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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY


April 29, 2008


Michael Brown

Peter Dawson

David Hill


MICHAEL BROWN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our press conference. Can I kick off just by introducing the platform. My name is Michael Brown. I'm chairman of the Championship Committee at the R & A. On my far right is Mike Halsall, who's chairman of the Championship Committee of Royal Birkdale; to my immediate right is the captain of Royal Birkdale golf club Denis Watson; Peter Dawson, our TV executive, on my immediate left; and David Hill, our director of championships on the far left.
What we'd like to do this morning is Peter would like to talk to you for a while about the golf course and some of the alterations that have been made to it since the Open was last here. Then David Hill will speak about the facilities, and then we will be open to questions. But just before we get to that, perhaps I could make one or two general remarks.
First of all, I'd just like to repeat what I said last night, which is to express our gratitude to Royal Birkdale Golf Club for agreeing to stage the Open and for all the assistance that they are giving, and I am confident will continue to give, in the run-up to and during the event.
It's a marvelous, quite simply, a marvelous golf course, this. We've had a long history of successful championships here, and there is no reason to believe that we won't have another come July.
I think really with that very brief introduction, I will now hand over to Peter and ask him to run us through his comments on the golf course.
PETER DAWSON: Thank you, Michael. Let's just start with a few obvious things. The Open Championship, the 137th, will be played here at Royal Birkdale from the 17th to the 20th of July; that's just in case you haven't got it in your diaries. We're very much on schedule. All of the planning and execution is going according to programme. We've already had three qualifying events, one at Royal Johannesburg in Kensington, South Africa; one at The Lakes at Sydney; and one at Sentosa in Singapore. We've got 12 good qualifiers from those events, and the details are in your packs.
Entries close on the 29th of May and are running at a very normal level. We expect full fields for all our qualifying events, and that is also going to plan.
A word on prize money; we will be making a decision on this closer to the Championship in these volatile days of exchange rates and the like, but I was looking at a paper in the pack, and I noticed that when Peter Thomson won the first Open here at Birkdale, he received the princely sum of テつ」750. Last year's champion received precisely 1,000 times that, and that's a measure of the inflation we all know has applied to prize money.
A word on drug testing, which I know is of interest to some. The R & A played a very leading role, of which we're very proud, in moving the professional game towards the acceptance of drug testing, and also the development of anti-doping programmes.
The PGA TOUR in America and the European Tour have both announced that they expect to start drug testing round about July of this year. Both Tours are engaged in quite an extensive and quite important player education programme, which is very important to the players that the players understand what drug testing is all about.
Given that the Open Championship is in the third week of July and given that quite a number of players in the Open Championship do not play either on the European Tour or the U.S. Tour and have therefore not had yet the opportunity for drug education, a combination of that, the fact that there is still some uncertainty about when the Tours are going to start, the fact that drug testing anti-doping policy is a 52-week-a-year occupation, not a one-week-a-year occupation, the fact that arguably the Open has already started this year with three qualifying events means that we have decided that drug testing will not take place at this year's Open, but we very much plan and hope and intend that it will take place next year.
Slightly unsatisfactory, that. It is a function of timing, and we do see the Open Championship, if you like, as another week on Tour as far as drug testing is concerned. We don't see us having any different or special policies for that one week a year. It will just be part of the normal routine. So we will not be drug testing this year but firmly intend that we will be next.
If I can move on to the golf course now, Royal Birkdale has always been regarded by the players as a great venue. It's very popular with the players. They think it's a terrific course. What you see is what you get; it's very fair. But things move on, and we did decide in combination with the Royal Birkdale Club and with our architect Martin Hawtree that some changes were necessary to meet the challenge of the modern-day player, if you like, and we're very pleased with the outcome.
There are summaries of this in your pack. I'd like to introduce at this point Chris Whittle who's sitting at the back, who's the course manager here, and he's had a huge part to play in these course alterations, and I think he deserves our congratulations. Why don't you stand up and let's all have a look at you. Well done.
(Applause.)
