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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 21, 2009
MICHAEL BROWN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to our spring press conference. I hope those of you who were fortunate enough to get a game of golf yesterday did enjoy that, and you'll be thankful that you are not having one again today. Just for completeness' sake, I will introduce the platform. My name is Michael Brown, and I'm the chairman of the R&A Championship Committee. The gentleman to my left is Peter Dawson, the chief executive, and also I'm sure you all know the gentleman on my right, David Hill, our director of championships. He may be the only person here who has actually organized the last two Turnberry Opens. I almost said three but not quite.
Welcome. We are delighted and excited to be back at Turnberry for the Open this year, and very much look forward to the event in July. 1994 was our last visit here for about 15 years, and since we were last here, and we'd just like to record our acknowledgement of the work amongst others who assisted in the construction project at Murdoch Sloan to help keep traffic flows along, and we're grateful to them for that.
There have been some course changes in recent years, and Peter is going to deal with those amongst other things in a presentation shortly.
Last year we held the Amateur Championship here, as you well know. It was a successful event. Last year the course was as it is now, and no changes of any significance in the intervening year. During the championship last year we had the wind blowing from every point of the compass, and that was a very interesting experience, but it did prove very useful from our point of view, and I think we're well satisfied that on a day like today this is a serious test of golf.
Turnberry has a wonderful history as a championship venue. The Opens, of course, were '77, '86 and '94. There have also been four Amateurs in the last 50 years and six Seniors in recent years, and all these events on all these occasions have been well received by the players, and we're certainly confident that they will appreciate the course as presented to them this summer.
There are a couple of interesting fact sheets in your bags about Open Champions that have never played in competition at Turnberry, and also some of the slightly younger leading contenders nowadays who played in the amateur in 1996.
PETER DAWSON: Thank you, Michael, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being with us. As Michael said, we're delighted to be coming back here to the Open Championship to Turnberry on the 16th through 19th of July. It's the 138th Championship, and Turnberry in my opinion is -- well, I'm going to say it, I think it's the most scenically attractive golf course I know anywhere in the world, and we're very excited to be coming back.
I'd just like to acknowledge the great help and assistance we've had in the planning and starting stages of this championship, from Turnberry Golf Club, Leisurecorp, the new owners of the facility, and Starwood, who have the management contract here. We couldn't have had better people to work with.
I'd just like to cover a few points, and then I'll hand over to David Hill for some further issues to cover. First of all, the entry for this year's championship is going along at its normal pace. There's no indication whatsoever that the entry this year will be significantly different, either in total or in quality from previous years, and we've already had three of our international final qualifying events, one in South Africa, one in Australia, and one in Singapore, and we have had some good qualifiers come through from those events.
Prize money is a subject that we had quite a bit of interest in this year obviously with the change in exchange rates. We have not yet made a determination about the level of prize money for this year's Open. There's nothing new in that. We have left it closer to the event in recent years, and we'll be doing that again so we can make a determination about the level of prize money according to the latest economic statistics, and we'll be announcing that in due course.
One other point before I go on to course changes, which is anti-doping. We will, as we stated last year, be conducting drug testing at this year's Open Championship. This is very much to be seen, if you like, as another week on Tour. We'll be using the European Tour anti-doping policies and procedures at the Open, which are now well tried and tested on Tour, and the players on the European Tour and certainly the players on the PGA Tour in America are now well accustomed to the drug testing.
As you know, the R & A thoroughly supports the introduction of the anti-doping policy in golf, and we're demonstrating that this year at the Open Championship.
If I can just move on now to course changes, as you know, we've been in the practise of updating and upgrading the Open venues as we move along. Today's professionals are bigger, stronger, fitter, have more technology at their command, and it's very important that we keep our great links courses relevant to the modern day professional. We've been doing that at every Open venue. There are only two more to be looked at, at Muirfield and at Troon. But Turnberry has had some considerable number of changes since the 1994 Open Championship. I'd just like to run through those with you now.
You do have for the first time in your press packs this book which details all the changes, so no need to make notes. Everything I'm going to say is in this booklet, which thoroughly explains hole by hole exactly what has happened, and we've been assisted in this task by Martin Ebert, the golf course architect from MacKenzie & Ebert, who has helped us at a number of other Open venues, as well.
