Following the UK Government’s announcement to delay the planned easing of restrictions, we are now actively working with the government and public health authorities, including those in Kent, in the next phase of the Events Research Programme, which will enable a number of events to take place with higher capacities than the current Step 3 guidance.
As a result, we can now confirm that we will be able to welcome up to 32,000 fans on each championship day of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s and that this will include those existing ticketholders and hospitality guests who have already purchased tickets.
Our end goal is to stage a fantastic Open at Royal St George’s and give our fans and players something to be genuinely excited about this summer. Continuing to ensure the health and safety of all of those attending remains our highest priority.
We will be emailing all existing ticket holders and hospitality guests to confirm the arrangements for The 149th Open this afternoon, including the requirements for Covid status certification.
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are pleased to now be able to proceed with our plans for having a significant attendance at this year’s Championship. These fans will play a huge role in creating a very special atmosphere as the world’s best players compete for the Claret Jug and we look forward to welcoming them to Royal St George’s.
“I would like to acknowledge the support and understanding we have received from the government and public health authorities, fans, players, our patrons and partners, as we have worked through this extremely challenging process. The Open is a very special championship in the world of sport and we are fortunate that so many people care as deeply about it as we do.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said, "The Open Championship returns to Royal St George's for the first time in a decade and what better way to welcome its return than with more than 30,000 fans each day watching the best golfers in the world battle it out for the famous Claret Jug.
"We have always said we will do everything possible to return fans to our iconic cultural and sporting events as soon, and as safely, as possible — and thanks to the phenomenal success of our vaccine rollout and uptake of the NHS App we're able to take another step forward through our flagship Events Research Programme."
The bad news? The arguments against require taking on the PGA Tour, not the big bad governing bodis, and assume the books would be banned from practice rounds (highly doubtful). But we don’t know the specifics because this aggressive bit of Player Advisory Council rulemaking has not been fleshed out yet. The details will be tricky since the Tour is not normally one to intervene in rules of golf issues.
But I don’t think these arguments will hold up.
Stracka also expressed concern that the banning of the books on the PGA Tour would confuse the hordes of amateur golfers who use them. The ban, it would seem, would only apply to the PGA Tour, and the books would not be made illegal in the Rules of Golf. It’s also not yet clear what, exactly, the ban would cover, or how it would be implemented.
“They’ve tried to avoid bifurcation forever,” Stracka said. “What they’re doing is, they are bifurcating the Rules of Golf. They are creating a new set of rules for them and one for everybody else. And that’s just bad for the game."
The PGA Tour is supposed to be entertaining and watching people look at a cheat sheet is tedious. They also make players wear pants during tournament days in the name of the “product.” It’s refreshing they are going to lead instead of follow on something that adds cost and time to the game, despite claims of one college golf study suggesting green reading books speed up play.
Why, then, would the players vote as they did?
“My only guess it there were a couple influential players who basically convinced the other players on the committee to say yeah, let’s get rid of these books. Why, I have no idea because most of them use the books! It’s mind-boggling.”
Maybe some actually care about how the sport is played, rewarding skill, making players and caddies resort to using eyes, and know it looks ridiculous?
Matthew Wolff after a U.S. Open first round 70, discussing at length his attitude and recent inability to find happiness on the course:
“I was talking to Bubba Watson earlier on the range this week and he told me he stopped watching golf, he only watches LPGA because they're so positive. He goes, LPGA is like the commentators, like everyone is just so positive, like every shot they hit is the best shot ever. And I think that -- and I'm not, I'm not like hating on the LPGA, I think it's awesome, because like these shots are hard out here and it's like, you know, sometimes they're describing a shot and they make it sound easy and it's not. And it's just, I'm only trying to have positive thoughts in my head and be positive. And I mean, kudos to pretty much every professional athlete out there, it's, I haven't been in this world for a long time, but it's fucking hard.”
I don’t think this will help announcers to feel emboldened to say what they think.
Eureka Earth has posted another photo of the major work taking place to sand-cap and update Augusta National, with the latest view showing what appears to be the start of a new back tee at the 11th hole (very upper right corner of Eureka’s image).
Currently 505 yards, a more cynical mind might conclude the club is not expecting a distance rollback any time soon.
Q. When you were answering the question about the greens book, you said that you thought maybe it would be better for golf if there wasn't a greens book. I think that's pretty much what you said. Can you talk about what other things you'd like to see changed that you think would better golf that currently are being implemented in the game right now? Like if it's anchoring putting, whatever it might be.
RORY MCILROY: I thought we got rid of anchoring putting three years ago.