PETER DAWSON: Now, I'm playing with a borrowed putter today, so I'm not just sure how this is going to go. The first slide is the overall plan of this golf course. As you can see, it is not a straight out and straight back links; the holes all go in different directions, which means essentially that for any given wind, the players are going to be experiencing a whole variety of directions, which is always good to see.
We have made changes to every hole on this golf course since the last Open bar two, and again, details and summaries of all this are in your pack, so I'm just going through stuff that you already have.
We've put in six new championship tees, at the 3rd, 6th, 10th, 11th, 15th and 16th. There have been many changes to bunkers, 20 new ones with six net additions; 14 have been removed. 27 bunkers have been redesigned or slightly repositioned.
One of the biggest changes here at Birkdale compared with before is the amount of tree removal that has taken place, especially on the 10th but 15th and 16th in particular, and this has really opened up the links aspect of the golf course. To be able to see the 16th green from the room we're now in is something that perhaps many never dreamt of before, and it's great to see. We have one new green at the 17th, of which more presently.
Just running through the holes very briefly, the changes at the 1st are that this bunker, which you can see off the tee, has been slightly moved and made a little more aggressive in appearance. But the main changes are mounding and swaling around the green and the tightening up of the bunkering into the green, which makes the second shot more demanding.
On the 2nd hole, the main changes here have been the addition of two bunkers out here in the 300-yard-plus drive zone and about 45 yards of mounding up the left in the drive zone, which has turned what was a slightly bland drive, to be honest, into a very challenging one. No changes in length in either of those first two holes.
The third, however, has changed very significantly. We have a dramatic new back tee set at the dunes. The hole is playing more of a left-to-right dogleg, which with the introduction of these two left-hand bunkers off the tee makes it a challenging drive. But perhaps the biggest change in this hole or one of them is the amount of mounding and swaling that's been put in around the green, which again is going to create run-off areas for the second shot that were not there before.
The introduction of this new front right bunker gives us a lot more pin positions to use, as well. That's a picture of the 3rd taken from the tee. It's a dramatic-looking hole. I'm sure the players are going to enjoy it, if that's the right word.
4th hole, par-3, a good par-3 already. All that we've done here is tightened in the bunkering and created this mounding and swaling area on the right so that an errant shot to the right will kick away from the green and have a more challenging up-and-down in front of the player.
A few changes at the 5th, mainly in bunker tightening around the green, and the green has been extended a little around the back of this reasoned bunker to give us some more pin position opportunities.
No. 6, I think this has always been a great par-4, but I think the changes that we've made have turned it into one of the best. It's been lengthened up to 499 yards, which is our unofficial par-4 limit at the R & A. A new drive bunker out here at 300 yards really makes them think off the tee, together with that existing bunker there, and we've set a bunker into the hill, front left, which has opened up the aspect of the back left green with the earth works that were done and I think balanced the hole. It's a magnificent looking par-4, and that is the fairway valley running up to the green there.
No. 7, perfectly good par-3, no changes have been made to this hole. It's one of the two holes where we've done nothing.
No. 8, we've enlarged the back tee, which was a little small, introduced new fairway bunkering, both left and right, and extended the green at the back here, back right, it again, gives us some more pin position opportunities, and there's an element of tightening of the bunkering at the green.
No. 9 is a hole that's changed a great deal. It's now a more accentuated dogleg with mounding introduced in this right-hand side to trap anyone trying to have a go for the green, and this front left bunker, again, balances up the hole. There's a new bunker, and gives us some more pin positions. That's a rather dark picture, but this is the mounding I was talking about here, and that's the front left bunker, which can -- I think we'll see some pin positions not far over the top of that.
Hole 10, a challenging hole. The championship tee has been moved from a position here further right, which gives a better line, we feel. These two bunkers on the left have been taken out of there and moved forward. There's a new bunker in the drive zone there, and I think a weak tee shot is going to leave the players with quite a challenge at 10.
11, there's a new back tee, which has lengthened the hole, and the fairway has been rebunkered. It's a very challenging hole in the prevailing westerly. This front bunker has been moved closer to the green. Again, this general policy of tightening the thing up.
12, magnificent par-3, and that is the second hole where we've made no changes.