So here we go. Course upgrades for the 2009 Open Championship, and there's a magnificent aerial shot of Turnberry with the lighthouse showing what a wonderful piece of links land we're dealing with, and there's another similar shot along the beach. Magnificent golfing terrain and a pleasure to work with.
I should have acknowledged earlier on, by the way, all the help and assistance we've had from George Brown and his team, both in the reconstruction work and in the general conditioning of the course. I see George back there. I can't thank you enough, George.
There's an aerial shot of the course layout in which you'll see that it is not a straight-out-and-straight-back golf course. The holes go in many different directions, so as the wind blows, the players are tested from every angle.
The 1st hole, short par-4, what we've done here is added two new bunkers on the left-hand side down near the green, which gives a little more challenge to those opting to try to drive the green, which can be done in certain conditions, and there's some shots of the array of bunkers up the left-hand side of the 1st.
The 2nd hole, very little change here except some tightening of the bunkers around the green. Tough par-4 when the wind is against.
The 3rd hole we've made some significant moves. There's a new back tee and two new bunkers, in the drive zone and the bunker that used to be to the left of the green has been turned into a hollow, which will be cut down short. So this hole is 27 yards longer than it was for the last Open Championship, and it's a formidable par-4 at 489 yards.
The great 4th hole, the par-3 down by the sea, absolutely no need to change that. It's one of the world's great par-3s.
But at the 5th we're using a new back tee, which has existed in the past, but we haven't used it at past Open Championships, and we've tightened up the drive with two new bunkers on the right. The hole is 33 yards longer than at the last Open.
The long par-3, 6th, absolutely no change there. It's a considerable challenge, and we will be using the top tee, i.e., the one nearest the sea, at this hole.
The par-5 7th, the tee has been extended backwards slightly, but very significantly the big crater on the left here has been cut further into the fairway, and a runoff area has been created back into a crater at the back left of the green, so the second shot is much more challenging than it's been in the past.
The 8th hole, we have a new back tee and new bunkers on the right in the drive zone and some shaping and hollow creating around the greens. The hole is 24 yards longer than it was in 1994.
No change to the 9th. Spectacular tee position out on the rocks there and a very tough par-4 in many winds.
The 10th hole, which we played yesterday from the new tee, spectacular new tee, has changed significantly, and it's perhaps best to put that in plan view here. The old line was from the tee up here straight down the fairway and the new tee is way over to the left requiring a tee shot over the rocks and over the sea and over the beach, and there are through new bunkers in this fairway area to challenge the tee shot.
Strategically, the depending on wind, players can take on these bunkers down the left-hand side or they can lay up on the right, in which case they've got to be careful about the right-hand bunker, as well. So as well as a spectacular hole, it's also a thinking man's or woman's hole, as well.
The 11th hole, par-3 again, we've made very few changes to the par-3s. This one we've just tightened the bunkers in around the green very slightly.
12th, a strong par-4, there's a new bunker over 300 yards on the right in the drive zone, a bit more challenge from the tee.
And the 13th, we have put -- you remember there's a very awkward ridge here that into the wind is quite a hazard. We put another one further on and down the left, so it's a much more challenging tee shot than it was last time we were here.
Hole 14, new bunkers on the right and humps and hollows on the left for the drive, and we're moving the tee over to a tee on the entire course, mainly because you do get a better view there of the bunkers on the right there. They're not very easy to see from the old tee. So the hole has become a slight dogleg to the left, and again, a more challenging drive.
15, for my money one of the very best par-3s in the world, absolutely no change. It's a tremendous golf hole.
16, here there's been a very significant change indeed. The old 16th used to run straight from the tee area right down to the green, and this is the old 16th fairway here. What we've done is we've realigned by moving the fairway to the left. The hole is now a dogleg from left to right. That makes the second shot -- the burn on the second shot, as well as a hazard you have to cross, more lateral than it was from the old 16th fairway, and a crosswind to a right pin position will be a very significant challenge. This bunker here, the bunker that was on the left of the old 16th fairway is now on the right of the new one, and the only change since the Amateur Championship that Michael referred to is that new bunker that has been put in on the left of 16 that in downwind conditions will come into play. We're very pleased with the way the 16th has turned out.
