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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 May 2018

Old Course at St Andrews picked to host 150th British Open in 2021

In other news, golf's governing bodies ready to address game's distance problem after conceding 'line in the sand' has been crossed

Zach Johnson posing with the Claret Jug after winning the British Open title at the Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland in 2015. Peter Morrison / AP Photo
Zach Johnson posing with the Claret Jug after winning the British Open title at the Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland in 2015. Peter Morrison / AP Photo

The 150th British Open will be played at St Andrews in 2021, tournament organisers have announced.

As expected, the Old Course will stage the game's oldest major championship for the 30th time from July 15-18.

"The open holds a very special place in the hearts of golf and sports fans around the world," said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. "The championship enjoys a historic and celebrated relationship with the Old Course in St Andrews and we are excited to be marking the occasion of the 150th championship at the home of golf in 2021.

"St Andrews has produced a revered group of outstanding champion golfers since the open was first played on the Old Course in 1873. Once again we look forward to seeing the greatest players take on the challenge of the world's most iconic links course in their pursuit of the Claret Jug."

The British Open was last played at St Andrews in 2015, when Zach Johnson defeated Marc Leishman and 2010 winner Louis Oosthuizen in a four-hole play-off staged on Monday after bad weather earlier in the week.

St Andrews had recently staged the British Open every five years, but Royal St George's will host the event in 2020 to allow the Old Course to stage the 150th edition.

Carnoustie will stage this year's tournament, with Royal Portrush next on the rota in 2019. An as-yet unnamed course in England will stage the 2022 Open, Slumbers confirmed.

Meanwhile, golf's governing bodies are finally ready to address the game's distance problem after conceding their "line in the sand" has been crossed.

Advances in fitness and golf equipment technology have seen players hit the ball further and further in recent years, leading to golf courses being lengthened in an effort to continue to test the world's best.

In a Joint Statement of Principles issued in 2002, the R&A and USGA stated that "any further significant increases in hitting distances at the highest level are undesirable", while a report published by the same organisations in 2016 controversially stated that driving distance on four of the major golf tours increased by approximately one per cent between 2003 and 2015.

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However, speaking ahead of the release of this year's report, Slumbers conceded there had been a noticeable increase in distance across all tours, with 68 players currently averaging more than 300 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour this season.

"There has been a significant move up across all tours and we're looking at the longest average driving distance on record," Slumbers said. "Both of those have caused us, as well as our colleagues at the USGA, serious concern.

"We had talked for a number of years about slow creep and this is a little bit more than slow creep. It's actually quite a big jump.

"Our 2002 Joint Statement of Principles put a line in the sand, or purported to put a line in the sand. I think our view is when you start to look at this data now, that we have probably crossed that line in the sand and that a serious discussion is now needed on where we go."

USGA executive director Mike Davis acknowledged this month that increased distance is not "good for the game", while Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman have all expressed support for limiting the distance the ball can travel.

Tiger Woods is among those to express support for limiting the distance the ball can travel. Orlando Ramirez / Reuters
Tiger Woods is among those to express support for limiting the distance the ball can travel. Orlando Ramirez / Reuters

That is sure to cause issues with equipment manufacturers, as would a possible "bifurcation" of the rules which would see professionals and amateurs using different equipment.

Asked if that was on the agenda, Slumbers added: "I think there are many, many options available.

"There's a lot of work still to be done with a lot of people, and engaging with not just the game but the equipment manufacturers and all sorts of things, but that work we now feel needs to be done.

"I'm hoping that we have a constructive conversation with all stakeholders for the good of the game.

"What do we want to do? We want the game to expand. We want more people to play. We want to see it as a skillful game.

"I love seeing the best of the players out there doing it. I think we will all work and talk around this whole distance issue."