Open Championship remains on high alert amid surge in protests

Strict measures in place at Royal Liverpool after recent disruption at major sporting events in UK

Rory McIlroy during a practice round ahead of the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Security will remain on high alert during this week's Open Championship even though there has been no intelligence surrounding any potential protest, revealed R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers.

Strict measures will be in place at Royal Liverpool in what has been a challenging English summer with Just Stop Oil protesters causing disruption at major sporting events, including the Ashes Test series and Wimbledon.

Players have been asked not to get involved if any protests do take place; like during the Ashes Test at Lord's where England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow carried one protester off the pitch.

“We've had no direct intelligence,” Slumbers said ahead of the tournament which begins on Thursday.

“There was direct intelligence last year and most people in this room don't know The Open was targeted last year.

“We had a very credible threat that was reported to us that one of the most senior players in the field was going to be targeted by an environmental activist.

“We have significant security procedures in place, we work with law enforcement agencies and we will wait and see what happens.

“We have advised the players please don't get involved and I stand by that. We have enough things in place to be able to deal with that. Beyond that I think security matters I need to keep confidential.”

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy will return to the scene of his sole Open win at Hoylake, hoping fond memories can help him snap a nine-year major drought.

McIlroy, 34, seemed destined for double-digit major titles when he swept all before him at the Royal Liverpool course in 2014 and went on to win the PGA Championship less than a month later.

But the Northern Irishman has remained on four majors ever since, despite being one of golf's top stars.

“I've had so many close calls since,” said the world No 2.

“I've had a great nine years and won a lot of tournaments but the big four have eluded me. Hopefully this week that's something I can change.”

He has finished in the top 10 at six of the last seven majors. Twelve months ago, he was in pole position to becoming an Open champion at St Andrews as he shared the lead heading into the final round.

But a cold putter and a stunning eight-under-par final round from Cameron Smith saw the Australian claim the Claret Jug.

It was a similar story at last month's US Open when the unheralded Wyndham Clark held off McIlroy to win by one shot.

“It's nice to have the validation. It's great racking up top fives and top 10s, but it's much nicer heading away with a trophy on a Sunday afternoon,” added McIlroy.

“It's a great shot of confidence and helps having something fresh in my memory. If I hopefully find myself in a similar position next week where I have a chance to win with nine holes to go, I can certainly draw on what I did [at the Scottish Open].”

World No 1 Scottie Scheffler will lead the challengers along with third-ranked Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith while Tommy Fleetwood could be the best hope of a first English Open champion since 1992.

Updated: July 19, 2023, 1:35 PM