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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
April 23, 2012
THE MODERATOR:¬† Let me first of all tell you who's here.¬† You'll all know anyway, but just to go through it formally.¬† On my extreme left, Johnnie Cole‑Hamilton who luxuriates in the title now of executive director of championships, which in simple terms, in our terms anyway, means that Johnnie Cole‑Hamilton is now doing the job that David Hill used to do.
Then of course we have Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A; and on my nearest left, Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee.
The idea, as Malcolm said, is that we should chat up here but also you chat, also.¬† If you want to jump in at any time, either to ask a specific question or just to make your own comment on what's being said up here, it's up to you, please, please do it.¬† Just do it, don't wait to be politely asked necessarily.
First of all, just to get us going, I'd like Jim to say a few words.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Just a few words of welcome.¬† Morning, all.¬† Thanks for coming along this morning.¬† I just want to say we're absolutely delighted to be back here at Royal Lytham & St.Anne's for the 11th time for the 141st playing of the championship.¬† Royal Lytham has always been a very difficult but fair test of golf.¬† I think the previous champions worked hard here at Royal Lytham.¬† Bobby Jones was the first champion in 1926; Bobby Locke; Peter Thomson; Seve Ballesteros twice; and of course who can forget Tony Jacklin's great win in 1969.
I'd just like at this stage to thank the club for once again hosting the championship, and I'd like to hope that we can work together to record and promote and analyse the championship.
We're beginning a buildup now right through to July.¬† We think we've had a good start with Bubba Watson winning the Masters, Rory McIlroy obviously I think becoming No.1 in that, so we feel we've got a really good championship lined up here, and we'll hope that you'll enjoy it and help us to promote the championship to as wide as audience as possible around the world.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Thanks, Jim.¬† Just to get us kicked off as it were, if that's the right appropriate description of what we're doing this morning, the R&A, we're 11 years or thereabouts since The Open was held here, and naturally there have to be a few tweaks.¬† Before we talk about that, I think that's a short film to actually show what has occurred.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Peter, in the sort of litany of changes, radical changes and tweaks that you guys have made to various holes, is this a tweak or a radical change?
PETER DAWSON:¬† It's meanly a tweak, but I think more holes have been touched at Lytham than at the other venues.¬† I think it's just the par‑3s largely that remain relatively untouched here, and one or two of the holes towards the end.
But the course is going to be‑‑ there's a very good booklet which I hope you'll appreciate reading in your packs which details all of the course changes that have been made.¬† The course as we said is going to play 181 yards longer, although in actuality it is going to be just over 200 longer because at the last Open in 2001 we did record the yardage of the 16th at 359, but we did actually play it from a forward tee at 336.
So the course is two and a half percent longer.¬† As I always say every year, instead of hitting it 100 yards, you'll have to hit it 102?.¬† So it's not revolutionary on length, but it does bring the course up closer to many of the others in overall distance.
I think the main changes to highlight are the ones that have been mentioned.¬† The 2nd and 3rd, not only do we have the new mounding on the left in the rough, but the holes have been significantly lengthened, and they're two very stiff par‑4s at around 480 yards early in the round.
The 7th is completely altered with a new green, and I should have mentioned that Mackenzie & Ebert have been the architects that have helped us with all this work.¬† A new back tee lengthened the 10th, as well, as you've heard about the 11th on the film.
So overall a stiffer test.¬† Lytham has always been a strategic‑‑ a course where you need a lot of course management and strategy to play.¬† There's over 200 bunkers here, so plenty to get in the way of wayward shots.¬† It's a favourite course of many of the past players and past champions, and as Jim said, we're delighted to be back.
Q.¬† Peter, do you think the finish still holds up?¬† It has been said in the past that I think the last four holes constitute, if not the toughest, one of the, tests you have on The Open rota.¬† Still the case do you think?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yes, I think the 15th is a beast of a par‑4 with some very dangerous bunkering off the tee.¬† 16, that's a famous par‑3, mixing it up ‑‑ short par‑4 rather, not par‑3, and there again we've got all sorts of disasters lying await.¬† The 17th, a famous, of course, signature hole.¬† That's probably the one here, the famous Bobby Jones plaque in the left‑hand bunker there on the edge of it.
And 18, perhaps not the toughest finishing hole that we have at all The Open venues, but you have to get a very good drive away through all the bunkers that are very menacing from the tee.¬† I remember Tony Jacklin doing that when he won and David Duval here last time.¬† They took that drive and won the championship.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think that's still appropriate, too.¬† I think the diagonal bunkers at the 18th hole do make it a very difficult driving hole.