But it has also allowed the 17th hole, the par-5, for the tee to be extended backwards, which wasn't possible when the old 16th fairway was in play. The waste areas, the covered areas on the right, they've been there forever, and I think the hole has matured extremely well.
Hole 17, as I said before, the tees have been moved back, now a 559-yard par-5. We've lowered the sight line here at the carry area and we've extended the fairway back slightly. There's one thing we did learn at the Amateur Championship; in a howling gale against, it was a fairly difficult fairway to reach, just over 200 yards, and we don't want a repeat of one or two of the things we had to do at Birkdale, but we do have a more forward tee there that we can use in the case of very extreme winds against.
There are two new approach bunkers here on 17, which has made the second shot more demanding, as well as a new bunker front left of the green. So we've got a much more challenging par-5 there.
Lastly, the 18th hole, still playing it from the left-hand tee. There is a new back tee that we've brought into play. There's a bunker cluster on the left and the drive there has been augmented by one new one, and there are two new bunkers which shouldn't be in play for the top professionals but have improved the appearance of the hole considerably.
Overall we've got an increase in yardage from 6,957 as it played at the last Open up to 7,204, medium length for major championship golf courses. We're entirely happy. A very stiff par-70, which is 247 yards longer than at the last Open, and as I always do, that's a little bit 3 per cent, it's 103 yards instead of 100. It's not exactly revolutionary. But we think the golf course will be a great test for the players this year, and we look forward to seeing what they make of it.
I think that's all I have to say on course alterations, and I'm going to hand it over to David Hill, who's got some much more interesting stuff for you.
DAVID HILL: Thank you, Peter. I have certain matters I'd like to cover, one that has been written about already by several of you in the press. It's a question of the hotel. I'm very pleased to have David Spencer, chief executive of Leisurecorp, with us today, and Stewart Selbie, the general manager.
Basically we're quite satisfied that the preparations for the hotel for the Open Championship are on schedule and the hotel will be ready to serve at its headquarters accommodations for all competitors. It will be primarily competitors staying there.
A major priority of the refurbishment has been replacing the existing windows on the sea facing elevation to make the building weather-tight. The scaffolding, the removal of scaffold has already begun, and we anticipate that by late May these works will be completed.
Works over the past few months have seen the hotel stripped back to basics, literally, and the focus of the coming months will be on the reinstatement of the infrastructure, the partitioning and the reconfiguration of public areas. It really will be quite a grand place.
Peter, Michael and I are in constant touch with Leisurecorp, and our staff at the site have assured us the hotel will be ready on time. If you have any further questions on this, David and Peter will be happy to take them.
15 years is a long time for the Open Championship, and it even amazed me the work we had to do on the infrastructure in preparation for this year's event. We put in completely new drainage, watering systems, revamped all the car parking areas, completely rethinking the layouts. In other words, pretty well everything that happened from 1994 was of no usage whatsoever.
There's been a major investment by the R&A in the ground works to keep the Championship in good stead for any return.
I guess one of the most important things you would like to know about is where is the press centre and where is the car park. Enjoy it because next year it could be completely different. The car parking arrangements are on the runways close to the far side of the road, and the significance of the blue and yellow in the top right-hand corner is all new car parking from previous Open Championships here.
Now, the benefit of that is that the traffic will be split. As you come through the final roundabout, there is a turn on the right-hand side, and the traffic will be split there, so roughly 50 per cent will park up in the field behind. The great advantage is that not so many cars will have to go through neighborhoods. We're as confident as we can be that traffic will flow pretty easy in and out on the championship dates.
We will renew the contract with Lexus, complete with 67 courtesy cars, which will help the players who are not staying at the Turnberry Hotel. They will be all RX 450 hybrids in an age when we are very conscious of being green.
We are conscious that with the success of golf in Ireland that we anticipate a lot of spectators come across from Ireland to watch Padraig, Rory, et cetera, and we've set up special arrangements with E&O and Telelink to have coaches arranged to have the patrons taken directly to the course.
One of the great advantages here of coaches is that the coach parking here is really a very good way to come to the championship.
If you don't want to come that way, there is a rail link. At Scotrail we do service to all Open Championship venues in Scotland. Wherever you stay in Scotland, you should be able to get to a connecting train.
Any people who will come in by air, of course we have the advantage of Prestwick Airport which is only a 30-minute drive from the course.
