Cink .

Next year's British Open will be played at St. Andrews from July 15-18.

LPGA TOUR: The ShopRite LPGA Classic is back in business.

Tournament organizers, ShopRite and the LPGA announced Monday that the longtime Atlantic City-area fixture will return to the women's schedule in June after a three-year absence.

The $1.5 million event will be held June 14-20 at the Seaview Resort in Galloway Township outside Atlantic City, coinciding with the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.

Tournament Executive Director Tim Erensen said the parties signed a series of five one-year contracts that include opt-outs for all signees after each year.

The return is good news for the LPGA, which has lost at least seven tournaments since 2007 because of the troubled economy. The tour lost one of its marquee events in September when Anheuser-Busch did not renew its sponsorship of the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in Virginia after seven years.

Erensen said the tentative plans for 2011 are to hold the tournament the weekend after Memorial Day. The 54-hole event will be televised by the Golf Channel.

The event folded in 2006 after organizers accused LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens of providing three unsuitable dates for the 2007 event. Bivens resigned earlier this year.

DOPING CASE: A judge has denied a temporary restraining order sought by a golfer trying to block a one-year doping ban by the PGA Tour long enough to let him play at a qualifying tournament in Houston.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tu Pham ruled Monday that Doug Barron did not show a likelihood that he would win on his claims.

The 40-year-old pro from Memphis, Tenn., is the first to be banned for violating a policy that went into effect July 3, 2008. Barron tested positive for the anabolic steroid testosterone and propranolol, a beta-blocker that calms nerves.


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