Forget about 2020. That’s not going to happen now. It will be closer to 2030 before the Open Championship could be heading back to Turnberry and that, quite frankly, is a crying shame.
The blame, of course, lies with one man – Donald Trump – because the fact of the matter is that he is making it impossible for the R&A, or any other golfing organisation, to be aligning themselves with venues carrying his name.
At the time, I tended to agree with Peter Dawson when, in the final few weeks of his tenure as chief executive of the game’s governing body, he said it was “absurd” to even contemplate that something said on the political trail in America would determine a future venue for golf’s oldest major.
What’s changed my opinion – strongly so – about that is the American billionaire keeps tossing fuel on the fire and, from a Scottish perspective, it’s his golf properties that are going to suffer.
Right now, the Ailsa Course at Turnberry is in the middle of a massive renovation project, which includes some dramatic changes to one of the game’s most iconic venues. There’s little doubt they were aimed at the venue being awarded the Open Championship in 2020 – the first slot up for grabs and likely to be available due to St Andrews having been earmarked for the 150th staging the following year – but that’s almost certainly not on the cards now.
All that hard work and the buzz that comes with seeing something exciting take shape is being dampened by the harsh reality that every controversial remark made by Trump on his presidential campaign trail in the US is hitting the Ayrshire venue in the guts. According to a report at the weekend, the R&A has already “privately decided that his reputation is now so toxic that the newly-renamed Trump Turnberry can no longer host the game’s most prestigious tournament”.
There has been nothing official to confirm that this is the case and it will probably only be when it comes to announcing the 2020 venue – Royal St George’s would now appear to be the favourite – that some formal explanation can be expected.
However, the tone of a generic statement from new chief executive, Martin Slumbers, can surely leave no-one in any doubt that, having been tainted by years and years of perceived discrimination, the R&A is determined to be seen as “inclusive” going forward.
“It is my belief and that of the R&A that golf should be open to all regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion,” he said, a message, incidentally, that can’t be allowed to fall on deaf ears at either Royal Troon or Muirfield as membership reviews continue at those Open Championship venues.
Turnberry doesn’t deserve to be cast into the wilderness, but that, I’m afraid, is what is going to happen because Trump is leaving people with no other option than to adopt the old bargepole approach and that, of course, also includes the European Tour.
Before he started dishing out insults left, right and centre, I reckon negotiations were at a pretty advanced stage to take the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open to his course near Aberdeen, possibly even as early as 2017. By all accounts, it could have been staged there in 2019 and 2020 as well, but surely there is now no chance whatsoever that an event which has the Scottish Government as one its main partners will be visiting Menie Estate.
Again, that is a real pity. In this instance, Martin Hawtree has created a gem of a course, one that is befitting an event of the Scottish Open’s stature, but Trump has blown that particular prospect, too.
Like the Open Championship, the Scottish Open isn’t short of viable options. The players would be perfectly happy to go back to either Royal Aberdeen or Gullane after the event’s return to Castle Stuart, and both Dundonald Links and Kingsbarns could provide equally useful pre-Open tests by joining the Scottish Open rota.
The only person, in fact, who would benefit from the event visiting Trump’s course would be him due to the opportunity it would provide as a showcase, and that, quite bluntly, isn’t a duty that Scotland really needs to be either contemplating or providing right now.
Turnberry, of course, needs no showcasing whatsoever but, as long as it remains in Trump’s hands and, more to the point, the fact he’d be unable to give the event the respect it deserves, we probably can’t expect an Open Championship to be back there for at least a decade.