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R&A dismisses Donald Trump claim it wants the Open back at Turnberry

This article is more than 2 months old
  • Turnberry owner Trump: ‘The Open wants to come back’
  • Bryson DeChambeau suing PGA Tour on ‘principle’
Donald Trump at Turnberry in 2018
Donald Trump at Turnberry in 2018. He bought the course in 2014 but the R&A decides who hosts the Open. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump at Turnberry in 2018. He bought the course in 2014 but the R&A decides who hosts the Open. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

The organisers of the Open Championship have moved to immediately dismiss Donald Trump’s claim that they want to bring the tournament back to Turnberry.

Trump purchased the Ayrshire course in 2014, five years after it last staged golf’s oldest major. The R&A was keen to avoid the inevitable circus that would attach itself to the Open at a Trump-owned course. After the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021, the R&A’s chief executive, Martin Slumbers, made clear his organisation “had no plans to stage any of our championships at Turnberry and will not do so in the foreseeable future”.

Trump cast doubt on that position in Miami on Thursday. Speaking after his appearance in the pro-am at LIV’s end-of-season event, the former US president insisted: “The Open wants to come back.”

This was news to the R&A. Insiders at golf’s governing body have made plain that their Turnberry stance has not changed at all since Slumbers spoke. It seems inevitable the venue will remain in Open cold storage until the point where Trump relinquishes ownership. Even then, capacity and access issues associated with the course are problematic. The R&A is keen to maximise attendance – and revenue – from its marquee championship. Turnberry typically delivers crowds at the lower end of the Open scale.

It now remains to be seen whether LIV seizes upon opportunity and tries to take one of its events to Turnberry. A schedule for 2023 is likely to include just one UK stop – at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire – but Trump’s alliance with the breakaway tour and Turnberry’s famed status as a course renders a future partnership highly feasible.

Meanwhile Bryson DeChambeau has revealed he remains part of a lawsuit against the PGA Tour on a point of principle. DeChambeau, who now plays on the LIV series, claims the PGA Tour has withheld payment – thought to total $1.75m – from its player impact programme [PIP] in 2021. The fund was introduced to reward players who generated interest in the PGA Tour, largely from off-course activities such as social media.

Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009
Tom Watson had a putt to win the 2009 Open at the age of 59 at Turnberry – the last time it was played there - but then lost in a playoff Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Most players – including Phil Mickelson – have removed their names from the legal challenge. It claims the PGA Tour was using its position to create a monopoly and therefore working against LIV Golf. The PGA Tour is counter-suing LIV.

DeChambeau is one of three players who remain as plaintiffs from an original 11. Asked why, the 2020 US Open champion said: “It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. It’s the way you deal with situations. It’s really been frustrating over the last six years that I’ve had to deal with them. It’s consistently frustration after frustration of them not handling things correctly.”

DeChambeau said he had to fulfil two obligations to receive his full payment of $3.5m from finishing fifth on the PIP programme. The first was to play in a Tour event for the first time in five seasons – he duly competed at the Texas Open in April - with the second relating to an appearance at a charity event. He was due to visit a junior golf clinic in Dallas next month but has been blocked from doing so.

“They said: ‘Because you’re not in good standing, we’re not allowing you to do something to help out junior golf and junior golfers,’” DeChambeau added. “To me, that’s childish. It just shows where they stand emotionally. I respect and understand it, but when you’ve completed something and provided entertainment for them last year, that’s the reason I’m in the lawsuit.”

The PGA Tour has not provided comment but it is understood it believes DeChambeau did not satisfy his PIP requirements before joining LIV.

On day one of the LIV Team Championship, the Open champion Cameron Smith took until the final green to see off Mickelson. The Hy Flyers team captained by Mickelson was therefore eliminated. The Majesticks team – including Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter – has also progressed to the semi-finals.

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