THE MODERATOR:¬† What about the ease of getting both players and public around this course in fairly appropriate and easy fashion?¬† Does that present itself?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† It has its challenge.¬† Royal Lytham is one of the tightest venues that we come to.¬† Last year we were at Royal St. George's, which is a very big site.¬† It was much easier in terms of moving spectators round and also providing some of the additional facilities for spectators to enjoy the experience.¬† But Lytham is definitely a bit tighter to get spectators around.
And this year we have introduced two villages for the spectator, all the facilities and activities that we're doing, the merchandise and the interactive zone and things like that.¬† But we think we have a very good plan.¬† We know we have a very good plan to do this, and we have no concerns really about that.
Q.¬† Johnny, as the man responsible for the detail of these things, what's your own take?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Well, the marshaling plan is very well advanced.¬† Chief marshal, Tim Parker, he has done a very good job.¬† That's his title at St. George's and St. Andrews and all the venues, but we've worked hard on The Open plan and have one in place.¬† As Jim alluded to, we do have two villages which we've imaginatively called St. Anne's Village and Lytham Village, near the site of the practice ground, and it allows us to bring the spectators in to two different points.¬† So all the park‑and‑ride buses are coming into two different points which distributes the spectators nice and evenly into two separate villages, so we're very happy with the plan as it stands.
Q.¬† Is Lytham pushed to the limit in terms of yardage?¬† I know it's a tight site.
PETER DAWSON:¬† There's always room to do something, but we're very close to the maximum to be honest.¬† There are one or two holes you could perhaps get another 20 yards out of, but that would probably spoil the holes, so we're happy at this length.¬† As you know, we've said that if hitting distances start to increase, we'll have to do something about it to that end.¬† But this golf course, as many others on The Open‑‑ that we use for The Open are at the distance they're going to be.¬† We don't envisage lengthening courses going forward.¬†
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, what we've seen in the last year is an uptick of four yards I think it is on the PGA Tour but not on the European Tour or elsewhere in the world.¬† When you analyse that uptick, it's largely caused by new young players coming into the field and replacing older players who are moving on to the Senior Tour rather than individual players hitting the ball further.¬† That isn't happening.
But we have our eye closely on it, and I think it's still true to say that we have not seen a significant uptick since the joint statement of principles in 2002.¬† But we've got our eye very closely on it.
Q.¬† How many spectators are you envisaging coming?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, I think the ticket sales appear to be very much on track with 10 years ago, and we had around 180,000, so we're hoping for slightly more than 180,000 over the eight days.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Which will be a good achievement in an Olympic year in London.¬† I think obviously the fact that the Games are so close to the Open is going to be in some potential spectators are take the once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity and go to the games, and because of the price of things and the economic situation perhaps won't be able to be able to come to the Open, as well.¬† There will be some effect of that, but we're not seen that reflected in ticket sales at this point.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† We've always been very comfortable in the northwest of England with spectators.¬† We've always got good crowds here, and there's no reason why we wouldn't get that this time.
Q.¬† Is hospitality affected by anything?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, you would think so, but this year our corporate hospitality sales are storming along.¬† They're well up on last year, and we also have an increase in the number of patrons in our patrons programme.¬† We've gone from five last year up to seven with the addition of MasterCard and Ralph Lauren.¬† So we're right up to our maximum in terms of patrons, which is wonderful, and I think we have going forward something like 35 patron years, if you like, contracted.¬† So that's in very good shape, 34 or 35.¬† And the what I would call more normal corporate hospitality sales are stronger this year than they have been.¬† Maybe things are coming back, I'm not sure.
Q.¬† Did corporate hospitality start with Bollinger in '69?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, you asked me a question I don't know the answer to.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I'm far too young to answer that one.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I'd have to research that one.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† That was my first Open.¬† I can't remember who won it, but there was a Bollinger tent.
Q.¬† Did you actually swap years in Sandwich because you did not want an event in the south of England close to the Open?
PETER DAWSON:¬† That actually is the case, yes.¬† We did switch the order because of the Olympic situation.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† That was in consultation with the local authorities and the police.
PETER DAWSON:¬† But that was some years ago that decision was made.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Thank you, yes.¬† I should have mentioned that, the 6th in my review.¬† The 6th hole is the same length as it was played last year.¬† Some new bunkering, very attractive bunkering in the drive zone in the corner of the dogleg, but we are playing that hole as a par‑4, whereas last time it was a par‑5, so Lytham this year will be a par‑70 and not a 71.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† That hole was the easiest hole the last time, and that's why we made a decision to do that.
