R&A officials 'don't really mind' if Open is final major on calendar

SOUTHPORT, England -- The Open has no issue with being the fourth major championship instead of the third on golf's calendar.

With a move of the PGA Championship being discussed for as early as 2019 from its traditional August date into May, the Open would then fall to the fourth and final major of the year.

"I think, from our perspective, I don't really mind whether we're the third major or the fourth major," said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A, during a news conference Wednesday at Royal Birkdale, where the 146th Open begins Thursday.

"We try to do our very best with The Open Championship to make it as good as we possibly can do. I can absolutely understand some of the logic [of a move], and if it ends up as resulting in more people watching our game, then that's a great outcome."

The PGA Tour would move the Players Championship from May back to its old March date a few weeks before the Masters if the PGA of America decides to move the PGA Championship up several months in the schedule.

The PGA has been played in May four times, but not since 1949. Since 1972, the PGA has been played in August every year until 2016, when it moved two weeks earlier into July to accommodate the Olympic Games.

The PGA Tour would welcome the change because it could conclude its FedEx Cup playoff earlier with the PGA Championship out of the way.

During the R&A news conference, Slumbers also explained why the decision was made to declare the 10th fairway as out of bounds for shots struck from the ninth tee during this week's Open.

It had been brought to the R&A's attention that some players were contemplating playing into or near the 10th fairway and hitting their approach to the par-4 ninth from there. Specifically, Slumbers said, Col Swatton, Jason Day's caddie, had inquired.

"The great thing about links golf is you can play a hole in multiple ways, and that's one of the beauties of it," Slumbers said. "But in this particular case, we've been out there with our health and safety people, and the only way you can get the ball onto the 10th fairway is to drive it straight over the top of the grandstand, and then bring the ball back across to the ninth green, across two opposing groups of people.

"And we felt that that was just dangerous. So that's been put in there to protect the fans and the players, because it's also blind to the 10th fairway from the ninth tee."

There will be no out-of-bounds stakes, but instead the local rule instituted states that any ball that comes to rest in a "closely-mown area" of the 10th fairways for a ball coming from the ninth would be deemed out of bounds.

Internal out of bounds is rare, but it was part the course at Royal Liverpool in 2014, where the third and 18th holes bordered a hospitality area that was marked as out of bounds.