Morri: What's In A Name?

The Open or the British Open? Who cares? (Photo: Getty )
It’s hardly the most important question confronting the game but it will get more than its fair share of air time over the next couple of weeks: Should we be calling the year’s third men's major The Open or the British Open?

Technically, the oldest of the four men's Grand Slam events is, and always has been, The Open.

As the R&A point out on the tournament website, there has never been a time when the organisers referred to the tournament as anything but The Open.

“At no stage in the Championship’s history have the minutes, entry forms or programmes of the R&A ever referred to it as the ‘British Open’,” says a story published on the website last year.

“There is a further, and crucial, element to the story because following the success of the first Open, its host club Prestwick announced that the tournament ‘shall be open to the world’.

“It is an ethos which has never been forgotten and it might be said that now, more than ever, The Open is the most fitting title because in 2017, qualifying events have taken place across five continents around the world.

“The Open is the correct name for the Championship. It is also the most appropriate.”

So there you have it. The tournament’s organisers and owners couldn’t be clearer about exactly what the event is called.
Except, of course, that an awful lot of people (some of them quite influential) still refer to it as the British Open.

Count recently passed five-time winner Peter Thomson among their number, his book A Life In Golf more than once discussing the British Open.

1976 winner Johnny Miller also likes to call the tournament ‘The British’, as do many top American players.

As a way to distinguish the oldest of all golf's majors from the national championship of America (and indeed any other country that hosts an open tournament) it makes perfect sense.

And that is why, for several decades, it has not been uncommon to refer to The Open as the British Open.

There has undoubtedly been a push in recent years to do away with the ‘British’ and return the name to just ‘The Open’ but like all common usage that will be easier said than done.

When negotiating broadcast rights with American network NBC last year the R&A included a clause in the contract that on-air talent would refrain from using the term ‘British Open’.

Augusta National famously insists on similar pedantry with CBS, commentators at the famed American club banned from using the term ‘fans’ and instead referring to ‘patrons’.

But while the TV coverage will only refer to ‘The Open’ you can bet your life savings there will be a significant number among the fan base happily discussing events of the day at the ‘British Open’.

And in the end, as long as there are people watching, it really doesn’t matter. Especially to the player who will be named Sunday evening as ‘Champion Golfer of the year’.


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