Q.¬† This will be the third time in four years they've played a par‑70.¬† Is that a concern?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, it's harder for players to get miles under par if it's par‑70 as opposed to 72, of course, but to be honest that's not in our minds.¬† It's just the way the holes fall.¬† St. Andrews is a par‑72, but perhaps you wouldn't think it's a harder course than this one just in pure scoring terms, just the way that the mix of the holes falls.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I don't think it matters too much.¬† I think lowest score wins at the end of the day, and really 70 or 71 doesn't matter.
Q.¬† Where are we in terms of the TV deal?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we have many, many television deals for The Open Championship around the world, and the three, I suppose, most significant are the United States, the UK and Japan.¬† In the United States we're contracted with ESPN through 2017 or 2018 at our selection.¬† With the BBC we're contracted through 2016, and with TV Asahi in Japan, this year is the last Open under the current contract, so we're starting discussions in the future about the Japanese contract.
The specific answer to the BBC question is we're contracted through the 2016 Open.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Certainly, and we've had that conversation with the BBC.¬† It's not just true of golf, of course, it's true of tennis, as well, and so on.¬† BBC are, because of the financial position they're in more than anything else, are moving towards a policy of covering the biggest events that they can get.¬† But yes, it's a concern.¬† They have to stay in practice.¬† They have to keep up with the advance in technology in broadcasting, and they know we've got our eye on that for sure.
Q.¬† The BBC seems to be a natural home for The Open Championship, but (indiscernible).
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I think your numbers weigh out.¬† If SKY came in I don't think we'd get enough for three or four times, so that would be a very big number indeed.
But I think we're obviously, as you know, want The Open Championship to be seen by as many spectators as we possibly can.¬† We also know that over time, as things are converging, that the choice of people, for people to consume the championship is forever widening.¬† It's not just a television issue, it's a digital media issue, as well.
BBC know that they need to get off the financial plateau that they're on with the Open Championship at the moment next time around.¬† We'll have to see what happens.¬† Who knows who else will be in the market by then, ESPN maybe for all I know.¬† The scene is forever changing.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† It's a good question, a very good question.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yes, Jim is going to be doing the boxing (laughter).
Yes, it seemed rather unusual to us.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Does that answer your question?¬† I think with the BBC, we've had a relationship with them for over 50 years.¬† Obviously we'd like to continue that if we can.¬† But we do recognise that they have a number of sports, and obviously broadcast in golf has dropped dramatically, so we are keeping our eye on it.
PETER DAWSON:¬† We do still think they do a good job.¬† Watching the coverage of the Masters and The Open on the BBC is not a bad experience.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Matters of that nature are for the BBC to determine.
Q.¬† Have the BBC committed to the Walker Cup in 2015?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yes.¬† Yes, that's part of the current Open Championship contract.
Q.¬† The more events they cover in 2016, have they held their case for any renewal?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, clearly.¬† Like everything else in life, isn't it?¬† You need to be in practice to do it well.¬† The BBC have some very, very talented people in production, and they cover quite a breadth of sports.¬† Paul Davis as the producer does a terrific job across quite a range of sports, and BBC have been investing in up‑to‑date broadcasting technology.¬† So from that aspect, we're very happy.
You've got to remember that the camera crews that come to the Open are quite often in large part the same guys who are covering golf week in and week out for other channels.¬† They're independent contractors.¬† It's not as if you suddenly get a brand new set of cameramen doing golf.¬† There's an element of that that's not as big as you'd like.
Q.¬† When will negotiations begin?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Typically they probably begin 18 to 12 months out prior to the contract close.
Q.¬† I appreciate the BBC's trump card is the fact that the coverage is available to everyone.¬† How much of a trump card does Peter Alliss remain to you?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, you've still got the odd gem in there.¬† I know Peter causes quite a lot of polarisation of opinions, and many people I talk to still enjoy him very, very much and a number don't.¬† I think on balance he's an asset, but he's getting‑‑ not getting any younger.¬† I don't think so how long he'll carry on for.¬† But he's been the voice of golf for a long, long time over here.¬† And very interesting, if you go to America and talk about Peter Alliss, they think he is the God of the profession.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Ladies and gentlemen, we've got a few things to get through, so unless there's anyone busting to ask another question, we'll move on.
Jim, I was tempted to give you a call to ask you this question, but I'll just give you the chance to talk about quite a radical move in a sense.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† In terms of mobile phones, the championship this year decided we would allow spectators to bring mobile phones to the championship.¬† We have been looking at this over a number of years now since the mobile phone issue was arisen.¬† We've taken advice, and based on the experience from the Tours, we decided we'd reintroduce them this year so spectators can bring them on‑site, and not only that, it will be able to give them an opportunity to use the apps for the Open Championship on iPad, iPhone or Android, and the spectators will have designated areas where they can use their mobile phones which will be clearly sign posted, and we've asked marshals to work with the spectators to ensure that they're used appropriately.