Coaches: We've taken the initiative and we will be writing to all golf clubs in Scotland encouraging golf clubs as a club to come to the Open Championship, to bring the juniors, the ladies, as well, and let's make a day of it, and the R & A will pay Â£250 towards the cost of the coach, and Turnberry will ask them to bring 30 golfers to the championship. So in other words, in a slight period of recession, maybe more than that one could argue, we're trying to reach out to the golf clubs to get them to work as a group. If they want to bring six coaches, that's fine. So we'll be contacting them later this year with final details.
That leads on to an area that I'm responsible for, which is spectator facilities. We're pretty upbeat. We all know that this is not a venue that attracted 200,000 people. We had 115,000 people here in 1994, and we're sitting here despite this recession confident that there is huge interest in this championship and we should at least get to the number from 1994. Padraig is going for three in a row, and Tiger not having played last year on his return to Turnberry is of course of major interest to a lot of spectators.
As far as grandstands are concerned, we will have a grandstand at every single hole with the exception of the 2nd, 6th and 13th. This is a great spectator venue. We have not skimped on grandstands at all. They hold 15,000 people, and they will begin stalling those on the 14th of May.
We're also introducing for the first time for spectators a cinema. We do get a lot of comments about it's a long day. For your money of Â£55 you can be here from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00, 8:00 at night. We recognise for some people that's a long day, so we're treating them to a cinema this year as part of the main tent, and people can watch previous championships here at Turnberry, prior Open Championships and maybe some other things, as well.
In addition we're having two added facilities where spectators can enjoy putting just to encourage people to come here and practise. We will also be carrying out other certain activities that day. So that's really it. It's not really a new story. This is a fantastic venue. It's one of the great venues on the Open Championship rotation.
That's all I really have to say.
Q. David, you didn't touch on corporate hospitality. We had a story in the past week about the U.S. Open not selling all their units. How are we for the Open in terms of what you would expect?
DAVID HILL: We're probably about 15 to 20 per cent down in light of all UK sporting events. But yeah, everyone has suffered from that.
Personally I'm not really concerned. It reflects the world that we're currently in.
Q. Can I just follow up that question? RBS' sponsorships of major sporting events are cutting back by 90 per cent by the end of next year and I'm told we can expect a much reduced allocation, sponsorship from this year's Open. Do you have any reassurances going forward that RBS will remain a partner?
DAVID HILL: Well, one of my colleagues has had meetings with RBS, and I think it's accurate to say that they have reduced corporate hospitality at the Open Championship. We have a contract with them through 2010, and going forward they see golf as an important part of their sponsorship programme. We are certainly with them in every shape and form through 2010, including 2010.
PETER DAWSON: Could I add to that in that the R & A have had a relationship with Royal Bank going back over 150 years. They have been supporters of The Open Championship for a long, long time. It's not one of the newer sponsorships. And I know that RBS are going to continue in sports sponsorship in years forward. We very much hope the Open remains part of that.
I think brand promotion is still something that banks and other institutions have to be involved in. We still feel that golf is a very viable proposition for brand promotion vehicles for companies and institutions. I hope the pendulum stops swinging and the company will continue to see the Open Championship as a good value for the money, as I believe it is.
Q. Given the recession you referred to there, do you feel some pressure to at least freeze prize money this year?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we have a duty at the Open Championship to maintain the event at the forefront of world golf, and prize money is a part of that equation. That doesn't mean to say you have to be top of the prize money heap every year. The Open has been the most lucrative in dollar terms of all the four majors for quite some years now. But this year the dollar having swung back from roughly 2 to 1 now to below 1.50 to 1, that's probably going to be a position that's going to be tough for us to maintain this year.
We see, I think, The Masters tournament left prize money alone. There was no increase. And we'll have to see what our championship decides in due course, but we're aware the pressure is on us to make a decision.
Q. David touched on giving support to clubs and the Â£250 payment to help people take a bus. Are there any other areas this year given that we are in this recession that are popular in terms of making things affordable?
DAVID HILL: Well, we will be looking at the next championship committee at catering prices. The committee are very aware of the current economic condition. We have a very loyal base of spectators that come to the event every year, and we certainly don't want to have, say, spectators who come to the championship who feel they haven't had reasonable value for the money. But I would stress that the Â£55 charge is, when you compare other major sporting events, fantastic. You are seeing the top players in the world. As matched against other sporting events, we are on the lower side.