Q. I don't know, did we?
RORY MCILROY: No, probably not (laughter). Yeah, that is certainly something that I would like to see addressed, as well, and I think there's a common consensus with the players on that one too. Look, the game of golf is in a great place. I think we always have these conversations of what we can do to make the game better or grow the game or expand the game.I think it's in a pretty good place. Yeah, there's a couple of little things that us golf nerds want changed, whether it be green reading books or arm-lock putting or whatever it is, but from a whole and looking at the game from an entirety of it, I think it's in a really good place.
Forget Brooks-Bryson, let’s get Rory paired with an arms-locker!
But let those words sink in. The Vice Commissioner and key vote has just kick-started what should be debated about the current anchoring rules. He’s also took down green books:
Q. Can you expand on just why the green books are such an advantage?
RORY MCILROY: It's not that it's an advantage really, it's just taking away a skill that takes time and practice to be mastered. I think reading greens is a real skill that some people are better at than others, and it just nullifies that. It nullifies that advantage that people have.Yeah, honestly, I think it's made everyone lazier. People don't put in the time to prepare the way they used to, and that's why you see so many more players at Augusta, for example, take their time around the greens, hit so many more putts, it's because they have to. It's because there is no greens book at Augusta. Look, it might take practice rounds, it might make practice rounds a little longer, and you might have to do a little bit more work, but I think, once we get to the tournament rounds, it will speed up play, and I think it will help the guys who really have done their homework, it will help them stand out a little bit more.
The Tour’s Player Advisory Council voted to outlaw the books at a meeting two weeks ago. Support for the ban among the 16 players who comprise the Council was described by one person who was present as “overwhelming.”
“The books should be banned,” the player added. “Green reading is a skill to be learned.”
The skill word is huge here and will liven up other discussions about distance, grooves, rangefinders and any other number of things that have altered the sport.
Despite claims otherwise, the books slow the game down, provide an awful look for the “product” and have likely reduced time put into practice rounds in search of local knowledge. Oh, and the whole general skill of reading greens, imagination, etc. that was warned about when players fought to have the (expensive) cheat sheets.
The USGA and R&A attempted to reduce their influence—even while including them in official yardage books for their Opens—by changing rules on size of the information accessible during competition. The change has had the opposite effect, with players pulling the books closer to their face, appearing to work harder at reading smaller lines and only highlighting the absurdity of the books.
Lynch’s report says the vote would ban the books in Tour events by the end of the 2020-21 season in August.
The irony of players via their PAC in taking back an element of skill for the sport is beyond heartening. This move could also embolden the other organizations to expedite rule changes with skill in mind.
Looks like two trees remain judging by the well around them and the sand-capping work happening on the rest of the hole. Certainly progress in terms of restoring the old hole width and likely to produce some daring recovery shots. Not as far as some would go but this is exciting!
All this suggests the two sports are having difficulty understanding both their audiences and their athletes. They proceed from the premise that their tissue-thin veneer of high-minded sportsmanship and sometimes incomprehensible notions of etiquette are celebrated attributes, not turnoffs. But evidence suggests the opposite. Fans don’t want pageantry; they want intimacy. Increasingly, the stories that grab the public are those that break up the placid, corporatized surface of the game — a tennis star who chooses self-care over a major, or two large golfers who seem ready to fistfight. We recognize the image- crafting guardrails that surround every sport, and we perk up when we see them falling. Is this what happens when sports stop being polite and start getting real?
But the big ticket item: what appears to be a new back tee on the 15th hole based on the long platform extending into the 11th. Plus lots of sandcapping work elsewhere in the vicinity, including possibly around the 14th green.
The 11th tee shot will be impacted by this new tee, but barring new plantings or old ones coming back—it’s Augusta National after all—it looks like there is a dwindling tree population down the right side compared to the 2019 view below. I can’t quite figure out the carry number to get past the clump of pines remaining, but it would appear drives of a certain distance will be met with a much wider landing area.
I’m trying to contain my excitement until we know more but this is…exciting, unless trees are sitting in boxes just out of view.
Tee times are out and the USGA did offer a few themes, albeit G-rated and safe.
Defending champ Bryson DeChambeau gets U.S. Amateur winner Tyler Strafaci and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. Most of the other themes consist of former champions, Californians, Dallas residents, etc…
Regarding the possibility of the ultimate &^%@ pairing, Brad Faxon made an interesting claim** on SiriusXM’s PGA Tour radio show hosted by Michael Breed. Full audio embedded above. The comments:
Breed: “The idea of having Bryson (DeChambeau) and Brooks (Koepka) playing together, do you think that this would be good for the game of golf? Do you think that having this type of animosity between players is good for the game of golf and grows the game of golf”?