Q. Can I ask a question about 12?
PETER DAWSON: Sure.

Q. Have the greenside bunkers been shallowed out?
PETER DAWSON: I'm not aware they've been shallowed out. Chris is shaking his head. It must have been a foggy morning or something.
13, big par-4, maximum length, 499. We've enlarged the tee a little bit. It was a little small. This fairway bunker has been moved in. That bunker has been raised in profile. This is a new one, so we've got a much more challenging drive there than we had before, a big strong par-4.
14, the par-3, this again, our policy of tightening, the bunkers have been closed into the green, and we've got a very big and interesting swale at the back here for the balls to run off into for a back pin position, again, just tightening the thing up.
15, par 5, tee has moved to the left a little bit, no increase in length. We've got new drive bunkers here and new swaling, new mounding here, and into the prevailing wind, this becomes a very tight second shot in between these bushes and the mounds. It's one that I'm particularly pleased with, especially if the wind blows in the direction we expect.
16, big change here, a new back tee, and the hole has been lengthened considerably. I should have mentioned, by the way, on 15, the huge change in the fact there's so many trees. All of the trees have been removed on the left side, and we've also seen tree removal on the 16th behind the green.
Swaling has been introduced around the green, so we've actually got a green at 16 on the horizon now with run-offs at either side in the back, and it's a slightly less defined target, I think, and will make the second shot more demanding. That's a shot of 16 going up to the green. You can see the run-off areas starting to come, and the fact that the aspect has opened out behind the green, leaving that tree-free area, if I can call it that.
Moving on to 17, no change in tee position here but two new bunkers have been introduced in the drive zone. That was quite a little bit of a bail-out area before today's length. This bunker and mounding here has been closed into the fairway somewhat, and the green has been altered, moved back pretty much by taking the old front and putting it on the back in terms of the distance gained.
Now, this green I quite understand has caused a little bit of controversy. Many of you made comments on it yesterday, and we do fully understand those comments. Let me say a few things about it. It is a par-5, so it's not as if we're expecting the green to be hit at with long irons. The type of green it is is a green that the pros are accustomed to on many golf courses they play at. If you look at Augusta a couple weeks ago, there's probably 18 more sporty greens there than this one. But we are aware that it's a green that could get away from us if we're not careful, and we will be using conservative pin positions and taking great care with the green speed. If we weren't aware of that, we could get into trouble, but we are and we won't. We will be monitoring how this green performs during the Championship to see if anything needs to be done to it in the future. So we're aware it's controversial. We'll have to see how it goes.
But I think overall the 17th hole is a considerably stronger hole than the previous version. That's a shot looking up 17 to the new green. It's a very nice aspect up that valley between the dunes again. It's one of the strong two finishing holes.
Moving on to 18, always a strong par-4, and strengthened this time with the addition of that left-hand bunker in the drive zone.
Overall we've increased the length of the golf course by only 155 yards, which is 2 per cent. Instead of hitting it 100 yards you've got to hit it 102, so the length addition is not that significant. But you can see that the main additions to length have come at the 3rd with a new back tee; at the 6th, where we do have a new back tee, we've lengthened it; at the 11th, a new back tee; and at the 16th a new back tee; and at the 17th because the green has moved.
Now, that's me finished on the golf course. We will be taking questions afterwards, and I'd like to hand over to David Hill now to say a few words about other aspects of the championship.
DAVID HILL: Thanks, Peter. I always get slightly envious of Peter as far as Birkdale is concerned because he looks after all of the golf course, and there's just a huge expanse out here, and of course for spectators who arrive here it's a fantastic venue, but in other ways it's quite difficult. We're anticipating 200,000 people coming here to Royal Birkdale, hopefully a record crowd for Royal Birkdale, given fair weather.
Getting 200,000 people here to the course and getting them away at nighttime and ensuring that they've had a really fantastic experience is quite a challenge. So first of all, we look at the transport situation, and I'd just like to -- a lot of you here are from local press, pay tribute to Hoylake for the fantastic job that the Merseytravel team and Stagecoach team did getting in and out of Hoylake when we had about 230,000 people.
We brought in the same team again comprising Merseyside police, Merseytravel, Stagecoach, and headed up by the Sefton Borough Council, working closely with the R & A. We've got car parking for about 15,000 cars per day. About 5,000 of these will be within walking distance of the course, and the balance, 10,000, will be in four separate park-and-rides, all of which will be within a five-minute bus ride. So really, the parking facilities are excellent.