There will be catering vouchers. The price of Â£55 has set VAT at 17 per cent, so we will be handing out catering vouchers for every spectator that comes to the championship.
PETER DAWSON: In other words, we are not profiting from the VAT reduction, we are giving that back.
Q. It was suggested in the news pages of at least one newspaper that Royal Troon had been put on standby some time ago. Was that ever a scenario that was discussed by the R&A?
PETER DAWSON: Absolutely never. Media hype.
Q. Could I ask Peter, you referred to altering the courses to bring them up to modern standards, two more courses, Troon and Muirfield. Is this the end do you feel of stretching Open Championship courses, that they've gone as far as they're going to?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I'd like to say first of all that the accent of what we've done at the courses haven't concentrated so much on stretching them, it's tightening them up a bit, but increases in length have been part of it. The R&A and the USGA are committed to doing something to rein back technology if hitting distances at the professional level start to increase again. But hitting distances at the professional level have been on a plateau now since 2002, 2003. There have been no increases, and there have also been no advances in technology in that period which have allowed the golf ball to be hit further. So we are happy that the line in the sand that we drew has, if you like a mixed metaphor, surrounded the problem. If that proves to be incorrect, we are committed to doing something about it.
So the logic is if we are right and the line in the sand has worked, there will be no need to have another go around these golf courses. If that need does come, it will be by reining something back rather than stretching courses.
Q. Have you felt the need to put a contingency plan in place in case the hotel is not ready?
DAVID HILL: We're satisfied that the hotel will be ready. Obviously otherwise we would have a contingency, but we have not discussed that in detail. We're very confident, otherwise I wouldn't make that statement.
Q. Apropos of that, in Augusta a couple weeks ago there were rumors not so much that the hotel wouldn't be ready, you have said it would be ready, but the suggestion was whether the apartments would be ready. Are you able to assure us that every room of the hotel will be ready? And secondly, how many rooms are there?
DAVID HILL: I think some of the misconception that might have come early on is that not every single room is being refurbished in time for this Open Championship. There is a secondary phase which is taking place next winter to refurbish all the other rooms. There are approximately, I think I'm right in saying, correct me if I'm wrong, David, about 40 rooms in which no change will take place. Have I got that correct, David?
DAVID SPENCER: In the first phase that will be completed for the Open, there will be 181 rooms ready out of a total of 209, and all the public places will be ready.
The second phase of refurbishing the balance of the rooms and the balance of the public places will take place next winter. This has always been a two-stage process. So the key for us at the 2009 Open Championship is to have the public places ready and a minimum of 181 rooms ready so it can be the host facility for the R&A.
Q. You made a crack about slow play, Peter, and I'm wondering, looking ahead a bit, how sustainable St. Andrews is as an Open venue these days, given that recent championships have been taking six hours to get around there?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I wouldn't want to give the impression that six hours is the average round time at St. Andrews. I don't think we got to that actually at the last Open. There have been other events where it has happened.
St. Andrews is a difficult venue for pace of play because of double greens, double fairways and so on. To directly answer your question, yes, St. Andrews continues to be a sustainable venue for the Open because it's so popular with the players and the spectators. It's a great Open venue. Trying to improve pace of play, however, is a challenge, and it is, I think, always going to be a problem there compared with other venues where we don't have this double fairway, double green situation. But in direct answer to your question, it's a very sustainable venue.
Q. On the subject of slow play, you promised us last year that you were going to do something about slow play. Whatever became of that?
PETER DAWSON: Well, it remains a work in progress to the extent we have now got the subcommittee of that group under the World Golf Foundation has prepared some early draft papers on the subject which are currently under consideration. But I've got nothing by name at this point.
Q. You mentioned anti-doping at the Open Championship, which we knew was coming, but do you think that plays well into the ongoing campaign for the Olympics?
PETER DAWSON: Well, one of the deficiencies of the game of golf in Olympic eyes a few years ago was the lack of credible anti-doping programmes. The situation today is that the International Golf Federation, which is the body that the IOC recognises as representing the game of golf, has a wider compliance anti-doping policy, which has been approved by WADA for the 2009 anti-doping regulations. So we have that in place.
