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Turnberry may return to Open rota again

Although nothing is set in tablets of stone, Peter Dawson, the secretary of the Royal and Ancient, the organisation which runs the Open, has again given a strong indication the Ailsa course at Turnberry will soon return to the championship rota.

It was generally expected Turnberry would have been hosts in 2004, ten years after Nick Price held off Jesper Parnevik to lift the Claret Jug. However, doubts about Turnberry’s capacity to cope with the increased road traffic generated by championship golf in the Tiger Woods era forced the R&A to switch next year’s tournament to Royal Troon.

Having also missed out in the selection process for Scotland’s Ryder Cup venue in 2014, Turnberry has continued to seek involvement in top-quality tournament golf by staging the British Women’s Open won by Karrie Webb last summer and a British Senior’s Open in August, which will re-unite Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson 26 years after the Duel in the Sun.

Yet the likelihood of an official announcement after the Seniors welcoming Turnberry back into the fold for the Open, possibly in 2007, remains elusive as the new road scheme goes through the planning stage.

"We’re still waiting for final confirmation on the road situation," revealed Dawson. "As soon as we have that then Turnberry is back in active consideration. The last I heard there were a couple of the usual objections to the planning process, which they are trying to deal with. That just delays confirmation. But we’ll be back at Turnberry, I’m sure of that."

Apart from Hoylake - Royal Liverpool will make a first appearance since 1967 in 2006 - Dawson indicated there were no other Open candidates. The new links at Kingsbarns near St Andrews has been warmly praised, but it will be a number of years yet before that course is sufficiently established to be considered for an Amateur championship or Walker Cup, never mind an Open.

While the Ailsa’s sister course, the Kintyre, will serve as one of four local qualifying courses for Troon next year, Dawson also hinted that the reduction in the number of spots available following the introduction of International Final Qualifying could lead to a drop in the number of venues for St Andrews in 2005. "We might move to three final qualifying courses rather than four in near future," he admitted.

Last week’s announcement about the introduction of IFQ as from next year inevitably raised questions about how far the R&A was prepared to go in an attempt to attract the strongest possible field.

"Events like The Players Championship take all their field directly from the world rankings," Dawson added. "We won’t quite do that. We always want the possibility of a bit of romance, the magic of someone coming through like Justin Rose."

Apart from running the Open, the R&A have responsibility with the United States Golf Association for publishing an updated Rules of Golf in 2004 and keeping an eye on the thorny issue of amateur status.

As was reported in these columns during the Masters, the popularity of reality game shows on American TV has led to club golfers getting the chance this summer to take on pros such as John Daly and Lee Trevino for large cash prizes.

Dawson is aware of this development and keeping his fingers crossed copy-cat ventures aren’t planned on TV in this part of the world. "I suppose it’s not dissimilar to hole in one prizes and things of that nature," he said. "We very much believe that because golf is self regulating in terms of adherence to the rules, and that it’s played under handicaps, money should be kept out of it.

"It’s very desirable that everybody enjoys the game on a level playing field, and we will defend that. Yes, there are attacks on that principle, like the one you’ve mentioned, and we will try to persuade people to look at things from our point of view."

 

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