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R&A is ‘cautiously optimistic’ it can welcome fans to The Open

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Shane Lowry will defend the Claret Jug in July. Photo: Jan Kruger/R&A

Shane Lowry will defend the Claret Jug in July. Photo: Jan Kruger/R&A

Shane Lowry will defend the Claret Jug in July. Photo: Jan Kruger/R&A

The R&A has expressed “cautious optimism” about welcoming spectators to The Open this summer.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry will defend the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s in Sandwich from July 15-18 and while Irish fans remain in the dark about overseas travel, chief executive Martin Slumbers hopes they can welcome galleries to the Kent venue.

“We continue to plan for a full-scale championship,” Slumbers said in a statement, “but also have robust plans in place for a reduced-capacity or behind-closed-doors model.

“There are undoubtedly many more pressing concerns facing people at the moment, but we are trying to look forward with cautious optimism.

“We believe that seeing the world’s best men’s golfers in action at golf’s original championship will bring some much-needed joy and excitement back into our lives this summer.

“With that in mind, we have been working closely with the government, our medical advisers and partner agencies as part of a rigorous scenario-planning exercise for staging The Open this year.”

However, while the PGA of America announced on Monday that it would allow distance measuring devices at its Major championship this year, they won’t be seen in Kent in July.

The R&A has “no plans at this stage but will keep it under review”, while the USGA said, “considering them for our Opens has been and will continue to be part of our annual review process”.

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Monday’s announcement by the PGA of America that it will implement the new rule allowing rangefinders at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, the Senior PGA Championship at Southern Hills and the KPMG Women’s PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club has met with some scepticism.

PGA of America president Jim Richerson hopes the move will “help improve the flow of play during our championships”, but not everyone agrees.

Canadian Nick Taylor, who defends his title in this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Seamus Power is the only Irish entrant following Pádraig Harrington’s withdrawal with Covid-19, has his doubts.

“The argument that I constantly hear with it is pace of play,” Taylor said. “I think there would be an adjustment period where I don’t think pace of play would speed up at all because we’re still trying to find front numbers. I think caddies would still be double-checking.

“In the case when you’re way off line, of course rangefinders are going to speed up play. I’m sure if you talked to caddies, they would be against it because I think they take pride in what they do and it is a skill to get the angles, the numbers, and be confident that you get those numbers, where the rangefinder probably takes away a part of that.”

  • AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Live, 4.30, Sky Sports

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