Last week, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club announced that the 2023 Open Championship will be held at Royal Troon. In other words, not at the Donald Trump-owned Turnberry. To be clear, in 2023 it is indeed the turn of the west coast of Scotland, which last held the Open in 2016. At Troon. Turnberry last had it in 2009. Trump acquired the property in 2014 and pretty much everybody agrees the golf course is now superior to what it was then, but the infrastructure is apparently not strong enough.
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, made it plain that they are eager to have over 200,000 spectators at every Open, and Turnberry presents problems in this regard. “We need to have much more detailed conversations about the Turnberry infrastructure,” he said. “It’s difficult to get there; it’s a single-carriage road.” In 2009, the attendance was below 130,000, and while Trump probably claims he gets that number at his indoor rallies, the R&A would want to see more people than that tramping round the Ayrshire countryside. The R&A predicts there will be over 200,000 at Royal St George’s in July, it is likely a new championship record will be set when St Andrews hosts the 150th anniversary Open next year, and in 2022 the Open goes back to Royal Liverpool where 210,000 spectators turned up in 2014.
But let’s not kid ourselves here…the Open was never going to go to Trump Turnberry (to give the resort its official name), at least while its owner is president of the United States. The R&A runs the Women’s British Open, which was held at Turnberry in 2015, and its officials would have noticed how the first round was overshadowed by the helicopter arrival of the new boss and his subsequent shenanigans. The notion that Trump may have been able to resist the possibility of accompanying, say, Tiger on to the first tee on Sunday would be leaving too much to chance.
Trump had a five-second cameo in the film Home Alone 2, a less than starring role he got because the movie-makers were shooting in his hotel and he apparently gate-crashed the set to insist that he be included. So it’s fair to say that he has some form here. Slumbers said: “We have this desire for the Open to be one of the world’s great sporting events. I have said a number of times that a big-time sport needs a big-time crowd.” But not a big-time proprietor.
So that would seem to be that for the foreseeable future for Trump’s unhidden desire to stage the Open on his course. Or is it? What are the odds that if the government’s post-Brexit trade talks with the US begin to founder – that’s if they ever get off the ground – then, in return for Parliament keeping the NHS under its control and chlorinated chicken out of the UK, Trump uses an executive order to outlaw the USGA, thus giving the R&A control of the game throughout the entire world and the R&A reciprocates by belatedly handing the 2023 Open to Turnberry. (We’ll leave the matter of the R&A’s future, and that of the Open Championship itself, should Scotland eventually gain independence until another time.)
You can follow Robert Green on Twitter @robrtgreen and enjoy his other blog f-factors.com plus you can read more by him on golf at robertgreengolf.com