An end to the Open Championship being staged at clubs with a male-only membership policy is expected to move a step closer when Royal Troon votes on allowing women members today.
A comprehensive review of membership policy was announced in January 2015 and was initially not due to be resolved until the “back end’’ of 2016, several months after the Ayrshire venue stages the Open from 14-17 July.
However, the R&A’s decision that Muirfield would no longer be considered to host the Open after a vote to allow women members failed to achieve the two-thirds majority required in May prompted an acceleration in Troon’s process.
Only a simple majority is required at this evening’s special general meeting and the club reported in June that “opening the club to women members is supported by over three quarters of the members in the club’s survey’’.
Former Open champion Darren Clarke said: “It’s up to the members to decide but, hopefully, the vote will enable us to keep playing all these great courses.”
The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (HCEG), which owns and runs Muirfield, announced on Monday that it had called a special general meeting to seek authority from members to hold a new ballot by the end of the year.
“A substantial majority of our members voted for change and many have voiced their disappointment with the ballot result and with subsequent events,’’ HCEG captain Henry Fairweather said. “The club committee believes that a clear and decisive vote in favour of admitting women as members is required to enable us to begin the task of restoring the reputation of the club that has been damaged by the earlier ballot outcome.’’
Troon is currently the only club on the Open rota (reduced to nine after Muirfield’s removal) to have a male-only membership policy, with Royal St George’s voting last year to admit women members.
The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews also voted to end its 260-year-old male-only membership policy in September 2014.
Troon has always considered itself a special case in this respect as it shares facilities with the Ladies Golf Club, Troon. Both clubs shoulder the responsibility of hosting the Open via a joint championship committee.
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy revealed how much work he has to do before bidding to regain his Open title after an erratic opening round in the 100th French Open in Paris.
McIlroy was two under par after six holes at Le Golf National but eventually had to settle for a level-par 71 featuring four birdies, four bogeys and two trips to the water at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue.
That left the 27-year-old five shots off the lead held by Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, whose 66 gave him a one-shot lead over defending champion Bernd Wiesberger, Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui.
McIlroy has been putting in the hours on the range with coach Michael Bannon ever since an opening 77 in the US Open led to a first missed cut in a major championship since the 2013 Open.
Asked what areas he was working on, the four-time major winner joked: “Have you got 10 minutes?
“I was joking with my friends at the weekend; I’ve got 17 swing thoughts down to about five, so I’m doing OK. Try to get that to two next week.
“I’ve got another hopefully three competitive rounds here. I’ve got all next week and then obviously a few days leading up to the Thursday of the Open. So hopefully by then, it will be all bedded in.”
Despite his problems, McIlroy still fared better than Masters champion Danny Willett, who double-bogeyed the 18th after finding water with his approach to card a 75 and face the prospect of a second consecutive missed cut.
Playing partner Lee Westwood, who finished second to Willett at Augusta, was only a shot better off, while two-time winner Graeme McDowell slumped to a nine-over-par 80.
Bjerregaard’s 66 contained a hole-in-one on the 202-yard second hole and five birdies.