GULLANE — British Open organisers the R&A are aware the issue of gender and single-sex golf clubs is a divisive one which it is finding increasingly difficult to handle, said chief executive Peter Dawson.
The 142nd British Open starts on Thursday at Muirfield, one of three male-only member clubs on the tournament’s rota, and the R&A has again come under pressure to change its stance.
“Obviously the whole issue of gender and single-sex clubs has been pretty much beaten to death recently,” Dawson told a news conference.
“And we do, I assure you, understand that this is divisive. It’s a subject we’re finding increasingly difficult, to be honest.”
Dawson said the R&A (Royal & Ancient) had been at pains recently to try to explain some of the facts around the issue.
“Single-sex clubs are in a very small minority in the UK,” he added. “Half of them are women only, half of them are men only. They’re perfectly legal. In our view they don’t do anyone any harm.
“The media are, with seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm, giving out the message that this is an issue and that such clubs should be condemned to extinction and we shouldn’t be using one to stage the Open Championship.
“We understand that view,” said Dawson. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)
McIlroy hits back at Faldo
Rory McIlroy hit back at Nick Faldo on Wednesday after the six-times major winner told the young Northern Irishman earlier in the week that he had to devote more time to golf.
McIlroy has had a troubled season after changing clubs at the start of the year following the signing of a mega-bucks deal with Nike and he was clearly irritated by Faldo’s comments.
“He said I should be at the course nine to five,” the world number two told reporters on the eve of the 142nd British Open at Muirfield.
“I actually was on the range at 6.15 (yesterday) and got out of the gym at 6:15, a 12-hour day compared to his eight-hour day.
“Nick should know how hard this game is at times and he’s been in our position before. He should know how much work that we all put into it.”
Englishman Faldo, who turns 56 on Thursday and is playing in the Open this week for the first time in three years, hinted on Monday that McIlroy was spending more time than he should on off-the-course activities.
“You have a window of opportunity, that’s my only words of wisdom to Rory,” said the veteran who now works as a full-time television commentator. “You have say a 20-year window as an athlete — concentrate on golf, nothing else.
“Hopefully you have another 40 years to enjoy it so just concentrate on your golf.”
McIlroy acknowledged that Faldo was not trying to unduly criticise him.
“He probably said a million other things in that interview,” said the 24-year-old. “He obviously said something about me and that’s the thing that’s been picked up by everyone.
“I know how these things go, I know he wasn’t trying to get on my case at all. He was just offering words of advice in some way.
“(But) I think he has to remember how hard this game can be at times.”
Fowler wants Muirfield to bare its teeth
With his Florida sun-tan and Boy Band looks Rickie Fowler is the antithesis of the grizzled and wily warriors that can be found up and down Scotland’s golf course-strewn coastline.
Yet the 24-year-old American loves nothing more than battling the elements and whereas some of his compatriots will be hoping conditions remain calm, Fowler wants the winds start buffeting Muirfield when the Open starts on Thursday.
“Actually I would like to see the wind blow and hopefully it will stay up,” Fowler told Reuters on Wednesday.
“I want to see it blow maybe 15 to 20mph so the course can show its teeth. I always enjoy playing in the tough conditions.”
Fowler outplayed playing partner Rory McIlroy on a wild third day at Sandwich two years ago, carding a 70 despite atrocious conditions on his way to finishing tied for fifth.
That round marked Fowler down as a future Open champion and while he may not get his wish with the weather forecast this week, the world No.33′s ability to be creative and improvise makes him definitely one to watch.
“I love links golf, it’s my favourite type of golf,” said Fowler, who posted his second top-10 finish at a major at this year’s U.S. Open.
“There are a lot of options out there no matter where the wind is coming from the golf course is always playable, especially this week.
“Muirfield I’m pretty impressed with it, it’s a fun golf course, it’s a good solid test and looks like whatever the weather is there are a lot of run-ups to the greens.”
Fowler will partner Italian 20-year-old Matteo Manassero and fellow American Hunter Mahan in one of the later groups on Thursday and says the key will not be too gung-ho.
“I don’t think there will be too big of an issue with the wind, but patience is always the key,” said Fowler, who has made the cut at his three previous Opens.
“I hope we get some wind but it looks like it will be a pretty memorable week as far as the course conditions are concerned so I’m just going to go out there, stay patient and try put up some numbers.”
Horschel’s style to turn heads
Former winner John Daly’s multi-coloured trousers will be missing from the 142nd British Open and fellow American Billy Horschel is ready to step into his shoes by wooing the Muirfield fashionistas.
The 26-year-old American, who claimed his maiden victory at the New Orleans Classic in April, has a penchant for loud clothes and it will come as no surprise if he dons a shirt and tie at Muirfield or pants emblazoned with Octopus prints.
“I’m game to wear whatever,” Horschel told Reuters in an interview on the eve of the third major of the season.
“People are just getting to know me and I do try to dress nice by wearing a couple of loud outfits here and there. Maybe the tie will come out this week.
“I’ve also got a couple of things in mind for the future that I think will be pretty cool.”
Horschel caused a stir when he sported his octopus trousers in last month’s U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania.
“I’ve worn some other stuff but to have octopus on my pants is not something I do often. It was to do with the tradition of Merion, something to mark the U.S. Open winner of 1934 [Olin Dutra] who wore octopus socks,” he said.
“The U.S. Open can be really tense, with a lot of pressure, but wearing the pants was fun and got the fans behind me a bit.”
Horschel showed he could live with the elite of world golf as he finished in a tie for fourth at Merion behind champion Justin Rose.
The American has catapulted up to 36th in the world rankings and is confident of launching a genuine title challenge on his British Open debut.
“In my mind I think I can contend whenever I tee it up but obviously it’s my first British Open and there will be some learning curves I go through that hopefully won’t be too bad,” he said.
“I think I can learn quickly and get myself in contention,” added Horschel, a brand ambassador for Ralph Lauren, a patron and official outfitter of the British Open.
Horschel achieved a noteworthy feat in the second round at Merion, hitting all 18 greens in regulation, but he will find it hard to replicate that achievement on the parched and dry fairways of Muirfield.
“To do that in a major was pretty cool. I didn’t know I had done it until after the round but if I hit all 18 greens this week I can quit golf,” joked Horschel.
He knows he will come unstuck on some holes at the 7,192-yard, par-71 Muirfield layout — it will just be a question of keeping his mistakes to a minimum.
“This has been a great experience so far,” said a smiling Horschel. “I was hoping to be in the British Open before now but it didn’t work out.
“Muirfield is a great place, the views and the weather have been unbelievable and it’s exciting to be here.
“My game feels pretty good, I think it could be better but I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’d like it to be better but this is a game of misses and I just need to control my misses this week.”
Scotland’s fashion patrol will certainly be out in force for Thursday’s opening round as Horschel accompanies fellow American Keegan Bradley and Britain’s Ian Poulter in an eye-catching three-ball.