'Good possibility' of fans at The Open

LONDON • The British Open golf championship will go on this summer, even if there are no spectators.

"We will play The Open this year," said Martin Slumbers, the chief executive officer of Royal and Ancient (R&A), in an interview on Tuesday with Sky Sports.

"We are certainly planning to stage The Open, but clearly at this point there are multiple scenarios. It's a lot more complex than staging a normal Open Championship. But we are going to do everything we possibly can to put on a great championship for the country."

The Open, golf's oldest Major tournament, was cancelled last year because of the pandemic. The PGA Championship, US Open and the Masters were all delayed but played without fans.

Slumbers said it will be up to the British government and public health agencies to decide whether spectators will be allowed on site when the tournament is played from July 15 -18 at Royal St George's in Sandwich, England.

"There's a very good possibility we will be able to have spectators, but we will have to wait and see how many," he added.

"We are balancing the health and safety of everyone involved, but I strongly believe The Open needs spectators. It will be really important to have some, but we want to make sure we do it smartly, intelligently and with due diligence."

Officials at Augusta National said the Masters will go on in April with a limited number of spectators.

Meanwhile, golf's lawmakers are considering changes to equipment and the implementation of "local rules" in an attempt to tame the power of the game's long hitters.

American Bryson DeChambeau, who won last year's US Open, topped the 2020 PGA driving distance chart with a colossal 329-yard average, with 78 players averaging 300 yards or more.

He trialled a 48-inch (119cm) driver for the tournament, the maximum permitted shaft length, but new proposals could see the limit set at 46 inches.

One "area of interest" for the R&A and US Golf Association is for the potential use of local rules that would specify the use of clubs and/or balls, resulting in shorter distances.

"This would enable committees conducting competitions to stipulate whether such equipment should be used," a joint statement said. "It could be available at all levels of play and would also allow golfers playing outside of competition to choose for themselves."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2021, with the headline 'Good possibility' of fans at The Open. Subscribe