Royal Troon will host the 152nd Open Championship in 2023, extending Muirfield and Turnberry’s wait to host golf’s oldest major. A century after staging the Open for the first time, Troon will welcome the world’s top players for the 10th occasion, just seven years after Henrik Stenson lifted the Claret Jug following an epic duel with Phil Mickelson.
The R&A’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, said: “The 100th anniversary at Royal Troon is important and it’s a great course. It throws up some very exciting finishes, it has terrific infrastructure and with it hosting the omen’s Open in August it’s nice to keep some momentum going. It ticks a lot of boxes.”
Slumbers admitted that the size of the crowds which each of the 10 courses on the Open rota can accommodate has become an increasingly important factor. That is bad news for the likes of Muirfield and Turnberry, with Muirfield attracting 142,306 spectators in 2013 and Turnberry’s remote location traditionally resulting in even lower figures.
“We want the Open to be one of the world’s greatest sporting events,” Slumbers added. “Big-time sport needs big-time crowds. The previous record at [this year’s venue] Royal St George’s was 183,000 and we will exceed 200,000 in July with Friday, Saturday and Sunday already sold-out and Thursday very close.
“There is no doubt that we have great aspirations for the game. We need to invest more and more. We wish to grow the Women’s Open. This is the first year we are in complete control of it and I’m excited about that, but that takes money.”
Muirfield, which is owned and run by the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, was removed from the Open rota after a vote to admit women members narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required in May 2016. It was restored in March 2017 when a second ballot saw members vote to admit women by 498 votes to 123. Twelve women are now understood to be members.
“What we’re spending a lot of our time on is how do we get 200,000 people around Muirfield?” Slumbers added. “How do we get Muirfield to be Edinburgh’s Open?”
St Andrews has already been confirmed to host the 2025 Open and with the R&A unlikely to stage the event in Scotland for three years running, Royal Portrush or one of the English courses would be favourite for 2024.
That would mean the earliest Turnberry, which is owned by the US President Donald Trump, could host the Open is 2026, 17 years after Stewart Cink defeated Tom Watson there in a play-off.
“Infrastructure is one of the key issues we need to solve at Turnberry,” Slumbers added. “I am sure it will stage an Open there in the not-too-distant future.”
With various sporting events being postponed or cancelled due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, Slumbers said the R&A is taking a “watching brief”.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship was originally scheduled for Thailand in February but has been delayed until October, and Slumbers added: “We don’t really get going again now until April, so another six to eight weeks, and who knows what could happen. We’ll see where we go on that.”
Creds: The Guardian