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Top Euro Tour players condemn Muirfield vote and praise R&A response

Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington, pictured at the 2015 Masters
Thomas Bjorn and Padraig Harrington, pictured at the 2015 Masters (Getty Images)

STRAFFAN, Ireland – British Open winners and European Tour players reacted with astonishment Thursday at the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers’ decision to reject female members for Muirfield.

The Scottish club did not get the two-thirds majority needed to allow women to join for the first time in its 272-year history, the club announced. The R&A immediately announced Muirfield’s removal from the Open rota.

Two-time Open winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland summed up the mood among European Tour members: “What harm would it do having a few lady members?” Harrington asked after his opening round in the $4.5 million Irish Open here at The K Club. “There is no reason why it can’t work, and in this day and age, who would want to be in a golf club with only men?”

Paul Lawrie, a Scot and the 1999 Open champion, agreed.

“In this day and age I just can’t understand why any golf clubs don’t allow female members,” Lawrie said. “How can you not let ladies be a member of a golf club? It just doesn’t make any sense. Imagine not being able to take your wife into the golf club? It’s just not right.”

Thomas Bjorn is a two-time runner up in the British Open and chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee. The decision took him by surprise.

“I’m gobsmacked,” said Bjorn, a Dane who tied for second in the British Open in 2000 and ’03. “I’m very surprised. I really am in this day and age. It’s a shame that one of the best golf courses in the world is off the Open rota.”

All three players were quick to praise the R&A for its swift decision to remove Muirfield (No. 4, Golfweek’s Best Great Britain and Ireland Classic Courses) as a future Open host.

“The R&A are right to do what they’ve done,” Lawrie said.

Said Bjorn: “The R&A has made the right decision.”

Harrington, the Open champion in 2007 and ’08, was more effusive.

“The R&A has done the right thing for the bigger picture and the greater cause because they have that responsibility,” he said. “They lead golf on a world stage, and their brand is such a big brand that they have a responsibility to general society.

“This shows they (R&A) are moving into the modern era, that they have more of a responsibility than just golf.

“Obviously there is great history and heritage to Muirfield, and the players love playing it. It’s a great golf course, and I can see why people would want to keep it, but the reality is the R&A has a bigger responsibility outside of golf. On an individual basis, if you want to be a smaller club and not deal with the outside world, that’s their business. But once you step into the general public and society – and especially a media world – then you have to make sure everything is fair to everybody.”

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