We also have the main Tours and now moving into the other Tours starting up drug testing. So the game of golf has moved, if you like, from being a problem child in the IOC's eyes into a sport that's actually getting ahead of the game in terms of compliance.
Yes, it is timely for the Olympic bid standpoint, that's for sure, and it's good to see.
I think it's going extremely well. Golf has a terrific case to put to the IOC and we're putting it as strongly as we can. I'm sure the other sports we're competing with are doing the same thing, but it's heartening to hear at SportAccord in Denver the other week that the executive board of the IOC are going to make a recommendation as to which two sports will join the Olympic programme to the full session in Copenhagen in October, rather than just leaving it as a vote between seven sports. So the main name of the game now is to make sure that golf is one of the two sports that gets that recommendation from the executive board of the IOC and the IOC executive board will be taking that decision in August.
We did have IOC representatives at the Masters Tournament. As part of a report they had to write, they had to go to a major golf tournament, so they went to the Masters, and I think they were pretty impressed by what the sport of golf has to offer.
Q. Just on the anti-doping point, will golf's top players have to sign up to -- since it's causing so many problems in football by the top players, that players will have to say where they are 365 days a year?
PETER DAWSON: Yes, they are, under the IGF policy in due course. At the moment, the Tour players, of course, we know where they are pretty much all the time because of the way the tournament schedules run, and drug testing early in the week of an event is part of the competition, so it's much lesser a problem in golf than it is in sports where the players come together only every now and again.
But golf has been conducting out-of-competition testing over the last year.
Q. (No microphone.)
PETER DAWSON: I think that's something the IOC would have to tell you. I don't think that's something I should do. It's up to them if they want to make it public. It's not up to me. But one was a staff man and one was a member of the programme. They weren't full IOC members. Eventually, by the way, the reports that they do on golf will be available on the IOC website.
Q. Still on drug testing, has there been testing at the qualifying competitions so far? How many, and have you had all the results?
PETER DAWSON: There has not been testing at our qualifying events, no.
One of the things about anti-doping is you don't really want to say when you're going to be testing, because that really makes it a bit of a joke, doesn't it? We're naturally testing at the Open, we know, because there's a lot of interest in that, but it's a little silly to say you're going to be tested next Friday at 3:00 p.m. because it makes a bit of a mockery of it.
Q. You said there's been some out-of-competition testing. Do you know if any player in the top 100 in the world has been tested out of competition? And if so, who?
PETER DAWSON: I do know the answer to that, and I know the answer to that is yes, but I'm certainly not going to give names, because one doesn't do that in drug testing. But I can say as far as I know there have been no problems in drug testing in the game.
Q. Do you foresee any drug testing at the amateur championship in the future?
PETER DAWSON: I think the International Golf Federation which governs amateurs as well as golf's Olympic bid has to do whatever is necessary to keep the anti-doping policy wide in compliance, so I do think there will be some testing in amateur events hopefully this year. But we may well be looking at using the world amateur rankings as a means of deciding what the testing of athletes should be.
Q. To corporate hospitality, in this brochure it talks about a new experience for hospitality, packages starting at Â£322 per person. Has that been drastically reduced because of the situation?
DAVID HILL: I think it's fair to say that the premium price of the corporate hospitality package has not been taken up. Those at a lower price are still pretty acceptable to those who want entertainment at the Open Championship.
The trouble we had, we had to set these prices a year out, and then once a company has paid that price it's unrealistic to offer discounts to other companies. We're quite relaxed about it.
Q. Are you quite happy with the transport system in getting people in and out of here. Is it reasonable (inaudible)?
DAVID HILL: I'd like to think so, but we always take a review of the situation. This is a fantastic venue. It does have lower attendance because of its location than some of the other venues, but I think the committee would like to take a 10-, 12-year view, and by the time we go back to St. Andrews (inaudible).
The other reason we weren't back here sooner was because of Murdoch Sloan. We should have been here in 2004.
Q. A question on qualifying. There's always a lot of disquiet at this stage in European qualifying amongst the European Tour players. Have the R&A perhaps looked at that? On the PGA Tour you get accepted into the Masters. Is the R&A giving more consideration to perhaps European Tour winners?
