|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
April 29, 2013
THE MODERATOR:¬† First, you will all know the gentleman to my left here, immediately to my left here is Jim McArthur, chairman of the championship committee, and then in the middle as it were, Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, along the left wing, Johnnie Cole‑Hamilton, who's executive director of championships.¬† If we can kick off this morning, I think you want to say a few words of welcome.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Thanks to everyone for coming along this morning.¬† It is a very nice day here at Muirfield, very sunny but very blustery.¬† This will be the 142nd playing of the Open Championship, the 16th here at Muirfield, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.¬† We first came here in 1892.¬† Prior to that it was played for six years at the old Musselburgh Links on the race course at Musselburgh, which was then the home of the Honourable Company.
We are very much looking forward to having the top players come here again.¬† Muirfield is often regarded toughest but the fairest of the Open Championship courses Jack Nicklaus said, "What you see is what you get," and that's definitely the case.¬† I was out there yesterday myself playing.¬† The course is in very good condition.¬† I had a sub‑par round in my head but the reality was slightly different.
But I hope you'll enjoy the day with us and we look forward to engaging with you at various times during the day.
THE MODERATOR:¬† If we can start now with you, Peter.¬† I think you want to go through the course changes that have occurred here at Muirfield and perhaps also you might on top of that put into your words what you believe makes this course unique, what its USP is if you like, consistently No.1 in everyone's golf rankings.¬† Perhaps you might tell us about that.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, thank you, Bill.¬† As Jim said, we're delighted to be back here at Muirfield for the 16th time of the Open Championship.¬† It's an immensely popular venue with the players.¬† They like this golf course.¬† I think the Nicklaus "what you see is what you get" is perhaps directed at many links courses or perhaps a little more good fortune and bad fortune perhaps come into play a little bit more, but here at Muirfield the golf course is laid out in front of you.¬† The actual ground on the fairways is relatively flat.¬† It doesn't tend to have the humps and bumps that you might get at Royal St. George's and one or two others.
The players love it.¬† They love the layout.¬† Every hole seems to be going in different‑‑ the wind and so on, and the two loops of nine, each come back to the clubhouse.¬† It's immensely popular.¬† It is always in fantastic condition.¬† I often say we could play an Open here any year with about three weeks' notice as far as the course condition is concerned.
We will be setting the course up to challenge these golfers.¬† The rough has all been cut down over the winter.¬† It will regenerate in the coming weeks, just how strongly depends on the sort of weather we get, how warm and wet it is, but you will see the rough up, and by the large you're unlikely to win an Open Championship at Muirfield from the rough.
We have, as we've done with all the other Open venues over the recent years, made some alterations and upgrades to the golf course, and I'd just like to go through those now.
In your press packs or in your packs in front of you, you will see the card of the course for this year's Open compared with the last Open in 2002, and you will see that the course has been lengthened by a total of 158 yards, and that is only 2% of the previous length.¬† So, as I often say at this meeting if you had to hit it 100 yards in 2002, you've got to hit it 102 this time, not too onerous perhaps in terms of modern hitting distances.¬† But it was up to '02 when the increase in driving distance on Tour really took effect.¬† Since that time it's been pretty flat.
So what we've been doing to the course at least as far as length to some extent reflects the increase in driving distance that we all know occurred up until 2002.
In general, the changes to the golf course have reflected some new back tees on seven holes, and they are the 2nd, the 4th, the 9th, the 14th, the 15th, 17th and 18th, but also a considerable amount of just tightening in the bunkering around the greens requiring somewhat more accurate approach play than was required previously.
I'd just like to specifically mention four holes, and I think there might be a slide coming up of firstly the 2nd.¬† This hole there is a new back tee, which hasn't been put in for lengthening so much, it's just to give more teeing area but it has lengthened the hole by a few yards.¬† The bunkering around the right‑hand side of the green has been closed in closer to the green, which will make for certain hole locations a drive to the left half of the fairway important.¬† It'll be difficult to play to a short pin from the right.
