2004: R&A won’t hand over Open scoring duties

Troon, Scotland

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has rejected using PGA European Tour and PGA Tour scorers for this year’s British Open at Royal Troon, despite strong lobbying from players hoping to avoid a repeat of the Mark Roe incident at Royal St. George’s in 2003.

Roe was disqualified last year following the third round after not exchanging scorecards with playing companion Jesper Parnevik. Roe shot a 4-under-par 67 and was two strokes off the lead through 54 holes, but was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Roe was one of a number of players who wanted to see experienced scorers from the PGA European Tour and PGA Tour at this year’s British Open. The R&A, however, will not go that route.

“It’s fair to say that we felt that the R&A should be capable of dealing with their own scoring,” said David Pepper, chairman of the championship committee.

R&A secretary Peter Dawson admitted the organization had discussions with the PGA European Tour about giving them greater involvement in scoring, but ultimately decided against it.

“In our discussions with the European Tour about scoring area difficulties and pressures, we came to the conclusion that what happened at the (British) Open could easily have happened on the Tour,” Dawson said. “It happened to Padraig Harrington at The Belfry (2000 B&H International Open). So it’s human error, but we’re satisfied that the improvements we are making will make such an occurrence less likely. There is no way of totally eliminating it but it will be less likely.”

The scoring officials at Royal St. George’s last year were volunteer members from the club. There still will be club volunteers from Royal Troon in the scorer’s hut this year, but they will play a minor role.

Players at this year’s British Open will deal directly with R&A officials, who will handle all scorecards at this year’s tournament.

“We’ve decided that it is probably unfair to subject members of the home club to what you might call the front line of the players letting off steam in the reporters hut,” Pepper said. “We’ve expanded our R&A reporters from two to five and have recruited a few of our more numerate younger members.

“We’ve reorganized the scoring hut so that there will be a front and a back room, and the players will deal only with two R&A officials in the front.”

Another new innovation is that players will be able to check their cards against an official computer before they sign and leave the scoring tent.

The rule that disqualified Roe, 6-6d (wrong score for hole), has not been changed, although Pepper and Dawson acknowledged the R&A and U.S. Golf Association have discussed the rule. It cannot be changed, however, until 2008, because the rules are only amended every four years.

The R&A also appeared to take a softer stance on allowing women to play in the Open. Tournament rules stipulate that only men can play in the championship. Dawson conceded, however, that the R&A would have to take a serious look at its criteria should, say, Michelle Wie gain one of the qualifying spots from either the Western Open or John Deere Classic.

“If she (Michelle Wie) were to qualify then the championship committee would have to look at it,” Dawson said.

This year’s championship will have a total prize fund of £4 million (approximately $7.2 million), an increase of £100,000 ($179,000) from last year. This year’s winner will take home £720,000 ($1.29 million), an increase of £20,000 ($36,000) from 2003.

The Troon layout has been extended by 96 yards since the tournament was last held here in 1997, when Justin Leonard won. The biggest change comes at the 11th, which has been extended from 463 to 490 yards. However, it remains a par 4, and should rank as the toughest hole on the course since it normally plays into the prevailing wind. Par remains at 71.

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