On Thursday, the best golfers in the world will begin a golf tournament in Southport, United Kingdom. The event is one of the four biggest on the golf calendar. Most Americans know it as the British Open. The organizers are very, very unhappy about that.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the R&A, which oversees what is officially known as The Open Championship, issued an edict to NBC when the network won the broadcast rights for the tournament in 2016: They would be contractually banned from using the phrase “British Open” under any circumstances. Per the WSJ, this has posed a challenge for NBC broadcasters.
But Johnny Miller, the longtime NBC analyst and 1976 Open champion, has had to correct himself repeatedly. “I have trouble with it,” he said.
Getting other networks to follow suit has been even more difficult. Moments before play-by-play voice Dan Hicks made a recent promotional appearance on CNBC, an NBC Sports publicist reminded the anchors of the tournament’s proper name.
When the cameras went on, Hicks said, “First thing out of their mouth: ‘The British Open is coming our way!’” The publicist sighed, “Oh, the R&A is not going to be happy about this.”
The R&A has also appealed to American print media, asking them to use the tournament’s official name, not its American nickname.
The organizers are apparently having some trouble in the Eastern Hemisphere, as well.
Alastair Johnston, the longtime IMG executive who has represented the R&A in media rights, licensing and sponsorships since the 1990s, said the B word has complicated some licensing negotiations in Asia.
“Business partners in Japan are saying, ‘Please call it the British Open because it will mean more to people here,’” Johnston said. “We’re not able to give them the name that they want.”
Call me an ignorant American, but I am having a hard time figuring out why British people are so dogmatic about the tournament being called “The Open” or “The Open Championship,” not “the British Open.” The Journal points out that qualifiers are held around the world and that the British claim ownership of the “open” concept, having been the firsts to come up with it, but shouldn’t they feel prideful to have their home represented in the name? Shouldn’t the want everyone to know the tournament is theirs? “The British Open” sounds like a golf tournament held in Great Britain. “The Open Championship” sounds like a generic tournament staged in a movie that didn’t license the name of an actual event.
But hey, suit yourself,
British Open Open Championship.