And interestingly, I've done this on two holes.¬† We've extended the green at the back to the old Colt shape.¬† Colt was the architect who laid this course out the last time, and one or two greens had become a little smaller, so we extended the green back left to the old Colt shape, that will give a little more variety in hole locations.
I'd like to move on to the 6th hole where the back tee was very narrow and it has been widened, but that's just a tee‑size issue.¬† Again, the bunkering to the right of the green has been closed in towards the green requiring a little more accuracy on the second shot, but most interestingly the back of the green has been cut out again to the old Colt shape.¬† So we now have a narrow plateau at the back of the green with runoffs to either side and at the back, which again will provide a very interesting hole location come July.
Perhaps the most significant change will be at the 9th hole, where because of a land swap that the Honourable Company were able to do with their neighbors, we were able to take the 9th tee back about 50 yards, and we've rebuilt the wall around it, put in a new bunker in the drive zone on the right at 275 or thereabouts, which has balanced out that tee shot extremely well.
The bunkering up close to the green has been moved left that makes it a much tighter second shot, perhaps in some winds bringing the wall and the out of bounds more out of play on the left, and that is a very noticeable change to that hole.
We did consider running the fairway right up against the wall at one time, but I think that might have been unfair to the members.¬† And we've gone with the layout that we have, and it's a much stronger par‑5 than it was before.
And interestingly, the last one I just want to highlight is the 10th hole, where the whole fairway has been moved half a fairway to the left, and it's been done so well that nobody notices.¬† The main reason that was done is to create a little more room on the practice area and a little more safety on the practice area for people hitting from the 10th tee.¬† And a new drive bunker has been added farther down, I guess, close to 300 yards and made that tee shot tighter.
Overall, I've just highlighted four of the holes there.¬† Some slight lengthening but generally just sharpening up the strategy of the golf course.¬† If you look at the past winners here at Muirfield which are also in your pack, you will see that this course has really produced some fantastic quality champions over time, and we expect that and hope that will occur again in July.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Perhaps if there are any questions on the changes to the course now is the time to ask them.
Q.¬† (No microphone.)
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I guess you could go back a little bit at holes like 11 and 18, but I think those holes are perfectly long enough.¬† The R&A and USGA committed when we produced the joint statement of principles back in '02 that if hitting distances started to move away again, we would rein things back, and that remains our position, so we don't envisage further lengthening.
Q.¬† Could you please talk a little bit about the process of these changes?¬† Did you have old aerials of Colt?¬† Did you determine in consultation with statistics about which areas needed more pins and who was the architect?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Thank you.¬† I should have mentioned that.¬† The process that we go through is perhaps the R&A and the club would generally strategize about the course, its strengths and weaknesses, based on it's history, viewing Open Championships, and what has happened in the past.¬† And on this occasion as we've done at some other courses we use Martin Hawtree as the architect to come up with some plans.¬† They were discussed with the R&A and the club here, and the club presented those and Martin did to the members of the media at Edinburgh, I remember attending.¬† So the members' sanction for the changes was sought.¬† We would go along on that method as we have done at all the other courses where we have made alterations.
Q.¬† In connection with the shifting of the fairway at the 10th to make the practice ground longer, how long is the practice ground now, and do I remember people hitting over the back fence at the last time of asking?¬† If so, who were the culprits?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, it hasn't been done so much to make the practice ground significantly longer, but it has allowed us more room behind the practice tee for the grandstand, the media area and so on.¬† The practice ground here is well known to be a little on the short side, so what we are doing this year is putting an extremely high fence down at the far end of the practice ground to contain the tee shots as people play.
But we will be looking to use the back of the practice tee as much as possible as opposed to the front end.¬† There is no doubt that this is an issue for the future that's going to be to have addressed, I think, the length of the practice ground.