They will be allowed to use them as cameras up until the Wednesday of the championship but therefore not, and they wouldn't be allowed to use video facilities on the mobile phones at all.
Q.¬† Will a spectator be able to sit in the grandstand of the 18th and look at his app and find out what's going on?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, that's what we're intending to do.¬† One of the things we're trying to do is obviously continually improve the spectator experience, and we see that the mobile phone is very much a part of everybody's life nowadays.¬† I think everybody is attached to their mobile phone, and we think we should try and use that technology which is available to improve the spectator experience during the championship.
Q.¬† A year ago you were very much as a group set against mobile phones.¬† What specifically happened?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think we've just taken the experience from the Tours, we've taken advice from the Tours.¬† We've obviously talked to spectators, we talk to our patrons and just feel that this is now an opportunity to reintroduce them to help the spectator, and also I think people do like to keep in contact with their business, with their home or whatever, and we think that that's appropriate for us to do.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think we took the decision to ban mobile phones pretty reluctantly, and we can very much see the future, in the future, that spectators more and more are going to have facilities on mobile devices which would help them enjoy the championship.
But specifically to your point about sitting in the grandstands and looking at the app, the answer is yes, but the phone would have to be on silent.
Q.¬† You're saying in the grandstand you can use a mobile phone to look at the Open app, but you couldn't video the action on the 18th green.¬† Isn't that a nightmare scenario for the marshals?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Not easy, but I think our spectators will get to know the rules very quickly and appreciate the relaxation of policy.¬† But yes, there will be issues.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† That's easier said that done.¬† We're more relying on the good nature of the spectators that we have, and the marshals are certainly briefed, and we have special marshals looking at this.¬† It's just talking to the spectators all the time.¬† We know there will be incidents, but we hope to be able to combat that just through engaging with the spectators.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think we are truing to trust the spectators, and we hope they're going to respect the reintroduction of this facility. ¬†It will be difficult, there's no doubt about it, but we need to try.
Q.¬† What about the 18th green, if there are flashes all over the place?¬† All it takes is one.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, that is the issue.¬† They haven't been having that experience too much on Tour since they've relaxed their policy.¬† To be fair, if it became an issue, we'll keep the thing under review.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Through the Tours they were but not specifically about should it be done at the Open.¬† There'd been heavy consultation at the Tour level about the reintroduction of the mobile phone.
Q.¬† If they break the rules, they run the risk of being ejected?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Absolutely.¬† I think we'll try and not do that immediately.¬† I think there would be a working with them to try and make people respect what they're doing, direct them to the appropriate areas.¬† But yes, that would be the ultimate.¬† We'll try and avoid that at all costs if possible.
Q.¬† Is there a safety issue?
PETER DAWSON:¬† That's been put to us by many people, I've got a sick relative at home, I need to be in touch, and we've always been flexible about people who genuinely had that kind of a problem, but yes, that's one of the considerations.
Q.¬† What's been the feedback from spectators?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† The feedback on the mobile phone when we didn't allow them in was surprisingly little in terms of negative.¬† We took something like 27,000 phones last year off spectators and handed every single one of them back.¬† As long as we've got that process right and the phone is given back to the spectator, then they were perfectly happy.
I think there's different opinions on some people think‑‑ we'd love people to have their phones.¬† Others think it's a great idea.¬† I think on balance, as Jim said, our championship committee felt it was time to try this again.
PETER DAWSON:¬† There's no doubt that the optimum position is to allow people to have their phones but have them used away from play.¬† If we can achieve that, that's the optimum.¬† If we can't we'll have to review it.
Q.¬† (Inaudible) people using them to telephone and as cameras.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Correct, as cameras, absolutely.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Yeah, there is a risk of that.¬† I think our marshals on the tee are very much briefed that every single group that's coming towards the tee, and they're speaking to the crowd, and it's based on trust and speaking to the spectator.¬† You can't physically stop them, and if somebody does, you have to speak to them on behalf of the masculation process.¬† And we're hoping that there will be some peer pressure, as well.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think we want to approach this with a very positive manner and try and use the mobile phones as best we can for golf news, for tee times, for scores and with the apps, and I think that's really where we need to take this.¬† We need to try and get the trust of the spectator, hopefully they'll respect us and move this on to improve the experience and make it a much better experience at the championship.