The road network around here is very good. You can pull the traffic in from three or four different directions, so we'll almost have a park-and-ride north, south, east and west, if you know what I'm getting at.
One of the great successes of Hoylake, and it was also a great success here in 1991 and 1998, is GolfLink. Here we are at the Hillside station, familiar to most of you, two minutes from the course, and we will be encouraging people to travel by train. Liverpool to Hillside, there will be a train every seven to eight minutes at peak time, a journey time of 39 minutes and a return fare of テつ」4.80. And from Manchester to Hillside you'll come in via Southport, change at Southport. There will be a train every 30 minutes from Manchester, journey time of 1 hour, 30 minutes, and a return fare of テつ」12.80.
So we're well established here at Birkdale for bringing large numbers here, and we're using a plan that served us well in 1998, but we are enhancing that by about 10 to 20 per cent, allowing for additional spectators.
I'd like to thank the press very much for their cooperation last year at Carnoustie. We had a real problem at Hoylake with mobile phones going off, Tiger having to stand back from his shot on four separate occasions during Saturday and Sunday's play. The advance publicity that you gave us with television at Carnoustie last year was excellent, but we don't want to sit back on our laurels because a lot of the spectators who are coming here were not at Carnoustie, so we would ask you to give us cooperation again on no mobiles.
We had very, very little criticism from the general public. In fact, fewer than 1 in 20 spectators actually brought a mobile to the golf course. One smuggled one in in a sandwich but was caught at airport-style security (laughter), and it was absolutely unbelievable. I actually had to go back to the police afterwards because I didn't believe it. We had two unclaimed from the deposit centers outside the course.
So it was a great success, much appreciated by players, and many people at the course said it was great that no one could contact them while they were here.
In bringing 200,000 people here -- it's one of the great spectator courses on the Open route. I think many of you would agree on that. There are many natural viewing points. But having said that, the Championship Committee are very keen that wherever we can put a grandstand which will help people to see, we will do so. So we've increased the number of grandstand seats from 14,000 in 1998 up to 18,000 this year, and if we could have fit in a few more, we would have done so.
But there are some holes where you simply can't do that. But we will have 18,000 seats and 7,000 of those will be around the 18th green. And as you can see, that photograph was taken just yesterday or so, and that was the first one to go up, on the right-hand side of 18.
Great natural viewing, and people come to the Open and hopefully enjoy themselves. It's quite hard to introduce changes every year, but one was forced upon us this year because for those of you who may remember, over many years we've had the big yellow leaderboards at the 18th, and of course it's a time for change. So we surveyed, we asked spectators, we asked lots of people, how would you change the big yellow leaderboards. They've been there since about 1973. We've tinkered with them and our joiners and carpenters have notched them and done bits and pieces to them.
I've been over to THE PLAYERS Championship, and of course they've got these electronic boards; others have got digital, others have got videos, so we had a real dilemma what to do. We asked lots of people.
Anyway, this is what we've finished up with. They're being manufactured in Liverpool as we speak, and they're so busy getting them ready for this year that unfortunately the company couldn't be here. But they're going to look something like this (laughter).
The spectators have all said around the 18th green, what they love, what came out loud and clear, was this whole sense of anticipation when this changes. Electronic, you miss it. You sit there in the stand and you're chatting to your friend, but when this board changes you know about it because it takes quite a little time to change.
Secondly, unlike Augusta, it's a leaderboard. The leader is at the top, and the great British public definitely like that. They understand it.
And thirdly, when I joined the R & A just the year before I joined it back in 1978, because this is my 30th coming up, we had, and there's a great photograph of it, when we had Jack Nicklaus with Doug Sanders, and we had to wait because Sanders was putting, and the scoreboard kids, because the kids operate these things, not anyone else, had N-i-c-k, then e-r-s at the end, and we had "Nickers" leading the Open Championship, I promise you, for about a minute and a half until Sanders had putted. Sorry, that wasn't '78, that was '70.
So that's where we are. I mean, you could say we haven't -- I tell you, it was 98 per cent said please don't change. It's the iconic yellow leaderboards that are synonymous with the Open Championship at any old footage you look at.
