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R&A tests drivers of more than 2 dozen players at Open

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) — Some players had to give up their drivers — at least temporarily — this week as British Open officials decided to test them to see if they were in violation of the rules.

The checks came in the midst of a distance debate that previously had been centered on golf balls, not clubs.

“We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the rules of golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards,” said Martin Slumbers, chief executive of the R&A. “And we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players’ drivers straight out of the bag.”

Both the R&A and the USGA measure what is known as “characteristic time,” or CT, to determine whether drivers conform to limits on “spring-like effect” that determines how far the golf ball can be hit. But the testing lately hasn’t involved a list of players asking them to bring the clubs from their bags.

“We’ve always had an equipment test capability down on the range, certainly since I’ve been involved in the Open,” Slumbers said. “It’s been an option for players or the manufacturers to take their equipment in and have it tested.”

Slumbers said all the players who had clubs tested were cooperative, and that the testing did not uncover any violations.

Rory McIlroy said his driver wasn’t tested, but that he saw the list of clubs tested and most of them were from the manufacturer of his driver, TaylorMade.

“I understand why they’re testing equipment,” McIlroy said. “If there is some drivers out there that have went a little bit over the limit, then, obviously, guys shouldn’t be playing them. I think the manufacturers are smart enough to know not to try to push it too much. I’d be very surprised if they found anything this week.”

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TIGER PARTNERS

The British Open is the most international of the four majors, and it’s certainly been that way for Tiger Woods.

He is playing this year in the opening two rounds with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and Russell Knox of Scotland. The last time Woods played the Open was in 2015 at St. Andrews, where he played with Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

Phil Mickelson played with another American (Matt Kuchar) as recently as 2015.

For Woods, go all the way back to 2000 at St. Andrews to find the last time he had another American in his group for the opening two rounds. He played that year with David Gossett, the U.S. Amateur champion, and Nick Price. Since then, Woods had at least one European in his group every time until his most recent appearance at St. Andrews, when he was drawn with Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day.

He has played with Justin Rose four times since 2002, the most of any player.

DISASTER ON 18

The Open is back at the tough links of Carnoustie, which means the name Jean Van de Velde is never far from anyone’s lips.

That includes Gary Player, who won the British Open at Carnoustie in 1968 and — much like Van de Velde in his infamous collapse in 1999 — came to the difficult 18th hole with the lead.

Van de Velde made a triple bogey after a series of questionable choices and bad breaks, and he was forced into a playoff he lost.

Player was more cautious.

He was also more successful.

“I took an iron off the tee, an iron for my second and said, if I get a 5, I am playing for a 5,” Player said Wednesday. “If (Jack) Nicklaus gets an eagle and ties me, so be it. But Van de Velde should have — again, it’s that ‘if’ factor again. He should have hit off with a 5-iron, a 6-iron, and a wedge and won by two.”

Player ended up winning by two shots over Nicklaus and Bob Charles for the second of what would be three British Open titles.

Padraig Harrington can appreciate what Player was saying. He had a two-shot lead on Sergio Garcia going into the fourth hole of their aggregate playoff in 2007. The Irishman hit iron off the tee, played short of Barry Burn and then hit a poor wedge to about 40 feet. He ran the par putt by the hole by 3 feet and made that for the win.

NO PRESIDENTIAL VISIT

U.S. President Donald Trump was on the other side of Scotland ahead of the British Open and played golf at Turnberry — which he owns — before going to Helsinki for his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

There was no detour to Carnoustie, and R&A chief Martin Slumbers was fine with that.

“We had no communication from the Foreign Off or the White House concerning the President of the United States and his visit to the other coast last week,” Slumbers said. “I think if I had been asked, I would have been strongly not encouraging him to visit Carnoustie. We were in the middle of a building site last Friday. There were lorries everywhere. It would have been very, very challenging to do so.”

Slumbers and the R&A, meanwhile, are not ready to say whether the Open will go back to Turnberry under Trump’s ownership. It last was played on the Ailsa course in 2009, before it was sold to Trump.

The Open is scheduled as far out as St. Andrews in 2021 for the 150th edition, and Slumbers said it would be “south of the border” — England — in 2022.

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AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

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