No repeat of wild PGA scenes at The Open, vows R&A chief

Claret Jug

Brooks Koepka – and his dad – can rest easy.

The R&A has promised there will be no repeat of the 72nd hole chaos that marred the end of the US PGA Championship when The Open takes place in July.

Koepka and playing partner Phil Mickelson were engulfed by over-exuberant spectators on the final hole of the most recent men’s major on Sunday, as enthusiastic crowds swarmed the fairways for a closer look at Mickelson’s historic victory.

Koepka subsequently implied he had been deliberately kicked by fans, prompting the PGA of America to release a statement apologising for losing control of the scene.

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According to Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, there will be no such behaviour at Royal St George’s.

“We, for The Open, 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,” said Slumbers. “It's very important for us, especially as we might have to use it straight after if there's a playoff. So we're very conscious about keeping that space safe and clear.

“I would say at Portrush when we got to the presentation ceremony it was quite difficult to control those fans who were sort of trying to get on to the 18th green, so it's a balance between getting the enthusiasm and the safety and making sure the camera pictures are all right, but the 18th fairway will be clean come July.”

Like the majority of golf fans, Slumbers watched the incredible scenes unfold down the stretch at Kiawah Island, admitting it was “quite amazing”.

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“It was a bit like watching Tiger when he won at East Lake three years ago,” he said. “We're very careful on how we move the crowds around. We will continue to keep the crowds on the side of the 18th until it's all over and then allow them to move closer to the green.

“The whole thing is a balance to getting the excitement but making sure the players are safe.

“I'm old enough to remember when Faldo came up the 18th in St Andrews 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. But it was exciting to watch.”

In a wide ranging chat, Slumbers added that the organisers are planning to stage the championship at 75% capacity – roughly 30,000 fans per day – although he admits it could be as little as 25% amid lingering uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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It is expected, but unconfirmed, that those who do attend will be required to wear masks, whilst players, officials and championship staff will also need to form a bubble for the duration of the championship.

There will also be no change to the rules on the use of distance measuring devices. Players were allowed to use them in major competition for the first time at the US PGA but Slumbers confirmed that they will not be allowed at either The Open or AIG Women’s Open.

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