R&A vow to have ‘clean 18th fairway’ for finish of The Open
R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers delivered the message as he responded to spectators swarming around Phil Mickelson on his victory march up the 72nd hole as he became the game’s oldest major winner in the US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island last weekend.
“I’ve never had something like that,” said Mickelson as he was presented with the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time. “It was a little bit unnerving but it was exceptionally awesome, too.”
Brooks Koepka was also swallowed up by the crowd in the final group, saying “no one really gave a s***” about him nursing a knee injury, leading to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh to issue an apology to both players.
“It was quite amazing, wasn’t it,” admitted Slumbers of the scenes at Kiawah Island at the end of the season’s second major. Referring to the Tour Championship, he added: “It was a bit like watching Tiger [Woods] when he won at East Lake three years ago.
“For The Open, we will absolutely be holding back behind the barriers that we have and let the players have the freedom to move and play the final hole. The 18th fairway will be clean come July.
“The whole thing is a balance to making sure the camera pictures are right and getting the excitement, but making sure the players are safe.
“I'm old enough to remember when [Nick] Faldo came up the 18th here in St Andrews (when winning the 1990 Open) and the police had to literally drag him from the middle of the crowd.
“I'm not sure we want to do that. It was okay given the situation he was in, but if it's still to be decided on the 18th green, that's probably not the right balance to have.”
Players were allowed to use range finders for the first time in a major in the US PGA, but that won’t be happening in The Open.
“No,” said Slumbers of that possibility, even though they are allowed in regional qualifiers. “Not at the Open or AIG Women’s Open.”
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