Faxon: “I was with a bunch of the Titleist guys, as you know the club facilities out here. … We were talking about, what do you call growing the game? Is it viewership or is it participation? Because those are two different things. And Wally Uihlein, who was chairman of the board wasn’t there last night, but he would have said years ago when Michael Jordan was the best basketball player in the world, was he growing the game of basketball? He had more people watch, but he wasn't selling more basketballs. And that's exactly what's happening with Koepka and DeChambeau here. More people are knowing about this kind of little fight. It's kind of become a little bit of a Vegas sort of situation here. And I found out last night that the USGA actually did call Bryson DeChambeau and his agent to ask him if they would be okay with that, and Bryson declined.”
Boy that must have been wild and crazy party talking how to sell more golf balls! Hopefully Wally at least Zoomed in for an appearance!
**The agent has replied that Bryson was not contacted but does not address if he was approached…
Bryson DeChambeau's agent says the USGA never reached out about a Brooks Koepka pairing:
“The USGA did not reach out to Bryson regarding a potential pairing the first two rounds with Brooks Koepka. Bryson is fully focused on defending the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines this week." https://t.co/WOXMiNE9c8
The short version: Wichita Open Monday qualifying featured an 8:10 am tee time with Austen Dailey, Derek Fribbs and Luke Smith. On the bag for Luke, a University of Tennessee-Martin golfer, is dad Oliver, President of Capital Prime. The group struggled and fell behind. Luke and Oliver Smith were reportedly not keen on helping the others look for a few lost balls and even did not like having to put the pin in the hole after putting out.
Well okay then.
The situation came to a boil on the Par-3 seventh hole. Dailey hit his tee shot left of the green. Fribbs, ever the sportsmen, went to help Dailey look for his ball. Allegedly, the Smiths did not help in the search for Dailey’s ball. In an effort to speed up play, Fribbs holed out first and headed for the eighth tee to play his next shot and try and get the group back in position. After Dailey completed the hole he said something to Smiths about how helping to look for shots might help speed the group up. This was apparently a bridge too far for the Smiths. According to Fribbs Luke and Oliver Smith started yelling at Dailey about his quality of play and how it was affecting the group. Oliver went on to make it clear that his son Luke, “wasn’t here to look for balls.”
Fathers and sons. From there son Luke jumped on Dailey while dad did this…
The elder Smith allegedly waved a putter at Fribbs- and anyone else with an eye on jumping into the fracas. (Oliver Smith’s putter-waving was was later confirmed by another PGA Section official on site.)
**Oh more fun imagery for the Dateline reenactment…
I will add it to the story but forgot to include one of the best details. Derek Fribbs who was the third player in the group gave his statement to the police...WHILE WALKING DOWN THE 10TH FAIRWAY. The cop drove a cart to him and he gave his side of story as he played the 10th.
While Morning Read is generally one of the last places you’ll read strong points of view from writers like John Hawkins, Alex Miceli and Mike Purkey, it’s also worth noting that the site is owned by the Buffalo Groupe.
While I know many of the Morning Read writers would not be compromised by the relationship, it would seem logical to disclose the USGA partnership in articles pertaining to the U.S.G.A. I know, highly doubtful, but if Golf.com can do it, so can Morning Read when entrusted with what’s left of the Sports Illustrated “brand”.
“The rough, I think, will be the big differentiator,” says John Bodenhamer, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior managing director of championships. “The biggest difference between January and June will be the kikuyu.”
Knowing how much the USGA loathed the idea of playing a championship with kikuyu approaches and rough—possibly hurting Riviera’s chances at times—I dare say this is the first time a U.S. Open is played with it. (Two PGA’s at Riviera featured prominent kikuyu not seen in the winter months when it’s less active and the U.S. Senior Open).
Superintendent Rich McIntosh, who has dialed in Torrey, explained the approach to get it there this week:
So McIntosh and his crew shaved the rough down to an inch in some places, along with reducing overseed rates of the ryegrass and increasing chemical eradication “to get the kikuyu moving.” That seemed to help, although the gloomy, cloudy spring didn’t cooperate until this past week. The kikuyu is higher than in 2008, up to 6 inches or more in some area, although not uniform height and density across the course.
If it were uniform and that dense throughout we’d be almost assured of an injury or two. Either way, it’s old fashioned U.S. Open hackout stuff and with fewer crowds and marshals than normal to help find balls or mash it down, a potential difference maker.