The British Open is returning to Royal Troon in 2023 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first Open on the western Scottish links and to stoke memories of Henrik Stenson’s magnificent duel he won against Phil Mickelson.
Some 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the south, President Donald Trump’s course at Turnberry will have to wait.
The R&A announced the addition to the Open schedule on Tuesday. That extends a rotation of Royal St. George’s in England this year; St. Andrews next year for the 150th edition of golf’s oldest championship; Royal Liverpool in England in 2022; and then the return to Ayrshire coast for Royal Troon for the 10th time.
Troon is where Arthur Havers beat Walter Hagen in 1923, the first time it was held there. Other champions include Arnold Palmer (1962) and Tom Watson (1982), but the most famous of all was the last time at Troon in 2016.
Stenson and Mickelson pulled away from the field and battled to the end. Stenson shot 63 on the final day to set the major championship scoring record at the time of 264 (later matched by Brooks Koepka in the 2018 PGA Championship) and win by three shots.
It will have been seven years since Royal Troon last hosted the Open. It will be an eight-year gap between Opens for Royal Liverpool, where Rory McIlroy won in 2014.
Turnberry, perhaps the most scenic of all the links courses on the rotation, last held the Open in 2009 when Stewart Cink defeated the 59-year-old Watson in a playoff.
Trump bought Turnberry in 2014 and renovated several holes to strong reviews.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said Turnberry remained one of the 10 links on the Open rotation. He said the delay in returning had more to do with the size of the crowd Turnberry gets more than anything to do with Trump.
“If you look at where the Open has gone the last few years, we’ve been trying to grow the audience and build a bigger event,” Slumbers said in a conference call. “A big-time sport needs a big-time crowd. We delivered that at Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie … Royal Portrush was a record with an extraordinary experience.”
He said Royal St. George’s is expected to draw more than 200,000 fans, many of them from the London area and south, which would top the 183,000 who attended the last time there in 2011.
“That is our ambition, to keep growing that,” Slumber said. “It grows the importance of the Open, the size of the Open, and I think creates the atmosphere of what we’re trying to do, which is create one of the world’s greatest sporting championships. … Turnberry is difficult from an infrastructure basis, and that is something that we are openly talking with government about how that can be improved.”
Turnberry is famous for the “Duel in the Sun” in 1977 — when it first hosted the Open — with Watson defeating Jack Nicklaus with a birdie on the final hole. No one else was within 10 shots. Greg Norman won in 1986 and Nick Price in 1994, but then it was another 25 years before the next one because of limited roads into Turnberry.
Slumbers referred to Turnberry as arguably the “two or three we have for the Open.” He also said the last time there in 2009, the crowd was 130,000.
“It’s a bit short,” he said.
And it’s still waiting on its next Open.
COURSES ON THE OPEN ROTATION AND WHEN IT WAS LAST PLAYED
Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland (2019)
Carnoustie, Scotland (2018)
Royal Birkdale, England (2017)
Royal Troon, Scotland (2016)
St. Andrews, Scotland (2015)
Royal Liverpool, England (2014)
Muirfield, Scotland (2013)
Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England, (2012)
Royal St. George’s, England (2011)
Turnberry, Scotland (2009)
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