Q.¬† There's been little growth in the east of Scotland because of the cold spell.¬† Is that a concern how the rough might shape up in the next few weeks?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, slightly against the trend there has been some growth here.¬† It is starting to come through, and I know at many courses it hasn't, but you'll see quite a good sword out there and the rough is starting to regenerate.¬† It does tend to happen very quickly, this, in May and June most years, and we're confident it will happen again this year.¬† It's very weather dependent, obviously, just how much you get.¬† But we'll get plenty.
THE MODERATOR:¬† Perhaps you could talk us through the exciting area of exemption criteria.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Yes.¬† I just want to point out that last year at Lytham we got something of a fright, because of the way the exemptions fell, we actually at one point had 161 competitors at Lytham, but because of scratchings and injuries and so on we go back down to our usual field of 156.¬† And that caused us to look at our exemptions this year and to cut them back very slightly because we wanted to maintain the number of qualifying places through local qualifying, international qualifying that we'd committed to.
So there are four changes to the criteria this year.¬† The first one relates to the two events running up to the Open, just immediately prior to the Open, which on the European Tour are the French Open and the Scottish Open, and in past years, recent past year, we've given one spot to each of those events to the top player finishing in the Top 5 who wasn't otherwise exempt.¬† This year we've cut that back to the winner of the Scottish Open only, so that is a cut back.
Mirroring that in the United States, the same exemptions applied to the John Deere Classic and the Greenbrier, one out of the Top 5 at each event that is not otherwise exempt. ¬†That has been cut back to the winner of the John Deere Classic only, so we've got the Scottish Open and the John Deere immediately prior to the Open, and the winners of those will get in as exempt players.
The other changes we've made are in Japan.¬† We did have an exemption for the top two money winners on the Japan Tour who were not otherwise exempt, so that could take you down to the third and fourth if the top two are exempt, but we've cut that back to the top two only whether they're previously exempt or not.
And the last change we've made is to take the qualifying number from Sunningdale at European International qualifying down from ten to nine.
It's always impossible to actually estimate with accuracy how many exempt players you will end up with because it depends how many joint exemptions players achieve, but we feel a little safer at that number, and if there are other players, if there are vacant spots, our criteria allows us to go into the World Rankings then to fill the field, and that's what would happen if we're short of exempt players.
So that's the change there, but I wanted people to be aware of it, particularly the change relating to the Scottish Open with an Open Championship at Muirfield.
Q.¬† Are you concerned that that may have any kind of negative impact on the Scottish Open, that it perhaps might discourage players because it's going to be that much more difficult?
PETER DAWSON:¬† I don't think that players enter the Scottish Open with the Open Championship directly in mind.¬† It's a nice side benefit for sure, but the Scottish Open is a very strong event in its own right which some players use as you know to prepare for The Open Championship.¬† But I think players who go to the Scottish Open are focusing on the Scottish Open, not The Open Championship.
Q.¬† (No microphone.)
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we could see it coming from a few weeks out actually, and I guess we would have just had to play with a bigger field.¬† What we didn't want to do was cut back the number of spots available at local final qualifying.¬† That would have been a real‑‑ I think we'd have let down all those thousands of people who enter the championship to get into qualifying, so we didn't want to do that.¬† And we would have had to have played with a bigger field, and that would have been very difficult.¬† But, fortunately, we got away with it.
Q.¬† (No microphone.)
PETER DAWSON:¬† It would have been a great strain on getting finished, but we'd have done it somehow.
Q.¬† Johnnie, The Open as we know strives to be at the forefront of innovation.¬† Anything new to lay on us this year?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† There's a number of innovations that I would like to highlight today.¬† I think the R&A are always looking to try and embrace new technology, and we'd like to think we're continuing a contemporary delivery of tradition.
The things I would like to highlight is firstly The Open in the Square.¬† I think in your press pack you have a press release that discusses this in detail.¬† What we're trying to do is create a special event in the centre of Edinburgh that celebrates the return of the Open Championship to the area.¬† That's due to take place in St. Andrews Square, for those of you who know Edinburgh, and it's in the preceding week Thursday 11th through Saturday 13 July inclusive, and what we're trying to do in there is offer the opportunity for people within the area to try golf.
