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  • Alistair Tait

Royal Lytham on course for 2026 Open Championship

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

Start making plans to attend the 2026 Open Championship at Royal Lytham. The Lancashire course is sure to see the game’s greatest tournament return six years from now following Royal Troon’s announcement as the 2023 venue.

Just as Troon will celebrate the 100th anniversary of staging its first Open three years from now, Royal Lytham should do so in 2026. However, the Lancashire course has a stronger reason than Troon for getting the Open 100 years after staging its first.

Bobby Jones.

Jones won the first of his three Open Championships at Royal Lytham in 1926. Considering R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers said this week that Royal Troon was getting the 2023 championship to celebrate the 100th anniversary of staging the 1923 championship when Arthur Havers won, then Royal Lytham seems a certainty to stage the championship six years from now.

Here’s what Slumbers said about Troon in 2023.

“The hundredth anniversary of The Open at Royal Troon is an important piece. We do like to try and celebrate those points.”

So the R&A should. If Royal Troon is worthy of celebrating its 100th anniversary of staging the Open for the first time, then Royal Lytham is worthier of that honour.

Bobby Jones? Arthur Havers? No disrespect to Havers but a Jones Open anniversary – any Jones anniversary – is too good an opportunity to pass up.

Jones’s win is part of Open Championship lore. A small plaque to the left of Lytham’s 17th fairway celebrates the shot that probably won the immortal Bobby his first old claret jug.

Playing with fellow American Al Watrous on the final day, Jones lost his lead when he returned a 73 to Watrous’s 69 in the third round. (The last two rounds were played on the final day in that period.) Jones dropped three shots over Lytham’s front nine in the final round and was two shots adrift of Watrous with five holes to play.

Jones drew level with three to play and looked in trouble when he bunkered his tee shot on the dogleg left par 4 17th. Watrous found the green in two and looked a likely champion. However, Jones hit what was then considered one of the greatest shots in golf.

The man who created the Masters couldn’t see the green from where he stood in the bunker, but his mashie approach shot found the putting surface. He took two putts while Watrous needed three, and ran out a two-shot winner with a par at the last.

A wee footnote to the end of that championship saw Walter Hagen needing a two at the 18th to tie Jones and force a playoff. Hagen, in his inimitable style, sent his caddie ahead to tend the flag before playing his second shot. However, Hagen’s ball ran through the green and he took four more to finish.

The club was also given the “royal” prefix in 1926 and has staged 11 Opens in that time. Aside from Jones’s landmark victory, this great links has seen some other key entries in Open history. After legends such as Bobby Locke (1952) and Peter Thomson (1958) won the Open at Lytham, New Zealand’s Bob Charles became the first left hander and first New Zealander to win a major in 1963.

Two other key dates stand out in Lytham’s history with the Open. Tony Jacklin won in 1969 after an 18-year hiatus for British winners. The 1979 championship saw Seve Ballesteros’s first of three victories, including a return victory in 1988. Seve was hailed the “car park champion” in 1979 after getting relief from a car park on the 16th hole in the final round.

Ernie Els last won an Open at Lytham in 2012. That championship attracted 180,000 spectators. The 2018 Ricoh Women’s Open Georgia Hall won drew 57,000 spectators.

So, Lytham is a good draw even if the small site struggles to cope with the infrastructure needed to stage a modern day championship. However, it does cope.

I hear from private sources the club is keen to host the 2026 championship for the same reason Troon wanted the 2023 championship. The R&A will more than likely grant the club its wish.

In fact, the governing body would be almost derelict in its duty to the game and golf history by not taking the 2026 Open Championship to Royal Lytham.

P.S. You heard it here first……

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