Muirfield set for ‘Edinburgh’s Open’ rebrand as R&A chiefs target 200,000 fans at next event

The Open was last held at Muirfield in 2013. Picture: TSPLThe Open was last held at Muirfield in 2013. Picture: TSPL
The Open was last held at Muirfield in 2013. Picture: TSPL | Johnston Press
“How do we get Muirfield to be Edinburgh’s Open? How de we get Edinburgh city to embrace it?”

Open bosses are aiming to attract 200,000 fans to the event’s next visit to Muirfield by branding it as “Edinburgh’s Open”.

The record attendance for the Claret Jug tournament at the East Lothian venue is 161,500 when Ernie Els won in 2002.

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That figure fell to 142,036 for Phil Mickelson’s triumph on the R&A event’s last visit in 2013, with that attendance being well beaten every year since then at other venues.

It had been thought that a return to Muirfield was on the cards for the next available slot on the schedule.

However, the R&A has opted instead for Royal Troon to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the event first being played there in 1923.

The decision means that it is likely to be 2026 at the earliest before Muirfield will stage the tournament again due to the fact it almost certainly won’t be staged three years in a row in Scotland and St Andrews will probably the 2025 venue.

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“What we’re spending a lot of our time is how do we get 200,000 people around Muirfield,” said R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers, speaking at an annual press briefing in St Andrews.

“How do we get Muirfield to be Edinburgh’s Open? How do we get Edinburgh city to embrace it and do that?”

Muirfield staged two Opens won by Nick Faldo six years apart in 1987 and 1992 with the gap between Els and Mickelson claiming their victories being 11 years.

On it being overlooked for 2023, Slumbers added: “It’s not a rota, it’s a pool of 10 courses, and 10 of the best links courses that we have.

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“The 100th anniversary of The Open at Royal Troon is an important piece. We do like to try and celebrate those points, and there are as many advantages of Royal Troon.

“It’s a great golf course. It’s probably the most imbalanced golf course, as you know, compared to all the others in terms of the front nine versus the back nine. It throws up some very exciting finishes.

“It’s got terrific infrastructure around it, great hotels, and with what we’re doing there with the Women’s Open (which is being staged at Troon in August), it’s nice to be able to keep some momentum going in terms of that venue. It ticked a lot of boxes for us in doing that.

“I’m not going to comment beyond 2023. We are looking at The Open. It’s growing. The size of crowds is growing. We’re heading into Royal St George’s in just five months now, and the previous record of crowd attendance at Royal St George’s was 183,000, and we will be through 200,000 come July. So we are looking where we can get larger crowds.”

Asked if it was possible Muirfield, having become a mixed membership club, might stage a Women’s British Open before The Open, Slumbers said: “I think that would be an interesting idea.”

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