The five-time Open champion hailed the Kent venue and also looked ahead to the 150th staging of the world's oldest major at St Andrews in 2022

Tom Watson has told golf’s big hitters to brace themselves for the ‘beast’ of Royal St George’s.

The five-time Open winner, who famously shot 72 in near monsoon conditions in the championship’s third round at the venue a decade ago, believes it will provide a fitting challenge for the rescheduled 149th staging of the game’s oldest major.

Sandy Lyle, who won the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s in 1985, styled the Kent venue in animalistic tones and Watson concurred.

“Well, it was a beast,” he said. “I was not a great fan of St George’s until they made the changes to the 1st tee ball, 17th tee ball and 18th tee ball.

“Once they made those changes, I felt the course matured into a really good, solid, fair test of golf.

“It is a beast. What Greg Norman did there [winning in 1993] was incredible – the scores he shot there. I’ve always felt that St George’s is really a tough golf course, great second shot golf course, but what Norman did there was, in particular, a remarkable achievement.

Tom Watson

“St George’s will test the best players, the long hitters, without a doubt. It just depends on how the R&A sets it up.

“If you set it up where you’re forcing the player to lay up, as most of the time in Open Championships they do, it’ll test everybody and not just the long hitters.”

Earlier Watson, speaking as the R&A unveiled special branding and a ticket ballot for the 150th Open in St Andrews next year, was asked about the prospect of players such as Bryson DeChambeau taking the Old Course apart in 2022.

“If the R&A are smart, they’ll make that rough really deep to the left over those bunkers, forcing the players to lay up short of those bunkers and hit the proper shot into that hole,” he added. “And I think they can do that with the setup.

“Holes like 9 and 10, sure they’ll drive those holes, but people love to see that. I love to see it. You love to see it. It’s wonderful to see these players hit the ball so far.

“The thing is they still have to perform. They still have to putt. They still have to chip. They have to keep those long drives from going into the landmines, as I call them – those bunkers. They have to play their way around there and play smart. No matter how far they hit it.”

Subscribe to NCG