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Golf fans facing an early start

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GOLF fans planning to see the first ball struck in anger at this year’s Open Championship will have to make an early start in order to get to Royal St George’s GC in time.

Officials of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, the championship organisers, revealed this week that play at this year’s championship will start half an hour earlier than usual -- at 6.30am rather 7.00.

This is to permit the same playing time as when the championship is held in Scotland, where the evenings are lighter for longer.

For the three practice days, the gates will be open to spectators at 8.30am on the Monday, and at 7.00am, on the Tuesday and Wednesday.

And that could well mean that spectators hoping to follow Tiger Woods for one of his practice rounds could be disappointed. The world No 1 has made a habit at recent Opens of starting his practice rounds at 6 o’clock in the morning in order to avoid the crowds, and the R & A have no plans to prevent him from doing the same at Sandwich.

Peter Dawson, the R & A secretary, said: “In the ordinary course of events, Tiger gets so mobbed that you can understand why he feels he needs to be out there on his own.

“Our view might be different if other players started complaining about it, but so far there have been no objections. They understand how it is for him.”

Turning to the likely condition of the course, Mr Dawson added: ‘We are seeking a fast-running links for the Championship. We have had a particular dry spring here and so we are hopeful of achieving that, but of course we still remain at the mercy of the weather.

“Ticket sales are particularly strong, which is very pleasing to see. This is the first Open that we have had a fully-fledged internet ticket-selling operation, and that might be part of the reason.”

This year’s winner will pick up £700,000, compared to the £100,000 that Greg Norman collected when the Open was last held at Sandwich in 1993. The competition starts on July 17.

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