People also like listening to radio. It's not as if -- I should mention here, sales of our radio Open golf and people bring in Five Live and Talk Sport or whatever else they listen to, so it's not as if they can't get further information, and we're going to leave a little gap here so if people want to put in video screens they can do so in the future.
Anyway, they're all being manufactured locally for the local newspapers here, a company called Creative Services down in Liverpool who help us at all our Championships, and they've got a terrific job because these are not easy to manufacture.
On to the tented village to finish off with as far as the spectators are concerned, we're focusing in heavily to make it an even better spectator experience. Whilst the Open is certainly about the players and everything that they want, we've got to make sure that our regular customers are well looked after, and so we've got more public catering tents this year.
We're changing the exhibition just a little bit. The manufacturers seem to want to spend their money in slightly different ways. It costs them a lot of money to come to the Open Championship now, and so that tent this year, we've actually -- that aspect of it, you will not see at the Open this year because we've taken a step back and we're going to sort of review it all and revamp it next year, so we're not quite certain where we lie with manufacturers going forward.
But the merchandise tent and the old antique books and things like that will still be around.
Moving down to the media centre, I'll tell you what, this is your best venue. There's the 18th green, there's your quarters, and there's the media tent, in exactly the same place since 1998 with a different location, bigger and grander than it was in 1998.
Car parking, certainly all of you in this room should be allocated a car park pass on the hillside practise ground. So appreciate it because it's probably your best venue as far as all that is concerned (laughter).
One of the aspects of the golf I never thought I'd get involved with because I've always been a bit critical of it because I like to put grandstands and tents around the place, but nowadays I'm being encouraged to look at the natural environment. Here we are at Royal Birkdale, and we share it with two European protected species. I'm getting very knowledgeable about this.
I was absolutely furious the first time I came here because the left-hand side of the 7th green, there's a wonderful location for a public catering tent for the spectators. It's got all the space you would reasonably want, but Chris Whittle and Co said, no way, that's where the sand lizards live, and as at Hoylake, the natterjack toads.
Being serious for a moment, the management plan approved by Natural England for this golf course is absolutely fantastic. I have to take my hats off to them. And there will be a wildlife guide for spectators, so when they get a bit bored watching the golf or it's taking 5 hours and 10 minutes to play the final two-ball or something like that, they can go and look for natterjack toads and sand lizards and anything else.
But really, it's a fantastic management of this golf course, and really to be commended, even though the general public won't have quite as good public catering facilities on the course as I might have wished originally.
Finally, away from the Open, I'd just like to remind you of the Junior Open Championship. This is not a competition to find the best junior in the world; it's about the R & A reaching out and encouraging countries right across the world to send their boy and a girl to play over 54 holes. There will be a gold division, a silver division and a bronze division because we recognise that Mongolia and Samoa don't have scratch handicap players, so there will be three separate competitions.
They'll be held at Hesketh. We've had entries from over 60 countries across the world. They'll be held from the 14th to the 16th of July, one boy and one girl, and they'll have their competition. They'll come with at least two representatives of each country, and it's a great little championship, and I don't mean little in a belittling way, and I hope that you do find time to go out there. You'll be made very welcome. Duncan Weir and Alison White, known to some of you from within the R & A, will be running it. And then we'll bring all the kids here as our guests on Thursday and Friday to enjoy the Open Championship and to meet the players, where they reasonably can, on the practise ground.
That concludes what I'd like to say about the Open. As I'm sure Peter wishes and I wish, that the course stands up to be the great test of course, so I sincerely hope, as does everyone at the top table, that the spectators, all 200,000 of them, who undoubtedly will come given reasonable weather, have a very enjoyable experience. I'll now ask Michael Brown if any of you have any questions.
MICHAEL BROWN: Thank you, Pete, and David, for those comments, which I hope you find informative and helpful. Now we'll be happy to take questions. If you could, I'll try and be fair about this, and just give your name and ask your question. If you want to direct it to one person in particular it would be helpful to say so, but we reserve the right to delegate the answering.

