The Stage is Set
The R&A has announced it is delighted with the condition of the Old Course ahead of The 144TH Open Championship and believes it will provide an excellent test for the world’s best golfers.
“As ever, Mother Nature will have a big say in how the course plays over the next four days, but the greenkeeping team has done a fantastic job of preparing the course,” said Peter Unsworth, the Chairman of the Championship Committee. “This is 29TH time The Open has been played on the Old Course and the stage is set for another excellent Championship.”
Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, concurred with that view but admitted preparations had been hampered by a recent spell of wet weather. “We were going along pretty well until a week ago Saturday when we had an immense amount of rainfall that morning,” he said. “The place was awash so any thoughts of getting a hard-running brown links disappeared that morning.
“But the course has remarkable resilience and dries out extremely quickly,” he added. “In the circumstances, we’re very pleased with the golf course. It looks as if we’re going to have some rough weather coming up, but that’s The Open Championship.”
Dawson went on to refute the allegation that in future the Old Course might prove inadequate for professional golfers. “No,” he said, “I think the course out there has stood the test of time. The players love playing it. They don’t feel under-challenged by it.
“The R&A and the USGA have made a commitment a long time ago with a joint statement of principles to act on hitting distance if it moves up again from the plateau it’s on, and there’s so many subtleties of ground and wind out there that this Old Course will last well into the future as a strong challenge.”
The Chief Executive, who retires after this year’s Championship, also counselled against exaggerating the participation problems facing the game. “I think we can talk ourselves into this participation drop and make it bigger than it actually is,” he said. “The statistics this year in most major markets is that rounds played have risen significantly this year.
“If you look at the States, look at the UK, rounds played have risen significantly this year. Let’s not talk ourselves into a participation drop that’s greater than it actually is.
“Martin Slumbers, my successor, I know recognises that the participation issue is going to be one of the main issues he’s going to have to deal with, and I wish him well in that, but it’s not an easy one, but he certainly has it right up there as one of his priorities.”