Certain Muirfield members don't understand 'tradition'

By Rex HoggardMay 19, 2016, 4:53 pm

Somewhere along the way, those 219 members at Muirfield Golf Club confused tradition with dogma.

Tradition is 16 Open Championships played on the iconic East Lothian links. Tradition is a club that dates back to 1744, when the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers was founded. Tradition is a list of Open champions that reads like a roll call of the game’s greatest players – from Harold Hilton (1892) to Phil Mickelson (2013).

Dogma is the narrow-minded, insular and extremely archaic decision by those 219 members who voted on Thursday to cling to the club’s all-male membership policy.

“A majority of members voted for women as members of the club but the two-thirds majority that we require for a change in the rules was not met,” said Henry Fairweather, captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.

Fairweather went on to explain that women are still welcome on the property, inexplicably pointing out that there are women playing the golf course today, as if that somehow mitigates a decision that defies logic.

But the distinction between tradition and dogma was perfectly clear to the R&A, which runs The Open and wasted no time pulling Muirfield from the championship’s rotation.

“Given the schedule for staging the Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the championship again,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said in a statement. “If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for the Open in future.”

Few organizations in golf cling to tradition as much as the R&A. The claret jug has been awarded to the year’s “champion golfer” since 1873 and the group has called St. Andrews home since 1754, 22 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Yet the R&A was quick to pull the plug on Muirfield when the pro-female member’s push fell short of the two-thirds majority that is required for a rule change.

As surprising as the Muirfield vote may be, the R&A’s swift reaction is a sign of progress by any measure. Both the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and Royal St. George’s voted to allow female members within the last year two years and Royal Troon, the site of this year’s championship, seems poised to make the same change.

“Thank you [R&A] for the quick and decisive decision, and for sending a clear message for/about our sport!” LPGA commissioner Michael Whan tweeted.

Some will confuse this episode with the powers that be – in this case, the R&A – trying to impose its will on private clubs. That’s not the case.

Muirfield can follow whatever path the club chooses however misguided some may think it is. But when the golf world descends on the layout every few years to host one of the game’s biggest events the ability to hide behind the private gates is cast aside.

The right of the 219 Muirfield members to deny female membership is undeniable, just as confusing dogma for tradition is unimaginable.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 12:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Friday, Day 2 (Times ET)

1:30-8:20AM (Watch): On a rainy Friday morning at Carnoustie, Rory McIlroy shot 69 to reach 4 under, while Zach Johnson fired a 67 for the early lead. Click here or on the image below to watch.

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.

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Fleetwood, with his fancy umbrella, fires 65 on Day 2

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 12:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tommy Fleetwood looked like an Open rookie when he set out on Friday under gray skies and a cold, steady rain.

Because the Englishman doesn’t have an equipment sponsor he made a quick turn through the merchandise tent for an umbrella – but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

“We stole it,” he laughed when asked about his Open-brand umbrella. “We got one given for free, actually. We didn't steal it. We don't always carry an umbrella. So it just so happens this week that we've got a nice Open Championship [umbrella]. It looked quite nice, the yellow and the course.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

It was Fleetwood’s only rookie move on Day 2 at Carnoustie, posting a flawless 65 to move into an early tie for second place at 5 under par.

Fleetwood holds the competitive course record at Carnoustie, a 9-under 63 he shot last fall during the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship, but given Friday’s conditions and the difficulty of this course during The Open, his 65 on Friday might have been better.

“It's not a course record, but it's pretty good,” said Fleetwood, who was stroke behind leader Zach Johnson. “If you went out, you wouldn't really fancy being 6 under out there. So I think that's a good indication of how good it was.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Fleetwood on Friday. He said he struggled with his ball-striking, specifically his tee shots, on Day 1, but he was able to turn things around with an hour-long session on the range following his opening round.

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Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 20, 2018, 10:15 am

Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.

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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism

By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:53 am

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.

McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.

But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.

Said Harmon:

“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.

“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”

McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.

“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”

McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.