Q. We played yesterday in our group, and we had a caddie who's a local player, single handicapper. He expressed the opinion during the round that Tiger Woods, as he did two years ago at Hoylake, could probably play around this course without ever taking the driver out of the bag, as well. Do you have any reaction?
PETER DAWSON: Well, he could. I don't think he'd get up in two at the 6th if it was into the wind or the 15th if he took an iron into the wind. Tiger's course management is certainly not for me to second-guess. He'll play the course on the day as he sees fit, and if he sees hitting the fairways as the way around, then that's what he'll no doubt do. But I don't think that this golf course you could accuse of being a short course or a course that intends to take the driver out of a player's hands; far from it.

Q. You don't intend the course to be as hard-running as Hoylake was? You don't know what the weather is going to be, of course.
PETER DAWSON: Sorry, I should have mentioned that when I was up there. We are looking for hard fast links conditions; we always do. We're in the lap of the gods as far as weather is concerned, obviously, and if we get a good dry period then we'll get the hard fast conditions with rough that's perhaps not as quite as juicy. If it rains a lot it won't be as hard and fast but the rough will be more severe. That's just the way it is every year.

Q. I'm just wondering, have you had any feedback from Tiger about the fact that the phone situation was so much improved last year?
DAVID HILL: Not from Tiger himself, no, but several players remarked when they came into recorders that it was good. It wasn't just phones, it was cameras, as well.
PETER DAWSON: Just to answer that further, I have had positive remarks from Tiger's manager about it although not directly from Tiger.

Q. We had a situation at The Masters this year where Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker took five hours to play in a two-ball in the final round. I believe that Adam Scott's group on Sunday was three hours for nine holes. Obviously slow play is the cancer on the game. How do we get players to move quicker around the golf course?
PETER DAWSON: I think we will certainly be aiming to do better than five hours and ten minutes. I think in recent times, particularly on the weekend, we've actually done quite well at the Open. Basic play has not really been an issue, and I'm quite confident that we can do an awful lot better than that.

Q. It's not an issue at the Open perhaps but it is an issue generally. It is getting abysmal. I'm wondering with the R & A as a governing body, how do we get them to get a move-on?
PETER DAWSON: We are concerned about this. We did see some very slow play at The Masters. That's not a criticism of the Augusta event, it just happened to happen. I wasn't aware of the Adam Scott group statistic. But we do have a meeting coming up in two or three weeks of the World Golf Foundation, where everyone around the table who runs professional golf will be there, and we have put the subject on the agenda, and we hope we will be able to get some meeting of the minds that it is a problem and start to work towards some improvement.
But as you say, it certainly needs something doing about it, not just for the running of these events but for the effect it has on grass-roots play. We do see people not unnaturally copying the stars, and I think it has had an effect on pace of play generally. We all know, don't we, that pace of play is one of the issues cited for participation, and the time that golf takes is an issue that's been cited for keeping participation levels down. It's clearly an issue right across the game, top to bottom, up and down the game, and I think it behooves all the governing bodies in golf to address it.
Just to put the facts on the Open, they were 3 hours, 45 minutes at Hoylake and 3 hours, 50 minutes at Carnoustie on the final day in two-balls. I think we should be mindful, there are quite long walks at this course between greens and tees, which obviously have to be taken into consideration, but we've certainly never gone beyond four hours on the last day to my knowledge. Having walking rules officials does help.

Q. When you say you're looking for a meeting of minds, what is the R & A's view on what can be done?
PETER DAWSON: I think at a professional level it's like drugs. It's a 52-week-a-year occupation, and I do think that ways need to be found to, one, educate players to encourage them, and as a last resort penalise them if they don't respond. We're not seeing any slow play penalties in the game, and that's the last thing we want to see is players being penalised, but unless there's a realistic threat of it, it's hard to see that this would improve.

Q. David or Peter, the exhibition tents are typically a part of any visit to the Open. How disappointed are people going to be this year to go and be no manufacturers there at all?
DAVID HILL: It's hard to say because we hadn't anticipated this one. We basically write to all the manufacturers. But it's been on the cards for about five or six cards. The cost for a manufacturer to come to the Open Championship is somewhere in the region of about テつ」80,000 to テつ」100,000 by the time they take staff out of the fields and all that sort of thing, and then they have the cost of manufacturing a stand, et cetera, et cetera. It's nothing to do with any small rental that they pay to us.
We really stood back this year and just said, okay, we understand the problem, and we'll review it for 2009?

Q. Do you think the fan will be disappointed?
DAVID HILL: Yeah, as part of the overall spectator experience, it has to be a slight negative, yes. But as I said, the merchandise tent and everything, the old antique books and everything like that will still be around but not the manufacturers.

