Planet Golf — 18 May 2016 by GW staff and news services
Golf Bag: Muirfield loses British Open

EDINBURGH — Muirfield has been removed from the host venue rotation for The Open after members of the Scottish golf club voted against allowing women to join.

The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, which owns Muirfield, will remain a men-only club after failing to reach the two-thirds majority required to change the club’s membership policy.

The Royal & Ancient, which runs golf’s oldest major championship, reacted immediately to the decision to announce Muirfield will no longer be considered to host the tournament.

The statement read: “We have consistently said that it is a matter for the Honorable Company to conduct a review of its membership policy and that we would await their decision.

“The R&A has considered today’s decision with respect to The Open Championship. The Open is one of the world’s great sporting events and going forward we will not stage the Championship at a venue that does not admit women as members. “Given the schedule for staging The Open, it would be some years before Muirfield would have been considered to host the Championship again. If the policy at the club should change we would reconsider Muirfield as a venue for The Open in future.” Muirfield is one of 10 courses on The Open rotation. Royal Troon, which will host this year’s edition, is the only other club on the rotation to still exclude women.

Muirfield has hosted The Open 16 times. On the last occasion — in 2013, when Phil Mickelson lifted the Claret Jug — the R&A was heavily criticized for allowing Muirfield to stage the event given its opposition to having female members.

A consultation exercise with members was opened as a result.

Media reports in the UK claimed that a group of members at Muirfield — leading a “No” campaign against women joining the club — had canvassed fellow members, writing in a letter: “It is accepted that we may have to change, but we should not do so now on the basis suggested.

“A traditional resistance to change is one of the foundations of our unique position in golf and our reputation.”

Troon has separate men’s and women’s clubs and is consulting members over whether to alter that arrangement.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews, the spiritual home of golf, opened its membership to women in 2014 for the first time in 260 years. Royal St George’s in Kent, England, another Open host, ended its male-only membership last year.

Augusta National, home of the Masters, decided in 2012 to invite women to join.

Back injury shelves Rose

 

Former US Open champion Justin Rose has withdrawn from next week’s BMW PGA Championship due to a back injury.

Rose, who lost a play-off to Anders Hansen at Wentworth in 2007 and was joint second in 2012, is coming off a top-20 finish at the Players Championship at Sawgrass and a final round of 66.

But he wrote on Twitter: “It is with deep disappointment that I must announce that I will not be able to play the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

“I battled the onset of back pain all week at the Players Championship and symptoms worsened during my week at home. I have a great team of people around me who are working diligently to help me get as fit as possible as soon as possible and I must fully focus on rehab at this time.

“I am incredibly sad to have to miss what I regard as my home event, particularly as it’s a premier event on the European Tour schedule.

“Pending how I feel over the next several days, I am hopeful to make it out to Wentworth one day over the weekend to pay tribute to the tournament, volunteers and spectators. I wish BMW, the European Tour and all the players a successful event, and I thank them and my fans for the continued support.”

Rose’s absence is a further blow to the European Tour’s “flagship” event after 2014 champion Rory McIlroy, whose foundation is hosting this week’s Irish Open, opted not to play.

Speaking ahead of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last November, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said he wanted to see the BMW PGA Championship offering more prize money than its current “unacceptable” €5.1million ($5.7m, £3.9m).

“A lot of people talk about Wentworth as being a flagship event,” Pelley said. “Wentworth is €5.1m. The other event in the US that week is €6.1m ($6.8m, £4.68m). That’s unacceptable. Wentworth needs to be eight to 10m dollars.

“Our flagship event right here is the DP World Tour Championship, which is $8m (£5.5m) plus a bonus prize.”

O’Connor Sr., dies at 91

VIRGINIA WATER, England — Christy O’Connor Sr., the Irish golfer who played on 10 Ryder Cup teams and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, died Saturday. He was 91.

The European Tour confirmed his death.

O’Connor won 24 times on the European Tour. He played 15 times in what is now the World Cup, winning for Ireland in 1968 with Harry Bradshaw, and won the PGA Seniors Championship in Europe six times.

O’Connor held the record for most Ryder Cup appearances — including the 1957 Britain-Ireland team that won for the first time after World War II — until Nick Faldo surpassed him in 1997.

“We have lost not only one of the greatest Ryder Cup players the game has seen, but an incredible man,” said Richard Hills, Ryder Cup director for Europe.

O’Connor played in an era when top British and Irish golfers did not have as much access to the American majors as they do now. The Open was the only major he played, and his best result came when he finished one shot out of a playoff in 1958 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Hills recalled when O’Connor was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2009 and European Tour chief George O’Grady called with the good news.

“He wouldn’t believe us,” Hills said. “He said he’d only believe it if he saw it in writing, so I was dispatched to Royal Dublin to present him with a letter. As he read it, his face broke into a huge grin and he gave me a massive bear hug.”

O’Connor beat Dow Finsterwald in singles in the 1957 Ryder Cup won by Britain-Ireland. In his final Ryder Cup in 1973, O’Connor asked to sit out in the afternoon. Instead, he played reigning Open champion Tom Weiskopf and battled him to a draw.

A big personality known as “Himself,” O’Connor won the European Tour money title in 1961 and 1962.

“When I eventually turned to golf to try and make a decent living, I knew I was a fair old player,” O’Connor once said. “But I never imagined that my life would be all about big tournaments, traveling the world and winning money. There were not enough hours in the day for me to practice my golf. But it was all worthwhile.”

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