LONDON: The 150th edition of golf’s oldest championship really is cause for celebration.
The R&A reports Tuesday it anticipates a record 290,000 spectators at St. Andrews for the British Open this summer. That would smash the previous record of 239,000 fans who watched Tiger Woods complete the career Grand Slam at the Old Course in 2000.
The Open typically draws the most fans at St. Andrews, followed by clubs in the northwest of England (Royal Birkdale, Royal Liverpool, Royal Lytham & St. Annes).
The R&A allowed 32,000 fans for Royal St. George’s last year in the gradual return from the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a 150-year anniversary at the home of golf, organizers received more than 1.3 million applications in the ticket ballot and the highest-ever number of general admission tickets being issued.
“The 150th Open at St. Andrews is going to be a momentous occasion for golf and this is clearly reflected in the extraordinary demand among fans to be part of this historic playing of the championship,” R&A chief Martin Slumbers said. “We very much appreciate their passion and enthusiasm for The Open and are delighted that we will set a new attendance record that far exceeds the previous best set in 2000.”
The R&A said a record 20 percent of general admission tickets (58,000) has been allocated to fans under age 25, with 20,000 tickets set aside for children under age 16 who will attend for free.
Woods, meanwhile, plans to play the Open for the sixth time at St. Andrews. He won in 2000 and 2005.
Greg Norman will not be playing. In peculiar comments to Australia-based News Corp. last week, Norman said he was “filling out my entry form right now.”
One problem. British Open champions are no longer exempt after they turn 60, and Norman’s last year was in 2015 at St. Andrews. He chose not to play. In fact, he hasn’t played since Turnberry in 2009.
That would leave 36-hole qualifying or a special invitation, neither of which is likely.
“The entry terms and conditions for The Open stipulate that a champion must be aged 60 or under or have won the championship in the previous ten years to be exempt from qualifying. That remains the case for The 150th Open and we have no plans for any additional exemptions,” the R&A said in a statement.
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