The 146th Open Championship could be the first in the event’s history to offer prize money in US dollars due to a weak pound in the wake of the Brexit vote.
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said he is considering the change in an effort to try and keep the Claret Jug joust on par with the other three majors in monetary terms.
Calculated at the current exchange rate, last year’s £6.5 million prize pot for the Open Championship is worth just over $8 million.That’s $4 million less than the USGA has raised the prize fund to for this year’s US Open following a recent $2 million injection.
“It’s something that hasn’t escaped my attention,” admitted Slumbers. “It’s a significant issue as we’ve gone from (an exchange rate of) $1.50 to $1.25. I’m very conscious that The Open is the only one of the four majors outside of the United States and what I’m trying to make sure is that The Open iss viewed as one of the world’s great sporting events.
“Prize-money is one of the factors in that. For these guys (the players), this is their living. We’re very aware of where all the prize money is for the majors and for the other events. “We’ve always announced our prize money in pounds, which makes the issue a little bit more complex. But it’s something that we will address and deal with before June, when we announce what the 2017 prize-money will be. An option clearly is to move to US dollars.”
That could also be the case with the Ricoh Women’s British Open, which through a merger with the LGU, will be part of the R&A’s portfolio of events for the first time this year when it takes place at Kingsbarns.
While keen to see that tournament grow, Slumbers said he believes it will be difficult to reach a position in golf where men and women are playing for the same prize funds in majors, as is now the case in tennis at Wimbledon.
“Professional golf is a business,” he said. “It is a function of the revenues that can be earned from sponsors and the costs of staging and prize money that goes into the equation. You have to be aware of that balance around those two things. I think directionally it’s very important that the women’s purses move up closer to the men’s purses, but it will take time. It would be a very expensive statement at the moment.”
While excited about it being staged for the first time at Kingsbarns, Slumbers isn’t ruling out the possibility one day of the Women’s British Open being held straight after an Open Chanpionship at the same venue. “There’s huge appeal to doing that and I thought it was fantastic at Pinehurst,” he said of the US Open and US Women’s Open being held there on successive weeks in 2014. “I think it would be terrific if we were able to make it work in the future, but it’s not without potentially insurmountable challenges in terms of not just the set up of the golf course but the staging and the stands Pinehurst was able to do it because it’s got so many other courses (eight) in the set up.”