THE Open teed off today against a background of negative publicity, the like of which the world famous event has never seen.
Alex Salmond’s decision to snub Muirfield because of its men-only membership rules has been followed by a wave of politicians, celebrities and golfers lining up to take a swing at the East Lothian club.
At a time when the focus would normally be on the excitement and build-up to the historic event, column inches have been devoted to the sexism row – and understandably so.
It is a debate which will not be hit into the long grass and indeed the R&A has signalled it will look again at the issue.
The Muirfield club will undoubtedly also have to consider its position, certainly before it can contemplate staging The Open again, and it will face severe pressure from commercial sponsors who make the event possible.
It is right that this happens but its rules will not be changed overnight – that is for the months and perhaps years ahead.
Today, attention can finally turn solely to golf and enjoying what is a fabulous event for Edinburgh and the Lothians and the country as a whole.
We can feel proud that we have one of the best courses in the UK, if not the world, staging one of the most famous sporting events right on our doorstep.
It will bring huge benefits to the area – an estimated £70 million for the local economy for starters – and put us firmly in the spotlight for a few days.
With the world’s media descending, and Edinburgh and East Lothian bathed in glorious sunshine, it is one of the best adverts we could hope for.
So let’s enjoy a few days of cracking competition, perhaps a bit of celebrity-spotting, and lap up the benefits while we can.
And then the next time the tournament arrives, perhaps Muirfield will truly be open to all.