GULLANE, SCOTLAND — The head of the R&A, which stages the British Open and is responsible — jointly, with the U.S. Golf Association — for overseeing golf and its rules worldwide, said Wednesday that the issue of whether the organization should set its marquee event at a club that excludes women “has been pretty much beaten to death recently,” adding that the R&A believes clubs have the right to select their own members and policies.
“It’s just a way of life that some of these people like,” said Peter Dawson, the R&A’s CEO. “And realistically, that’s all it is. You can dress it up to be a lot more, if you want. But on the Saturday morning when the guy gets up or the lady gets up and out of the marital bed, if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his chums and comes back in the afternoon, that’s not on any kind of par with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism.”
The issue is a sensitive one as the 142nd British Open begins Thursday at Muirfield, which has no female members. Dawson spent much of a lengthy news conference Wednesday defending his organization’s stance, suggesting the media has “boundless energy” to discuss same-sex clubs, adding there are “interest groups attacking the R&A, attacking the Open, and attacking Muirfield.”
“To be honest, our natural reaction is to resist these pressures, because we actually don’t think they have very much substance,” Dawson said. “But I’d like to stress we’re not so insular as to fail to recognize the potential damage that campaigns like this can do to the Open Championship.”
Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, is not attending the Open because of Muirfield’s membership. Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters, last fall admitted its first two female members following years of criticism about its all-male membership.
Adam Scott understood his collapse at last year’s British Open — when he bogeyed the last four holes to lose to Ernie Els at Royal Lytham — would come up this week, even though he seemingly overcame that experience by winning the Masters in April. And he has embraced it.
“This really has been the tournament I’ve been looking forward to most of this year, there’s no doubt, for obvious reasons,” Scott said. “After what happened at Lytham, I was eager to get back and try and get into another position to hopefully win the claret jug.”
Scott arrived here the Tuesday before tournament week, further emphasizing his overhauled approach to major championships: practice more, play less. “What I have been doing for the first 10 years of my career didn’t work,” Scott said.
From 2000 to 2010, Scott played in 39 majors, with 14 missed cuts and four top-10 finishes. In his last 10 majors, he has five top-10 finishes — including two seconds and his win at Augusta. . . .
Lee Westwood, whose has done virtually everything in the sport but win a major, has begun working with Sean Foley, the swing coach for Tiger Woods, U.S. Open winner Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan. . . . Three-time Open winner Nick Faldo of England, a full-time commentator for CBS Sports, is playing his first Open since 2010. “Nick is hitting the ball quite nicely, to be honest with you,” said Rose, who played nine holes with Faldo Wednesday morning.