Record crowd of nearly 300K expected for Open at St. Andrews

The 150th edition of golf’s oldest championship really is cause for celebration.

The R&A reports Tuesday it anticipates a record 290,000 spectators at St. Andrews for the British Open this summer. That would smash the previous record of 239,000 fans who watched Tiger Woods complete the career Grand Slam at the Old Course in 2000.

The Open typically draws the most fans at St. Andrews, followed by clubs in the northwest of England (Royal Birkdale,...

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The 150th edition of golf’s oldest championship really is cause for celebration.

The R&A reports Tuesday it anticipates a record 290,000 spectators at St. Andrews for the British Open this summer. That would smash the previous record of 239,000 fans who watched Tiger Woods complete the career Grand Slam at the Old Course in 2000.

The Open typically draws the most fans at St. Andrews, followed by clubs in the northwest of England (Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St. Annes).

The R&A allowed 32,000 fans for Royal St. George’s last year in the gradual return from the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a 150-year anniversary at the home of golf, organizers received more than 1.3 million applications in the ticket ballot and the highest-ever number of general admission tickets being issued.

“The 150th Open at St. Andrews is going to be a momentous occasion for golf and this is clearly reflected in the extraordinary demand among fans to be part of this historic playing of the championship,” R&A chief Martin Slumbers said. “We very much appreciate their passion and enthusiasm for The Open and are delighted that we will set a new attendance record that far exceeds the previous best set in 2000.”

The R&A said a record 20% of general admission tickets (58,000) has been allocated to fans under age 25, with 20,000 tickets set aside for children under age 16 who will attend for free.

Woods, meanwhile, plans to play the Open for the sixth time at St. Andrews. He won in 2000 and 2005.

Greg Norman will not be playing. In peculiar comments to Australia-based News Corp. last week, Norman said he was “filling out my entry form right now.”

One problem. British Open champions are no longer exempt after they turn 60, and Norman’s last year was in 2015 at St. Andrews. He chose not to play. In fact, he hasn’t played since Turnberry in 2009.

That would leave 36-hole qualifying or a special invitation, neither of which is likely.

“The entry terms and conditions for The Open stipulate that a champion must be aged 60 or under or have won the championship in the previous ten years to be exempt from qualifying. That remains the case for The 150th Open and we have no plans for any additional exemptions,” the R&A said in a statement.

NUMBERS GAME

For the longest time, Jay Haas was credited with playing 799 times on the PGA Tour, one tournament away from reaching 800 career starts.

By the time he teed it up in New Orleans last week with his son, Bill, he was at 798.

The cause was a simple clerical error. Turns out the tour’s data system inadvertently had given him credit for a start when he played in the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994. The mistake wasn’t discovered until a major project in 2019 to clean up loose ends.

New Orleans is the new No. 799, and it sounds as though it will stay there even as the Haas duo made the cut and tied for 36th.

“I’m not going to get to 800, I can guarantee you that,” Haas said at the start of the week.

The record is 803 career starts by Mark Brooks, who played his last event in the 2018 PGA Championship. Davis Love III is 21 starts behind, and a lifetime member, though at 58 that seems like a long way off.

Among players still keeping a full schedule, 42-year-old Charles Howell III is making his 600th career start this week in the Mexico Open.

Haas extended his PGA Tour of cuts made to 592.

CURRY POWER

When he isn’t busy trying to get the Golden State Warriors back to the NBA Finals, Steph Curry is doing his part to create golf opportunities for minorities.

His latest venture is expanding his “Underrated” brand into golf by launching a series of five tournaments in conjunction with the American Junior Golf Association. Boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 will compete for the “Curry Cup” at the Underrated Tour Championship at TPC Harding Park.

“Less than 2% of golfers are people of color,” Curry said in a video message. “This provides a platform for equity, access and opportunity for those who can’t get their big break, but also who want to play head-to-head with some of the best players on the AJGA.”

Curry said the tour will be free of charge, inclusive of travel, lodging and meals.

Three years ago, Curry made a seven-figure donation to Howard University to have a golf team for the first time in 40 years.

“Everybody knows I love the game of golf,” he says in the video. “I couldn’t be more excited to extend that love to the best young players across the country.”

PGA FIELD

The PGA Championship released an initial field list of 123 players for Southern Hills on May 19-22. It included Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, without either confirming they will be playing, along with Bryson DeChambeau, who in a best-case scenario will be close to recovering from surgery on his left hand.

That leaves 33 players to fill the field, with at least half of those coming from the top 70 on the PGA points list in two weeks after the Wells Fargo Championship. The list is compiled using official PGA Tour earnings dating from last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

Aaron Wise is at No. 71 in points going into the Mexico Open; he also is No. 93 in the world, and the PGA Championship typically invites everyone from the top 100. Missing from the early field list is Pablo Larrazabal of Spain, who has gone from No. 207 to No. 68 with two wins in his last four starts on the European tour. His invitation is forthcoming.

The PGA points list after 70th place typically is used to fill the field.

CURTIS CUP

Annabell Fuller leads a GB&I team loaded with experience as it tries to regain the Curtis Cup at Merion in June.

Fuller was 15 when she made her debut at Quaker Ridge in a U.S. victory. Six of the eight players selected for this year’s team are competing in the amateur matches for the second time. The Americans, who have won the last two Curtis Cup matches, already have their team set.

The matches are June 10-12. Joining Fuller are Hannah Darling, Louise Duncan, Charlotte Heath, Caley McGinty and Lauren Walsh. The newcomers are Emily Price and Amelia Williamson.

“I believe this gives us a strong base to build upon,” GB&I captain Elaine Ratcliffe said.

DIVOTS

The Irish Open is returning to The K Club every other year starting in 2023 through 2027. The course most famously hosted the Ryder Cup in 2006. Rory McIlroy won the Irish Open when it was last held at The K Club in 2016. … With his team victory in New Orleans, Xander Schauffele became the 67th player in PGA Tour history to surpass $25 million in career earnings. This is his seventh year on tour. … Atlanta Athletic Club will host the 2030 U.S. Amateur, the 2035 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 2025 U.S. Girls’ Junior. … California-based Fortinet, the title sponsor of the PGA Tour season opener in Napa, will sponsor the points race on the PGA Tour Canada this year. The winner of the Fortinet Cup gets a $25,000 bonus and a spot in the RBC Canadian Open. The top five players in the Fortinet Cup earn full Korn Ferry Tour membership the following year. Fortinet also will sponsor the season-ending tournament.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Scottie Scheffler already has more FedEx Cup points at the end of April than four players at the end of the regular season during the wraparound era — Collin Morikawa (2021), Dustin Johnson (2018), Jason Day (2016) and Rory McIlroy (2014).

FINAL WORD

“I always give the same and there’s no trick. You have to go out there and try to win. Don’t come trying to make the cut. If you’re playing, play to win.” — Jon Rahm, on advice he would give to young players making their PGA Tour debut.

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