Q. Two questions if I may just on mobile phones. What is the punishment for somebody smuggling it in? Is it ejection for the day, ejection for the week?
MICHAEL BROWN: Well, they don't get through hopefully. That is the first thing. But if they do, we would escort them back to the pay gates and take it off them, and if it became in any way a police issue the police would make a decision on that, but hopefully they would go back to the pay gates and deposit their mobile phone in the luggage units there.

Q. And also connected with spectators, what time will the course open in the morning? I ask because in the past we've had Tiger Woods practising before fans can get in and they've been disappointed with that. Has that been addressed?
PETER DAWSON: I can't answer directly without it in front of me as to when the pay gates actually open each day because they do vary from time to time, but it's approximate they open at about 7:00 o'clock on practise days, and they open as early as 5:45 or 6:00 o'clock on Championship days, but I might be off by 15 minutes.

Q. And on the practise days would you ask Tiger for cooperation on what time he sets out?
PETER DAWSON: (Laughing) it is a difficult one, this. I know why he does it and I know why the spectators are disappointed. If I was being honest, I wouldn't anticipate a big change in our past practise on this one.

Q. Just to follow up on it, isn't there an earliest time that players can go out for practise? What is the earliest time that they can go out? At my club you can't go out before 7:00 o'clock. What is it during the Championship?
PETER DAWSON: We have a practise sheet that I suspect starts at 6:30.
MICHAEL BROWN: Our pay gates open whatever the first practise time is. That's really the answer to your question.
The real issue, what we try and do, is liaise with the greens staff to see what can and can't be accommodated depending on their schedule for course preparation. Different courses do holes in different orders just for efficiency's sake.

Q. Going back to slow play, does the R & A have a policy similar to the European Tour's for penalising players for timing, and has that ever been enforced?
PETER DAWSON: We adopt for the Open Championship a pace of play policy and procedure, which if it's not identical to the European Tour, I think it's close. I think it's identical. So we have exactly the same procedures in place at the Open as you would have at any European Tour event, with the exception of, as I said earlier, we do have walking rules officials with each match, and we do have the facility to through those officials have a word with players rather more easily than six rovers could at a European Tour event.

Q. Has anyone ever been caught up by these rules?
PETER DAWSON: We've had plenty of people on the clock during an Open Championship, but to my knowledge I'm not aware of any stroke penalties or fines at the Open in recent years.

Q. On the drug testing issue, how dissatisfied are you that that's not been brought in this time for this, and have you had any response from WADA to that?
PETER DAWSON: I'm not dissatisfied at all that the game of golf is embracing anti-doping and it's moving forward. It's moving forward in a quite rightly measured way, and it's just a matter of timing as to when the Open falls, compared to when the Tours are starting up. I think if the Open Championship was in October, we'd probably be drug testing this year, for example, but we'll leave it until next because we can't be sure that everything is going to be in place.

Q. Peter, on the same point, I understand what you say about a certain number of qualifiers from outside the European and U.S. Tours, but a very small number. Wasn't this a chance for the R & A to take the lead here by introducing it at Birkdale?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think we have actually a pretty good record at taking the lead in drug testing. We certainly were the major proponent of it in discussion with the professional game, and I think it's because we had the point firmly on the agenda that we made a big contribution to the whole thing starting. We were also instrumental in introducing drug testing at the World Amateur Team Championships in South Africa two years ago, and so I think our record in this area stands scrutiny.
What we can't do, I think, is have an anti-doping policy in place for one week a year because this is, as I've said before, a 52-week-a-year operation, with which we will fall into line.

Q. I think this is the third year when females can enter. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think any have entered. Have you ever had any feedback of why they're not bothering? We made a big hoo-ha about it, but have you had any feedback on why the indifference from them?
PETER DAWSON: I've had no particular feedback. I think that the dates are difficult for them. It's quite close after the U.S. Women's Open, but we did move the qualifying dates back a couple of days to accommodate that. I just think that most of the women players feel they should be playing in the women's Tour, obviously. That's all I can put it down to. I've had no specific feedback.

