5 things: R&A allow phones at Open again

Equipment

The R&A faced the media ahead of July's Open Championship

1

Mobiles allowed again

AFTER a five-year experiment, spectators will again be allowed to bring their phones on to the course at the Open. When mobiles were banned after Hoylake in 2006, it was mainly because they were being used as cameras. Now the R&A say they are all too aware of how central to peoples’ lives phones have become, and also of how they can enhance the overall experience by allowing spectators to access apps on their smartphones for up-to-dates scores, news and information.

This is almost certain to provide marshalling issues: spectators are allowed to use their phones to access information but not to make calls – except for in certain designated areas well away from play.

On the positive side, it will surely allow fans to get on to the course more quickly – and through an experience slightly further removed to that of boarding a flight.

2

Lytham will be a par 70 for the first time

FOR the fourth time in five years, the Open will be played to a par of 70. Just as at Birkdale in 2008, Turnberry in 2009 and Sandwich last year, Lytham will have only two par 5s.

Since 2001, the 6th has been reduced to being a par 4, though the length is unchanged at 492 yards.

The 7th, which has a new green some 25 yards further back and that creates a slightly different approach angle, will measure 592 yards while a new tee at the 11th, on a sandhill to the left of the 10th green, extends this hole to 598 yards.

3

R&A concerned with long putters

IT may not be imminent, and Peter Dawson, the chief executive of the R&A, was quick to insist no decision has been taken, but it is clear there is concern being shared by his body and the USGA over the issue of belly putters.

Dawson said that 20 per cent of the field in PGA Tour event were regularly using long putters this season.

He believes that the distinction will have to be made not in terms of the length of putters but of the method of stroke, which already outlaws “pushing, scraping and spooning”. The suggestion was that a new clause might relate to anchoring – though even this would not be as simple as you might think.

However, as things stand, nothing will happen until at least 2016, when the R&A will publish their next schedules update to the rules of golf.

For the fourth time in five years, the Open will be played to a par of 70.
4

BBC not certain to get Open rights forever

THERE is nothing that new to report here, and it is stating the obvious, but there could be a day, sooner rather than later, when the Open is no longer live on the BBC.

The current contract expires in 2016, with negotiations expected to start in early 2015.

Dawson said the R&A were monitoring closely the amount of golf the BBC were showing in the light of the recent announcement that they have lost rights to the BMW PGA and the Scottish Open with effect from next season.

At that point, the only live men’s professional golf they will be showing amounts to six days per year – the Open plus the weekend of the Masters.

“Like everything else in life, to be good at something you normally have to practise regularly,” said Dawson.
“We do recognise that (the amount of) golf has dropped dramatically. 
“But they are still doing a good job,” he said.

He also explained how the way in which people were able to watch the Open has changed dramatically in recent years, notably with coverage available online and via smartphones, hinting that the BBC were no longer the only viable way to take live coverage of the Open to the widest possible audience.

5

Portrush (nor anywhere else new) not currently on the agenda

DAWSON spoke warmly of his visit to the Antrim coast last year, while Jim McArthur, chairman of the R&A’s championship committee, cited the award of the 2014 Amateur championship to the hometown of Graeme McDowell, and where Darren Clarke now lives.

But there are no plans currently underway for the Open to return to Portrush, the course where Max Faulkner won the Claret Jug in 1951.

The official line relates to routing issues but there may also be political considerations, given the Open takes place at the same time of the year as the marching season.

Also, as things stand, the R&A have nine venues currently on the unofficial rota that they are quite happy with so there is no pressing need for a tenth. The logistics of setting up a new venue from scratch, and of establishing working relationships with local authorities, would also work against any possible new venue.

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