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  • Alistair Tait

It Shouldn't Even Be OPEN To Debate

Updated: Aug 10, 2023


Most serious American golf fans get it. Those that don't are being heavily influenced by popular American golf media sites which insist on calling this week’s championship the “British Open.”


The game’s oldest tournament, the one that kicked it all off and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.


It’s called the Open Championship. It shouldn’t even be OPEN to debate.


Ian Pattinson makes a heartfelt plea to American golf fans in Golf Digest to give the game’s oldest major its proper name. Pattinson knows what he’s talking about. He’s a long standing member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and a former chairman of the R&A.


I felt like calling Pattinson after I read his article to tell him he was wasting his time. I fought that battle for 25 years with another American golf magazine and ultimately lost.


So did Pattinson. Check out Golf Digest’s website and every reference to this week’s event is listed as the “British Open.”


Quite why they commissioned/accepted this piece from Pattinson is a bit of a head scratcher. John Huggan is the best writer on the Golf Digest staff. The man from Dunbar arguably knows more about the Royal & Ancient game than most of the staff combined. All they had to do was ask Huggy what they should call the tournament that’s been going since 1860. I know for a fact John has never used the term “British Open” in his life.


Digest isn’t alone in using the incorrect name of the game’s oldest and best tournament. The top golf story on SI.com refers to some event called the “British Open.” Golfweek, my old employer, insists on using the “British” adjective too.


I spent 25 years battling with Golfweek re the Open Championship. I had some success. There were times when the words “British Open” were considered a no no, but then that’s because a couple of previous editors got it and were strong enough to go against the bean counters. Nowadays it the click counters who make the decisions. And they decree that “British Open” gets far more hits than Open Championship or The Open.


I pointed out when The Open went to Royal Portrush that it was completely incorrect to call it the “British Open” since Royal Portrush isn’t part of Great Britain, but part of the United Kingdom. Try explaining that to someone who’s never actually been to an Open Championship. I might as well have been talking Swahili.


I was once told by a publisher all they were trying to do was get more eyes on stories, mine included, hence the appeal to Americans who only know the game’s oldest tournament as the British Open. I said, hey if you want to get more hits then why not called it the Pornographic British Open?


That suggestion wasn’t well received.


I even used Pattinson’s logic in the #JustSaying quote at the bottom of this blog re: the Masters. Why not call it the U.S. Masters if you’re going to call it the British Open?


I was being facetious – I wouldn’t dream of saying U.S. Masters – but you can imagine how that went down.


That’s not to say all American media outlets go with the “British” line. Fair play to outlets like Golf.com, the Golf Channel and Global Golf Post. They get it. They use the correct title, which makes you ponder a couple of thoughts: there must be a lot of confused American golf fans this week reading about two seemingly different golf tournaments; and why do these outlets get it right and the aforementioned don’t?


Answers on a postcard please.


#JustSaying: “No true golf fan would ever consider referring to “the American Open” or “the U.S. Masters” (worse still, the “Masters Championship”) or even the “American PGA Championship,” ... Why does the same not apply to the oldest major of them all?” Ian Pattinson


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