SOUTHPORT, England – The R&A had its annual eve of The Open news conference Wednesday at Royal Birkdale and chief executive Martin Slumbers commented on numerous topics ranging from anchored putters to distance to drug testing to The Open’s place in the major championship schedule.
As GolfChannel.com reported on Tuesday, The R&A quickly instituted internal out of bounds right of the ninth fairway when they were asked if a player would be permitted to blow a tee shot into the 10th fairway from the ninth tee, which would cut off about 40-50 yards on the approach shot. To do so, a player would need to fly his shot over a grandstand.
“Now the great thing about links golf is you can play a hole in multiple ways, and that’s one of the beauties of it,” Slumbers said. “But in this particular case we’ve been out there with our health and safety people … and we felt that was just dangerous.”
Slumbers said it was Jason Day’s caddie, Colin Swatton, who first brought the potential situation to his attention.
Here’s a smattering of Slumbers’ thoughts on other topics:
On the anchoring debate: “The discussion around the methodology of the relevant players we’ve been talking about has been looked at extremely carefully by our governance people and our rules officials, as well as our colleagues in the United States and on the Tour. We are all very comfortable the rule is being abided by for those players.”
“We have no intention of revising that rule.”
On the Royal Birkdale setup taking driver out of many player’s hands: “The great thing about links golf, as many of you know, if you’re as much an aficionado of this game as I am, course management is one of the most important things about links golf. It’s pretty firm out there. It’s running hard. The rough, if you run out in the wrong direction, can be pretty penal. And certainly the conversations I’ve had with players is that they are really enjoying the challenge of trying to work at how to get the ball in the right place.”
On monitoring distance gains: “I spend a lot of my time and the R&A’s time looking at distance. We are very focused on setting it up in two ways, one is around transparency, which is what we did two years ago. The second thing that I’m looking at and spend probably as much time doing it is this balance between skill and technology, and whether how much the technology and skill, are they in balance, is it good for the recreational game? Is it the same for the elite game?”
Thoughts on The Open being the fourth major of the year if the PGA Championship ultimately moves to May: “I think from our perspective I don’t really mind whether we’re the third major or the fourth major. We try to do our very best with The Open Championship to make it as good as we possibly can do. I can absolutely understand some of the logic, and if it ends up resulting in more people watching our game, then that’s a great outcome.”
Regarding the PGA Tour’s move to start blood testing later this year: “As some of you know the European Tour are responsible to us for doing anti-doping testing here at The Open Championship. And our feeling is that we would like to move to the PGA Tour-type policy for next year’s Open Championship.”
On the R&A’s decision to pay prize money this year in U.S. dollars: “We want to make sure that the prize money for The Open Championship is commensurate with its status in the world of golf, and so we always look at that number and have done that for years … And so on balance we decided that in this global business that is golf, dollars is the main currency, so we’re switching to dollars and we won’t have to worry about [foreign exchange rates] moving around there in future years.”