Never let it be said that crowd size is an impediment to Royal Portrush hosting The Open again.
The R&A came up with a novel excuse to justify a 12 percent drop in the gate at Muirfield from 160,595 in 2002 to 142,036 this year. Their claim? The weather was just too good.
“We believe the extremely warm weather put off some of our pay at the gate customers,” an R&A statement ran. “That is perhaps why, unusually, we had a higher attendance on Sunday in cooler weather [29,247] than we did on Friday [29,144] which is normally the busiest day.
“The blend of a British winner of the Tour de France and Ashes cricket on television over the last few days may also have had an impact.”
There was no mention of the exorbitant ticket prices which were £260 (€300) for a season or £75 (€87) for an adult daily pass on tournament days.
What is interesting is that the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush attracted a bigger attendance on the four tournament days - 112,280 on the Dunluce compared to 110,716 at Muirfield.
Considering the appalling weather at Portrush, the total attendance of 131,000 compared to sun-splashed Muirfield’s 142,036 was a triumph.
No-one disputes that accommodating the Open’s huge corporate facilities and massive Open grandstands at Portrush is a logistical nightmare but one wonders if the excuse of the annual 12th July Marching Season and accompanying riots really stacks up.
Tiger done for speeding
Tiger Woods has had nine Top-10 finishes in majors since he captured his 14th grand slam title in 2008.
Yet when one reflects on the reasons why he has failed to get over the line, his struggles with the putter stand out.
Woods had 33 putts on Saturday and another 33 on Sunday and complained: “You know what, I had a hard time adjusting to the speeds. They were much slower today… I just couldn’t ever get the pace of these things.”
Go back to the 2010 US PGA, where he was 28th, and he said: “Well, my speed’s been awful. This entire year it’s been bad. You can’t read greens if you can’t control your speed.”
Or what about the 2011 Masters, where he was fourth behind Charl Schwartzel?
“I didn’t hit the ball good enough and I made too many mistakes around the greens, consequently I’m not there.”
How about last years’ US Open where he was tied for the lead at halfway but finished 21st in the end?
“Never got the speed of the greens yesterday as well.”
And this year’s Masters, where he was fourth?
“I had a hard time getting the speed….”
Yet putting isn’t everything…
Lee Westwood short game and putting has often been cited as the reason why he has failed to win a major so far.
His move to the US has certainly helped is game around the greens and he was ninth on the PGA Tour for scrambling this season compared to dead last (191st) in 2012.
Yet a quick look at the statistics from Muirfield proves that putting is not always the crucial factor.
Westwood was the top putter, breaking the 30-putt mark in all four rounds while champion Phil Mickelson was seventh.
It wasn’t a good week to struggle to hit greens for the Englishman, who finished 69th in that department. Mickelson was 27th.