Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive at The R&A insists that the current 10 courses on the Open rota wholly satisfy the needs of the tournament, after there was further speculation surrounding the championship’s potential to move around the globe at a pre-tournament press conference at Royal Portrush.
Padraig Harrington was amongst those suggesting that a logical next step for the Open would be for it to transition to a global scale but despite the tournament making its first trip to Ireland since 1951, Slumbers is satisfied that the tournament’s current line-up is plenty adequate.
“There’s been a lot of talk about that this week,” said Slumbers. “And a lot of it is due to the great success of bringing it to Royal Portrush for the first time for a long, long time. But we have ten courses in the pool that we use for The Open Championship. We think that’s ten of the best links courses that we have in the world and we are very happy with those ten courses.
“We have gone to – if you think about over the last few years coming back to Carnoustie, going back to Hoylake, were great successes. And I think by any stretch, this week is a great success. And I think that Hoylake and Portrush are really venues which are going to be used and played for The Open Championship for many years to come.
“We are not looking at the moment beyond that pool of ten courses.”
Something that will be unique to the furore surrounding this week’s Open Championship will be a march led by the Sons of Ulster through the streets of Portrush for three hours on Saturday evening. Many people will view the supposed “celebration” with an uneasiness, particularly given the message of inclusivity that has largely come out of Open week so far, but Slumbers was quick to concede that the traditions of the locals far outweigh that of the visiting R&A, and doesn’t see it becoming an issue as the week progresses.
“We are very conscious that The Open comes to town once every X years,” added Slumbers. “We are very conscious that we are guests here. We’re guests every year at the place we go.
“As guests we are very conscious that we want to be part of the community. We are very clear that we want to spend money in the community. We want to help with legacy funds in the community. But we will be gone in a couple of weeks.
“And so, we want to live with the community. There’s always things going on around the golf. And that’s wonderful. And the community carries on. Our job is to put on the Open Championship and to respect the fact that we are guests.”
Whatever your thoughts on the subject, little can take away from the record-breaking crowd of 237,750 that will be attending The 148th Open at Royal Portrush, setting an attendance record for a Championship staged outside St Andrews.
This year’s attendance surpasses the crowd of 235,000 who attended Royal Birkdale in 2017 and the 237,000 mark set at St Andrews in 2015, making it the second largest Championship ever.
A record-breaking 61,000 fans have attended Practice Days already, surpassing the previous high of 52,000 set at Hoylake in 2006.
“This is a huge week, not just for The Open but for golf as well,” Slumbers added. “We are making history with a record attendance for a Championship staged outside of St Andrews and the levels of excitement among fans this week have been phenomenal.
“I said last year that big time sport needs big time crowds and we certainly have that at Royal Portrush as we stage the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Northern Ireland. The eyes of the sporting world are firmly set on Royal Portrush.
“We would like to thank all the fans for their passion and enthusiasm as we look forward to finding out who will lift the Claret Jug on Sunday. The Open would not be the success it is without the spectators.”