Q.¬† Do you have any research figures to see what percentage of the people that come to the Open plan to use phones?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, this, of course, is the problem that was witnessed in China in particular, some big events over there, people, non‑golfers all welded to their phones.¬† We did have that research.¬† I don't remember the number, but there was a high percentage.
Q.¬† Do you think in reality that the risk as John says is somebody taking a photograph is any higher than somebody deliberately shouting on somebody's backswing?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Well, the golf spectator to me is quite amazing because when you're watching golf, it's amazing how silence kind of envelops the scene.¬† People kind of automatically go quiet.¬† I think that's something that's unique to golf.¬† I think people respect that, and hopefully they'll extend that into the mobile phone situation and continue to respect it.
PETER DAWSON:¬† And group therapy works here, one person's phone suddenly goes off, other people‑‑
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, one of the things we're trying to do with the scoreboards is continually develop the scoreboards, and this year I think we're going to have a ticker tape along the bottom.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† We're looking at that.¬† We're not actually going to do that this year but we're certainly looking at the ticker tape along the bottom possibly on the bit yellow scoreboards, but that's not going to happen this year.¬† It's a long process to look at how that works, make sure it's something that will benefit the spectator before we go ahead with it.
Q.¬† What, if anything, has been done to promote the cell system?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† We're engaging with the four main network providers in the UK, and certainly the majority, of them and I think all of them‑‑ we haven't quite caught up with all of them, but the majority of them are saying that they look at major championships, not just golf but major events, festivals, meetings, things like that, major events in sports two years in advance, and they make sure they have their capacities up to speed.¬† Certainly some of the bigger companies that operate the networks in this country are very confident that they've got the capacity.¬† Obviously data is a lot easier to deal with the capacity.¬† Voice is slightly harder.
Q.¬† Peter, tough times financially for everyone.¬† How is the Open going along with that in terms of commercial sponsors and partners?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we already covered some of this in what we were talking about with patrons and corporate hospitality.¬† Our television contracts we've touched on and are all in place.¬† Corporate hospitality is going well.
The only variables now coming up to this particular championship are spectator number related, which takes you into ticket receipts, into how busy the catering areas will be, and how busy the merchandising operation and similar will be.
But a large proportion of this year's Open income is locked in and is in good shape, thank you, which is very heartening, but as you know, the commercial success of The Open allows the R&A to do everything else it does with the rules, with golf development, with our ecology and environmental work and so on, and I'm pleased to say we're in good shape and count ourselves very fortunate to be so.
Q.¬† When are you going to advance the prize money?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we've intended in recent years to do that as late as possible but later than now, and the reason for that is we need to have an eye on exchange rates, which have the habit of being volatile, although they have not been so in recent months, and we'd probably take a view on that about a month out from the championship and lock it in there.
Q.¬† Can we expect to see an increase?
PETER DAWSON:¬† I don't think there's pressure for an increase.¬† You won't see a reduction unless the dollar‑pound relationship goes very strange, but I wouldn't expect you'd see a significant increase, either, but that's a matter the championship committee will be discussing in due course.¬† I think everyone out there knows the economy is tough and I don't see a need to make already generous prize money outrageously generous in these times.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† I think the only think I would see in terms of the ticket issues is the pattern is changing, isn't it.¬† The number of season tickets is decreasing, the number of daily tickets is increasing, so we have seen a continual pattern in that direction.
Q.¬† Peter, Keegan Bradley winning the PGA Championship last year vividly brought to the forefront the question of long putters, and indeed a question of particularly younger players now I feel who are doing it not because they developed the yips or any other affliction but because it's easier.¬† What are you and the USGA up to?¬† Are you seriously going down the route of looking at this and possibly retrospectively banning these things?¬† Where are we?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, there's no doubt that we have seen a considerable up surge in the use of long and belly putters at the professional level in the last 12 months in particular, and at some tournaments the percentage of the players using them has approached or indeed once or twice gone just over the 20 percent mark.
Not only has the move been significant in overall quantity, as you say, more and more players of a young age are using these longer putters because they feel it is a better way to putt rather than rescuing themselves from being unable to use the shorter one.
So yes, we are concerned about it, and it's very much back on the radar because of this move in the last 12 months, and I don't think that's a secret.¬† I think the USGA perhaps gave an indication that that was the case a few weeks ago.
The subject is being looked at more from a rules of golf and method of stroke angle than it is from a length of club angle, and the reason for that is that if you thought you were going to do something about long putters by saying the putter may be no more than 40 inches long, that would still allow short people perhaps to belly putt but not tall people.¬† So limiting the length of club, if you're going to do something about this, is not a very sensible way to go.
