It’s all go for January after the R&A and USGA published their finalised Rules of Golf. So what’s coming in? Steve Carroll outlines the changes.
Familiar Royal Liverpool awaits players at Open Championship
Those attending the 143rd Open Championship at Royal Liverpool will find very little change, the R&A adding just 54 yards to the course which was tamed by Tiger Woods in 2006.
The biggest change comes at the par-4 seventh hole, which measures 480 yards – 27 yards longer than it played in 2006. And R&A chief executive Peter Dawson confirmed its difficulty by saying, “It will be a formidable par four.”
Royal Liverpool will measure 7,312 yards and play to a par of 72 as opposed to the 7,258 yards it was in 2006. The layout back then measured 6,955 yards in 1967 when Argentina’s Roberto de Vicenzo won his first and only major championship. It also marks the 11th time the game’s oldest tournament has been staged over the Hoylake links.
One other significant course change comes at the par-4 first hole. The green has been reshaped and re-bunkered. Should make for some interesting golf.
“It’s the hardest opening hole on the Open rota,” Dawson added.
No increase in prize fund
The R&A has not announced any increase in prize money. The government body traditionally announces the total purse closer to the championship when currency exchange rates can be brought into account.
Last year the pot was a staggering £5,250,000 compared to £5 million the previous year. There’s expectation that a similar prize increase will also come into effect this year, with the purse steadily rising since being worth £4 million in 2006.
The winner last year received a cheque for £945,000, up £45,000 from the previous championship. Woods picked up £720,000 for winning his 11th major eight years ago.
There is expected to be some 200,000 fans flocking to the seaside town of Hoylake this year in anticipation of what promises to be a grand event. And although the numbers are down slightly from the 230,000 who attended in 2006 when the Open Championship returned to Royal Liverpool after a 39-year absence, excitement is still at fever pitch.
“There was an excitement and novelty value in 2006, which led to huge crowds,” said Malcolm Booth, the R&A’s director of communications. “We don’t expect that this year.”
The R&A are concerned Tiger Woods’ fitness could be a factor in crowd levels, with the world No.1 missing the Masters after undergoing back surgery, and question marks still remain over his schedule for the remainder of the year, although it is hoped he will play at the Open Championship.
However, Hoylake is very close to Liverpool and, like Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham, it will still draw huge crowds when it begins in July.