Competitors in this year’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush can wear shorts in practice rounds in the event for the first time - and the change could extend to competition days if the temperature soars on the County Antrim coast in July.
The relaxation of the dress code for the game’s oldest major was announced at a media briefing today at this year’s’ venue, where demand for tickets among fans has led the R&A to offer an additional 3,750 on each of the championship days after an initial allocation of 40,000 sold out in record time.
The decision to permit shorts on the practice days falls into line with both the European Tour and PGA Tour taking the same step and that change also being introduced last year for the US PGA Championship by the PGA of America, though long trousers are still required in the build up to both The Masters and US Open.
Shorts will be allowed in practice rounds for Open Championship final qualifying as well, with the R&A Championship Committee also now having the power to introduce the change in the actual battle for the Claret Jug in extreme weather conditions.
“They would have to make a judgement,” said Mike Woodcock, the R&A’s communications director. “There isn’t a set threshold, but the committee would have to make a decision if it was that hot.
“You can turn back to say Hoylake in 2006 [when it was extremely hot] as an example. This is a new decision.”
The change was welcomed by defending Open champion Francesco Molinari. “I don’t see why not,” said the Italian in a teleconference immediately after the annoucement. “People play golf in shorts all around the world. I don’t see why we should be different. I’m aware it might take time and I don’t think it will be a priority in Portrush.”
That was reference to the weather having been particularly bad for his previous visit to the venue for the Irish Open in 2012, when he played with Darren Clarke, the Open champion at the time, in the opening two rounds.
“I remember it being a very challenging course in the wind and rain over the four days,” said the Italian. “It is not as flat as Carnoustie [where he triumphed last summer]. It has a more elevation. “The weather is going to play a huge part.”
The event’s first visit to Portrush since Max Faulkner won there in 1951 has genenrated huge interest among golf fans and now a few more are being offered the opportunity to take in the action on the four championship days.
“From the moment tickets and hospitality packages went on sale last year it was clear that there was huge demand from fans to attend this historic occasion,” said R&A secretary Martin Slumbers.
“We have been working closely with the government agencies, our advisers and contractors to assess whether we could accommodate some more fans on each day of the championship and have decided that we can do so without impacting on the outstanding spectator experience we provide.
“We are delighted to be able to offer more fans the opportunity to book their place at Royal Portrush by releasing additional tickets and introducing two new hospitality experiences, which will enhance even further what will be a fantastic atmosphere in July.”
While still in force on the championship days, the R&A’s no re-admissions policy has been lifted on the practice days for an event that will see Rory McIlroy bidding to repeat his 2014 triumph at Hoylake on home soil.
“I never thought I would get an opportunity to play in a major championship at home, so I am very excited,” said the four-time major winner. “It’s a tournament I have earmarked for a long time and it would be a dream come true to win an Open here.
“I’m not going to lie. I’ve thought about it and how special it would be in my career. It is going to be incredible - I can’t wait for it to come around.”