The other one we've heard is, and actually I think it perhaps came from us originally, is the putter should be the shortest club in the bag.¬† Well, that doesn't do a lot of help for the poor tall chap who's got a bad back and can't bend down very easily.¬† It also doesn't prevent the advent‑ and we've seen some of this ‑ of belly chipping, or indeed belly putting with say the 1‑iron.¬† So the shortest club in the bag argument doesn't golf anything.
So it is being looked at on a method of stroke basis.¬† There's a rule of golf that says you can't push, scrape or spoon as a method of stroke, so this is being looked at on a method of stroke basis.
Now, I rush to say that no decision has been made about this, and I don't know if one will be.¬† If it's being looked at as a matter of stroke in the rules of golf, that means that there would be no action prior to January 1, 2016, when the next quadrennial revision of the rules of golf is due, because it's being looked at as a method of stroke.
And the real question is do we see the future of golf‑‑ in the future of golf that this type of stroke should be allowed or not, even though I quite admit it has been around for some time.
On the one hand there's the argument you've let it go so long you can't do anything, the other argument is it's never too late to do the right thing.
There are discussions ongoing at quite an intense pace, but I don't know sitting here as a matter of the rules of golf committee of the R&A and the USGA, I don't know what the outcome will be, and I stress no decision has been made yet.
Q.¬† Jim, how would you feel if this Open was won by somebody using a long putter?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, I think it's in the rules, and we can use the club at the moment.¬† I think when the long putter came into vogue at first, nobody really anticipated that the young professionals would start using it, and it was really a means for keeping‑‑ perhaps players who were not putting as well had the yips or were getting older to keep playing the game, which I think was the right principle at that time.¬† But I think as Peter says, the more people start using the putter, the more we're going to have a look at it and see if we should continue with it.
Q.¬† But we're facing the prospect, your own figures if they worked out for The Open of approximately 30 players using these things here, so the chances of one winning or finishing very high up to appear to be pretty high.
PETER DAWSON:¬† They are.¬† I'm not sure just how good they are in a strong wind, so we might be slightly less likely to have it.¬† But yeah, it could easily happen.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think the wind blowing on these long putters is quite significant in a strong wind.¬† Everybody I know at least who uses the long putter says it's very difficult to do in a big wind.¬† The belly, maybe.¬† Of course it's quite difficult to define anchoring as to what exactly one means by it, so that also exercises the mind of the rules committee.¬† Clearly that's anchoring, that's anchoring, but is that anchoring where the arm is anchored against the chest but not the handle of the club and so on.
Q.¬† So the arm should be out from the body in some way?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, if the arm and club is away from the body, you're not anchoring.
Q.¬† Just to be clear on the process, the R&A and the USGA are both working on this problem as we speak?
PETER DAWSON:¬† That is correct but have not come to a conclusion as to whether to take any action or not.
Q.¬† Rory McIlroy is No.1 today, or I think so, but his emergence kind of highlights, and of course he's backed up by Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, etcetera, but Rory McIlroy seems a particularly special talent.¬† How do you guys see him in terms of being‑‑ he is a poster boy, but can we use him to grow golf in some way in this country, and how would you plan to do that?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, I think Rory McIlroy certainly relates to the younger person, the younger golfer.¬† I think he has certainly been a good role model for them.¬† Obviously reaching No.1 he gets even more prominence as far as the golfing public is concerned, and I think that can only be good for the game going forward.
We have in the R&A seen Rory develop through the Boys Home International.¬† I think his last appearance as an amateur was at the Walker Cup at Royal County Down, and I think he's very good for the game, and he certainly helps the R&A and the USGA and other bodies, the amateur federations and organisations help to promote the sport.¬† So yeah, I'm very much in favour of Rory.
PETER DAWSON:¬† It's very gratifying to see someone we've seen from his amateur days and played in a lot of events come through like this, and it's a wonderful time for British golf and European golf, having so many players from these islands and the continent of Europe doing so well.¬† It is quite indicative to me as to who the star players are, and the star players are always the ones where the TV companies are very interested in what tee times they're going to get at the Open so they're on at tea time in America or whatever, and Rory and Tiger today are the two that they are most interested in.
So you're really seeing the old guard in Tiger, he's only mid 30s, isn't he, and the young Rory.¬† So every generation has its stars, and Rory is going to be this one, I'm sure.
Q.¬† Is security for players like this on a tight course more of a problem?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† We have many meetings with the police, and it's not just player security, it's the general security of the championship as we speak to the police regularly.¬† We have a security subgroup, and you've got 400 acres to try and secure, and a lot of it is down to what intelligence is out there.¬† But the police are very comfortable with our plans as it stands at the moment, and having a railway along the side is certainly a big help, don't have that‑‑ there's a nice big railway under fence protecting the course.¬† But we're very comfortable with our security plans at the moment.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Of course, the record of the championship in security matters has been extremely good, but we're not complacent.¬† We're closely advised by the police as Johnny said.
