The Royal & Ancient has defended its handling of the Open Championship, despite fierce criticism from players and a planned Monday finish for the first time since 1988.
More than 50 Open competitors, including Jordan Spieth, took to the course amid high winds first thing on Saturday morning to complete the second round, which had been disrupted by a waterlogged course on Friday. They lasted only 32 minutes before play was halted because of golf balls being blown around on greens. “We should never have started,” Spieth said at the time.
Ten hours and 28 minutes later, after a series of false starts, competitors reappeared. Round three will be played on Sunday with the last day shifted to Monday.
Spieth said of the morning’s events: “When we got out on the range until we were suspended it didn’t seem the wind changed at all. It was that windy or even windier earlier, I felt. Even putting on the practice green, the ball wasn’t at rest. If they felt like there wasn’t a problem then it was just unlucky but from my point of view it didn’t seem playable.”
Spieth was not alone in holding such sentiments. “I’m mad we started in the first place,” said Brooks Koepka, the world No22. “I was told I needed to play on and you’ve got to do what they tell you to do or you’re disqualified. I don’t have a problem if it’s breezy but when it gets out of control like that it’s not fair. The official in our group told me it was only me that was having the problem, but I don’t really care about everyone else; it was the most exposed part of the golf course and the ball is not staying on the green.”
Peter Dawson, the R&A’s chief executive, said changing circumstances were responsible.: “Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if play hadn’t started, but the decision was taken based on the evidence at the time. “I supported it fully, was an integral part of it and I believe it was the right decision given the facts at the time we took it.
“What had happened, and the wind readings show it, is that the wind speeds after 7am increased by about six miles an hour over what we had been experiencing prior to the start of play, and that was enough to tip it over the edge.”
Dawson also shrugged off concern at a refund of just 60% for those who held Saturday tickets. Monday entry will be £10, with under-16s free if accompanied by an adult. “It’s in our conditions,” explained the chief executive. “I can appreciate that some might disagree with that. We are tonight having quite a bit of golf. A lot of people I know have had a good time out there and you can make an argument many ways about this.”
David Rickman, the R&A’s director for rules and equipment standards, insisted the adding of a day to the championship was the best option, rather than attempting to complete rounds three and four on Sunday. “When we considered every possibility we felt the best conclusion was to accept a Monday finish gives us the best answer. We could do 36 holes [on Sunday] but we would be looking at two-tee starts and have to put those arrangements in place overnight. We would be finishing in the dark. We are comfortable this is the right decision.”
Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson and the 2011 champion, Darren Clarke, were among those to miss the halfway cut, which was belatedly confirmed at even par. Dustin Johnson continues to lead on 10 under par.
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