President Donald Trump is concerned about the future of golf’s oldest major championship. In fact, he’s worried about it going away. And he believes, at least according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that The Open Championship’s future hinges on Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.
Revealed by Politico after the Journal refused to publish the entire transcript of a recent White House conversation with the president, the interview goes in myriad directions. Ultimately, it turns to golf, with Trump speaking about the recent Open and Jordan Spieth’s impressive comeback win against Matt Kuchar. Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Gerard Baker asks Trump about membership at 2017 host Royal Birkdale (though not about Trump’s Turnberry, which doesn’t currently have a future Open slated for its Ailsa Course), and then the conversation takes an odd geopolitical turn.
TRUMP: Is Scotland going to go for the vote, by the way? You don’t see it. It would be terrible. They just went through hell.
BAKER: (Inaudible) – but they’re going to be –
TRUMP: They just went through hell.
BAKER: Besides, the first minister’s already made it clear she –
TRUMP: What do you think? You don’t think so, right?
BAKER: I don’t.
TRUMP: One little thing, what would they do with the British Open if they ever got out? They’d no longer have the British Open.
TRUMP: Scotland. Keep it in Scotland.
There are a number of problems with Trump maintaining that the third major (soon to be the fourth?) on the men’s golf calendar would lose its identity if Scotland left the United Kingdom.
First, the tournament isn’t called the British Open — at least officially. The R&A, one of golf’s two governing bodies and the presenter of this championship, calls it simply The Open. Before that, it was The Open Championship. Americans and others colloquially call the tournament the British Open, primarily because the United States Open is another major. So, they wouldn’t have to change the name.
Second, The Open Championship rotation of courses has sites in both England and Northern Ireland. In 2019, Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host for the first time in some 65 years, marking just the second time ever that England or Scotland will not host The Open. Of the 10 courses currently in The British Open rotation, half are not in Scotland (including the course that just hosted!):
- Royal St. George’s
- Royal Liverpool
- Royal Lytham and St. Annes
- Royal Birkdale
- Royal Portrush
Trump knows golf, of course. Donald Trump’s country clubs and other golf properties — 17 in total — that he owns or manages are praised for their conditioning and how members are treated. However, you can’t say Trump is the best golf historian.