Q.¬† Talking about courses and players, slow play, it's not going away, is it, and it seems in many ways to be getting worse.¬† Will we ever see a player docked a couple of strokes at the Open Championship for being slow?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think it would be a breach of the rules themselves.¬† Just to take your question at a general level to start with, we do have lots of concerns about slow play.¬† We think that in some ways the amateur game is actually worse than the professional game in many ways, and that is working its way through to club membership.¬† Because golf is taking four and a half hours, five hours to play, travelling time and time in the bar or whatever, lunch, adds on to a significant part of the day.¬† And in modern living and modern society, it's too much time.¬† So therefore we need to find some way of improving that.
There are a number of initiatives going on around the world.¬† USGA have an initiative going on.¬† Just now the Canadian Golf Association have been promoting one, as well, so we are looking at ways of doing that.¬† We certainly, as far as our amateur competitions are concerned, have rules in place to cover these situations, and we are determined that we will impose these rules as strongly as we possibly can, and that's what we'll be doing going forward.
Q.¬† So what should a round here during The Open take given that the weather is not at its foulest?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, the time par we would have for a threeball would be about four hours 40 would it be, four and a half. ¬†Now, in many ways that's too long, but if everyone got round in four and a half, we would say it's been a very good event from a pace of play standpoint.¬† That's in the threeballs, and then less time for‑‑ 4:00 hours‑ish, 3:50 something in the twoballs.
Q.¬† What was it last year?
PETER DAWSON:¬† The time paths are always pretty similar.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Interestingly enough, I think when Bobby Locke won his Open Championship here at Royal Lytham he was reprimanded for slow play, and he took three and a half hours.
PETER DAWSON:¬† If you go back long enough when people were playing two rounds in a day at the Open, it's an indicator how pace of play has moved.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† We are very concerned about it, but we're doing everything we possibly can.¬† It is something where we need cooperation from other organisations, as well, to do anything.
Q.¬† You can't compare a course that has an (indiscernible).¬† Are we comparing like to like?
PETER DAWSON:¬† What you have to do is analyse the whole sequencing further down the course than that because once the par‑3 has been played, the players get away at the next hole, so the queueing theory comes further down the course than perhaps it would at other ones.¬† It's not just as simple as what the opening hole is.
Trying to get 156 players onto the golf course from one tee is quite a challenge.¬† If you had a smaller field and spread them out more, pace of play would be considerably better, there's no doubt about that.¬† But that's somewhere we've decided not to go, at least for the present.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yes, well, you take this golf course as an example, I have no idea how you'd even achieve it given where the 10th tee is, frankly.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think there are things that can be done at golf clubs around the country to improve the speed of play.¬† I think sometimes you need to look at the intervals, the tee intervals.¬† I think if you're sending fourballs off at eight‑minute intervals, you're going to have problems.¬† So people need to start looking within their own clubs so they can improve this as well as the likes of ourselves and the amateur golf federations looking at it, as well.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think this Tee It Forward initiative in America is very interesting, urging intelligent golfers to play from more sensible tee positions than perhaps they often do and enjoy the game more by playing a shorter course, and that's having impact on pace of play.¬† I think that's a very good initiative that we should look at here, and I also think just from my own experience remembering ‑ memory gets confused ‑ how golf used to be compared to now, and I think people play far more fourball golf today than they used to 30 or 40 years ago, and I think that's a very, very significant reason for slow play at club level.¬† I think there's just far more fourball golf play, and fourballs take forever, especially when everyone insists on holing out.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yeah, I think we have to work with the Tours, I think, to get this done, and I know that the Tour officials would like to do this, more player education and almost get some group therapy going with the players.¬† It's very difficult for an event one week a year to do something different.¬† You wouldn't dream of having a different anti‑doping policy for one week, for example.
I think it's the whole year that has to be moved along, not just one event.
Q.¬† Are you implementing a forward tee enjoy the game policy today?
PETER DAWSON:¬† In order for us to get round more quickly we will not be having distance measuring.¬† (Laughter.)
Q.¬† Peter, about the infrastructure of the area and the tightness of the course, is there any risk that the Open might become too big for the venue?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we're very fortunate here in terms of the traffic plan that we're able to put together, the car parking and the park and rides and so on.¬† And we have other venues where the train service can be better than it is here.¬† But we don't have any particular feel I think about getting people to and from the course, touch wood, and certainly our past experience here would indicate that.
