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President Donald Trump’s Turnberry faces Open wait as Royal Troon named 2023 host

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won the last Open tournament to be held at Royal Troon in 2016

President Donald Trump faces a long wait before his Turnberry golf course stages the Open.

The Ayrshire course, which last staged the championship in 2009, has been overlooked for the 2023 tournament which will be hosted by Royal Troon, just seven years after it was last played there.

And it seems unlikely that Turnberry will return to the Open rota in the foreseeable future, despite £200m worth of improvements since the US president bought the resort in 2014.

The R&A governing body wants larger crowds at the championship and Turnberry’s remote setting means it attracts the smallest attendance of any of the Open venues.

“Big-time crowds are needed to make big-time sport,” R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers told BBC Sport. “We are striving to grow the number of spectators who are coming.”

Troon, where Henrik Stenson won a thrilling duel with Phil Mickelson in 2016, has been selected to stage the 2023 event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Open first being played there.

But the venue also provides closer proximity to Glasgow and a road network that enables larger crowds to attend. More than 170,000 people watched Stenson’s triumph four years ago.

“We spend as much time now talking about the infrastructure getting the crowds into the tournament as we do about the golf course. That balance has very much changed in the last five years.

“You know, you can have a great golf course but if you can’t get the crowds and the media in there and the sponsors in there then it doesn’t work for how we see the championship today,” Slumbers added.

“It’s the primary problem for Turnberry trying to get the infrastructure sorted. We are working with the government and tourist board to see what can be done but that’s a long-term point.

“You get to the golf course at Turnberry and it is magnificent.”

The problem is getting there. The main A77 road to the resort is single carriageway and hampers traffic plans required to bring large numbers of spectators to the event.

In 2009, the last time it was played at Turnberry, Tom Watson nearly became the oldest winner at the age of 59. The crowds for the week were an estimated 130,000 people.

This July’s all-ticket attendance at Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent is expected to be more than 200,000.

‘It should be Edinburgh’s Open’

Muirfield, which changed its membership policy to include women before it could come back into consideration, was also overlooked for the 2023 championship.

Like Turnberry, the qualities of the East Lothian course are not in question, but its ability to attract big enough numbers counted against it.

“It should be Edinburgh’s Open,” Slumbers said. “A big city, it should embrace the Open in Scotland at Muirfield. If we can do that we can drive up the crowds and I’d love to be staging an Open around Muirfield again.”

For that to happen, though, there has to be the kind of collaboration with local government that enabled Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland to return to the Open rota last year.

Referring to Muirfield, Slumbers added: “We need to do more work to get it right there.

“Northern Ireland really invested into getting it right and I’d like us to work closer with the [Scottish] tourist board and the government to actually bring that same quality of support.”

It would seem a more likely scenario that Muirfield will hold the Women’s Open, now wholly run by the R&A, before the world’s top men return to the course.

“I think that would be an interesting idea,” Slumbers said.

Article courtesy of BBC Sport
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