PETER DAWSON: Well, with regard to the European Tour qualifying date, the calendar is very busy always. I think the European Tour's organisation and the vast majority of the European Tour players are very appreciative of the opportunity that the qualifying event gives them to get into the championship. Finding the most appropriate date is something we work on with the Tour every year, and we come to an agreement about which is most sensible and which is most convenient for the players with regards to date and location. We do our absolute best to make it as comfortable as possible. But it is a qualifying event. People may have to put themselves out a little bit if they want to play in the Open. I don't see too much wrong with that.
The second part of the question about qualifying for the Open with regards to Tour winners, you're seeing us move this time to the qualifiers for the TOUR Championship in the United States and the Top 30 in the European Tour for the merit. I think we've given much more recognition, if you like, to performance on Tour than perhaps the old system did, slightly extending the number of qualifying spots, so I think we've risen to that occasion.
Q. If Turnberry was to host a European Tour event on an annual basis, would that have any impact on its position in an Open rota?
DAVID HILL: I think the view we would have is that we would be very happy for a European Tour event to come here from time to time. I think if a European Tour event would come here every year, then that's quite a lot of golf. You may throw back at me the Dunhill, and the Dunhill comes at the very end of the season and doesn't really interrupt the time at St. Andrews.
It's one that we obviously have discussed carefully, and if that was something they on the European Tour wanted to do....
PETER DAWSON: And I suppose being entirely honest on that, as well, we'd like to think the Open Championship venues are special and not used as routinely as others, but we also recognise the realities of commercial life, and that's something, as David says, to be discussed.
Q. On that general point how concerned are you that the downturn could impact on your ability to disburse to the game, and is the R&A looking to cut back on what it spends because of the way the wind is blowing?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the business model that we have is within the confines of The Open Championship have it as commercially successful as we can, and use the profits from the Open to finance our amateur events, to finance our government role, which costs us between Â£3 and Â£4 million every year, and also to have money to support golf development projects around the world, and also to put a little bit away every year for a rainy day in the future.
Obviously the economic situation impacts on the amount of money that the Open Championship can generate. With the forward contract position we have on television and some of our corporate supporters, the impact is considerably cushioned from the recession, at least in the early years, depending on how long this goes on. So our ability to support golf development around the world will continue, and if it has to be at the expense of anything, it will be at the expense of putting money away for a rainy day, which by the way is the smallest part of where the money goes.
What we've been trying to do is build our reserves up so we can finance our government's role in the game against the very unlikely event in the future if the Open Championship became less popular, so therefore there's a level of reserves that at some point there would be no point of adding to them at all.
Q. Just how much money will being an Olympic sport bring in then?
PETER DAWSON: Well, if golf does become an Olympic sport, then golf will receive money in a number of ways, I think. Firstly, the International Golf Federation itself will get some share of the commercial success of the Olympics and be able to use that to promote the game of golf.
National Olympic committees also get money from the Olympic movement and can choose to give that money to support sports in their own country, a particular Olympic sport.
And lastly, there are many countries in the world where government funding is only available or is available in much higher amounts for Olympic sports, and it's that last area, I think, particularly in Asia and parts of Europe, where golf will benefit financially very considerably if golf gets in the Olympics.
One of the reasons we're doing this is the overwhelming support that the national golf associations round the world gave golf in the Olympics. We got about a 98 per cent support on a poll conducted two and a half years ago, which has spurred us on. I can't give you amounts, because it's indeterminate.
Q. On the subject of financial necessity, the BBC's contract runs out in 2011, I believe. Do you categorically rule out that the Open might be shown on satellite TV?
PETER DAWSON: The answer to that is no, we can't categorically rule it out. But as you know, the investigation into listed events and so on is going on right at the moment. Will the Open Championship be an event that has to be shown on television, that's going on right now. We have a huge record that's now approaching 55 years of The Open Championship being shown on BBC uninterrupted, so I think the R&A will demonstrate its willingness to show the championship, but we would always have the right of having the flexibility of doing what's right for our sport, and if for any reason that became satellite, then we'd consider it. But I can't see that situation arising in the near meetings. I wouldn't rule it out, and I think the sports rightsholders have that flexibility.
THE MODERATOR: If we're all done, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance, and we look forward to seeing you in July. Thank you.
End of FastScripts