And whilst Lytham is tighter than some, there's still plenty of room out there.¬† Golf courses are big places.¬† There's lots of room for spectators, and the answer to the question is Lytham is firmly in our future plans.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† All of our Open venues have strengths and weaknesses, and as Peter says, the road system is certainly a strength here.¬† We've got four park‑and‑ride sites delivering to two different areas of the golf course, as I said earlier, which allows us to spread the crowd, and that's a very strong strength at Royal Lytham & St. Anne's.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think the one area we would like to see improved is the rail system.¬† That is one difficulty.¬† If people want to travel it's not as good as you would like it to be.¬† But we are where we are.¬† We've got a single‑track line.¬† We just have to deal with it.
Q.¬† And presumably statistically this place is the best for accommodations?
PETER DAWSON:¬† It's very good for accommodation.¬† As you know, we do have accommodation issues at some venues, but this isn't one of them.¬† So as long as the club and the local authority are willing to have us back, we'll be coming.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I have been to Royal Portrush, magnificent golf course.¬† I must have been there on the foulest day of weather I can remember, but that's by the by, and some of the people in the championship department have been over, as well, having a look.¬† Very interesting that they have the Irish Open there this year and some very strong ticket sales allegedly, so I hear, and we will have a look to see how that goes.
We're a long way from any announcement that the Open is going back to Portrush, but we have had a look at it.¬† Yeah, it's an interesting venue from all sorts of points of view.¬† There are certain aspects of the golf course which would be very difficult for big crowds.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† We had the Senior Amateur there last year, and we've got the Amateur Championship itself in 2014, so we're continuing to use the venue and we'll continue to look at it and see how we go in the future.
Q.¬† Are you looking at any new venues at all?
PETER DAWSON:¬† There's nothing in the boiler at the moment.
Q.¬† Are there any efforts to (indiscernible) reminder before the first tee?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, to go back on that story, we had for many years, the starter had mentioned to the caddies that they should check about 14 clubs, and he'd been getting so much abuse from caddies, that was the year, of course, that it stopped, and we had the problems.¬† The caddies don't mind being asked now.¬† We'll continue.
Q.¬† Can you give us a view on a 13‑year‑old playing, and is there a minimum age for The Open, people trying to qualify?
PETER DAWSON:¬† No, I don't think we do have a minimum age.¬† It's as long as you meet the handicap criteria at amateur level.¬† That may one day move over to World Rankings, but it's handicapped for now.¬† At all sports they seem to be getting better younger, especially the girls as much as the boys.¬† I suppose in broad terms, one has to be concerned about young children in professional sport and exploitation and all of that, but specifically for The Open, I don't think we have any policy. ¬†We've never actually discussed it.¬†
Q.¬† Is it time for golf authorities to start publicly sanctioning players for on‑course behavior?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I think I'm on record as saying that more public sanctioning would not be a bad thing.¬† That would not be currently the Tour policy certainly in the United States, and they have reasons for that that I can understand.¬† But one would have thought that public sanctions would be more likely to lead to a correction of behavior than private sanctions.¬† I think that's all I can say.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we have always relied on the Tours to put players through their disciplinary procedures as Tour members if there's some kind of infraction or misbehavior at the Open.¬† We don't actually have a published Open Championship bad behavior policy.¬† We use the Tour policies at the moment.
Again, it's this doing something different one week a year issue that we were talking about before.
Q.¬† So would you encourage the European Tour to publicise‑‑
PETER DAWSON:¬† Are you saying European Tour don't publish?¬† I think they have published once or twice, have they not?¬† If asked.
Well, both Tours know our view on that, but it is a matter for them because we do use their policies.
Q.¬† Spitting and swearing at the Open has happened for many years and nothing has ever been done.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Peter has been reported, though.¬† (Laughter).
PETER DAWSON:¬† It's an unedifying spectacle, isn't it, no question about it.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, usually we, first of all, discuss the need for modifications with the venue, with the club, and if the club is happy to embark on a programme of modifications, it's a process between the club, the R&A and the architect.¬† Sometimes the club will have architects that are experienced in its course, and other times we have used architects that we have been accustomed to, if you like, and used at Open venues.¬† That has resulted in a slightly closed process, which has troubled me once or twice, but the work that Martin Hawtrey and Martin Ebert have done for us has been of a very high quality, and we're very happy with it.
I think we're coming to the end now of the course adjustment programme that we started ten years ago.¬† Of the upcoming venues, they have all now had the treatment, as it were, so we've pretty much finished the programme.¬† But we've been very happy with the work that's been done, and I think all the clubs and venues have, too.
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