Q. I just want to return to the slow play issue. I just wonder, what is it that the pros do that the amateurs pick up on the most? You talked about the effects at the grass-roots level.
PETER DAWSON: Well, if I can just reverse that for a minute, there is an issue in amateur golf where the top amateurs that are moving through to the pro game are quite slow. Anecdotally one hears that this is because college coaches encourage pretty elaborate pre-shot routine, as do national coaches in Europe. Quite often the amateurs that are moving across to the pro game are having to speed up to play professional golf. So the amateur game has a piece of the blame here, I think, at elite amateur level.
I think what we see is a combination from grass-roots golfers of perhaps not being pace of play aware. We all know about the people who put the trolley on the wrong side of the green and go over and back and mark their scorecard before the leave the green and so on. But also I think there's an element of copying this pre-shot routine and pacing around the greens to line up putts and so on that spreads downwards into the game. And it's certainly true that what used to be a morning occupation now feeds into lunchtime quite a bit. So it has slowed up.

Q. In this meeting of minds that will take place in a few weeks, are we guaranteed that something will come out of this? There was a meeting of minds a few years ago at St. Andrews on slow play, and I don't think anything concrete came out of it.
PETER DAWSON: I can't guarantee anything. The subject is on the agenda. We'll see what happens.

Q. Going back to the course and the way it's laid out, can you talk about the cuts of rough, semi, et cetera, run-off areas, and whether you'll be bringing the fairways in a bit between now and then?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we won't be bringing the fairways in a bit. Everything is defined as you see it. We'll be using the summer cut heights here for Championship play, which I think from memory, 1/8 or thereabouts on the greens, 1/4 on the surrounds, 7/16 on the fairways, and about 1-1/4 moving up to 3 as you go into the rough.
What we're not looking for here is this is a links golf course; we're not looking for a regularised appearance in that sense. But those are the approximate heights we'll be using. And we'll be looking to get our normal 10 and a half feet stimpmetre reading on the greens. We don't like to go much higher than that in case there's a big wind.

Q. This wasn't the question I was going to ask, but further to Graham's question, is there an average width of the fairways?
PETER DAWSON: By definition, yes. Do I know what it is, no (laughter). There's not a figure -- we don't come to golf courses looking for average widths. The fairways are the distance between the bunkers, and that's it.

Q. One of the points I was trying to make with my question is with the doglegs, where obviously driving position is at a premium, the bad shot, will it run through and really penalise, or will it stop before it really gets to the deep stuff? What would you like to see?
PETER DAWSON: I don't like to see a ball that runs into the rough run right through into the very deep stuff. I think a ball can legitimately bounce into that, but one would think the first cut would stop a rolling ball, if you like, before it got to the deep stuff.

Q. The question I was going to ask, which I am going to ask, have you made as many changes to Open courses, to other Open courses, as you have to this one? You described 16 of the 18, which seems to me to be quite a lot.
PETER DAWSON: Well, it is, of course. Many of the changes, if you do it as a whole count, are quite minor. A number are more significant.
We've been going through a programme at all our Open venues by agreement with the clubs and the hosts of some quite significant changes. You're going to see a good deal at Turnberry next year, and you'll probably see quite a few at Livermore in 2012. Royal St. Georges we have, as well, but this is among the more significant in terms of quantum.

Q. If it transpired this year that the course really wasn't long enough, is there scope for extending this course further, length-wise?
PETER DAWSON: I think the answer to that is not much, isn't it? And believe me, it's long enough.

Q. The changes around the greens where you've done the bunkering, in the last ten years there's been a movement to put hole locations closer to the edges of greens. Can you talk about how that philosophy works into the changes that you've made to the bunkering around the greens in order to achieve hole locations that are closer to either a drop-off or an area where a player could get into trouble?
PETER DAWSON: Yes, I think we do -- in our mind when setting bunker positions and run-off positions have pin positioning and hole locations in mind, clearly. There is a trend in the modern game to have made -- I think it's not an increasing trend; I think it's one that's with us, to have made hole locations more severe, given the increased player capability today.
Our hole location philosophy is very wind dependent and very dependent on how hard and fast the ground is running. We're not going to put silly pins if the ground is firm and we're coming in downwind and so on, just for the sake of being four yards or three yards from the edge. And we have a number of pin positions in mind for every green, depending on what conditions prevail. Some years you could quite easily see pins at the Open in what might appear in calm conditions to be benign locations but which in a wind might prove not to be.
MICHAEL BROWN: Ladies and gentlemen, if there are no more questions, thank you for your attendance, and we'll look forward to seeing you again in July. Thank you.

End of FastScripts




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