There will be lessons from PGA professionals, there will be the ability to play some of the great courses on some EA Sports consoles there, patrons will be able to have their pictures‑‑ sorry, people within the city will be able to have their pictures taken with the Claret Jug.¬† We'll have a golf simulator there.¬† There will be a large screen producing great moments from previous championships, artificial putting greens.
So what we're really trying to do is bring golf to the city of Edinburgh.¬† We're so pleased that the Open Championship has come back to this area and the city, and we're very pleased that the Open obviously attracts additional visitors both to Edinburgh and this area and we want to help celebrate in such a proud city with such a history of festivals with what we think is the largest festival of golf.¬† That's something we're very excited about.
We're also for the first time this year going to build a temporary wi‑fi mesh around the golf course, which is predominantly for spectators, which will help them use The Open Championship app that we've developed.¬† Primarily this temporary wi‑fi will be available in the grandstands and sections of the‑‑ we have three real tented villages; there's one between the 1st and 17th; there's one to the right‑hand side of the 10th over by the practice ground; and there's one to the left‑hand side of the 9th.¬† And the wi‑fi mesh will be available in those areas and predominantly it's for scoring on the app.¬† It's for some audio from an audio webcast.
Also our course guide will be available on this app, and we will look at having some video on it, which will come from @TheOpenLive and also some of the live coverage from the BBC.
But, obviously, it's a new thing for us.¬† It's temporary.¬† It's not really been done at golf before, so we're working very closely with a company in California, Straight Up Technologies, also with Cisco, who have a great deal of experience in this, but it's obviously something we're trialing.¬† So it will be new, but we want to monitor it, and clearly if it's successful we'll continue to do it at future Open Championships.
I think the other exciting thing that we're looking to do is for the first time at an Open Championship we're going to have some LED scoreboards, and we're going to place these at the 7th hole, the 13th hole, the 16th hole and the 17th hole, and this is a big move away from‑‑ we will still have our traditional scoreboards, as well, but these are an enhancement for the spectators, and these scoreboards obviously will have video capability, so we'll be able to produce lots of championship information, scoring, statistics, information on players.¬† We'll be able to show live footage, we'll be able to show great moments that have taken place already during the championship.¬† And we really do believe, we've obviously tested them out and had a look, and they look fantastic.¬† And I think they'll be a great addition to the championship and to the spectators.
So I think those are the three main innovations.¬† Obviously, we're continuing with other things such as the fibre‑optic, which we've now‑‑ it's a legacy that we're producing at all our Open Championships.¬† We've got a fibre‑optic in the ground at Turnberry now, St. Andrews, Royal St.Georges, and now Muirfield.¬† It's in the ground small tents out there.¬† Engineers splicing the fibre‑optic you see together out there.¬† Don't hit them this afternoon.¬† It's very important that they carry on with their work.
But obviously that fibre‑optic has made a huge difference to how the media actually cover the event in terms of the broadband capability, the uploading of photographs, how the television coverage is produced, and it's something we're very pleased about and leaves a great legacy for future venues.
We've previously announced the economic impact to the area, as well, of ¬£70 million made up of direct benefit and also marketing benefit to East Lothian area, so we continue to be very pleased with that and also East Lothian council are obviously delighted, as well.
In terms of corporate hospitality, as well, I'm please to say that on the left‑hand side of the ninth hole when you're playing that today, if you imagine on your left‑hand side just on the other side of the wall there will be a fantastic corporate hospitality marquee there for all of our corporate guests.¬† And I'm also very pleased to say that at this stage last year we are 11% up on sales, so the corporate sales is growing year on year, and we're very pleased that we've managed to attract that.
Mobile phones are also still allowed in at the Open Championship, as well.
Ticket sales is something if you don't mind me just quickly touching on, as well, our latest ticket sales do show we are tracking very similar numbers to 2002.¬† We had around 160,000 spectators in 2002, and ticket sales would certainly indicate that we're certainly heading for that similar number, and we've got quite a big marketing push still to come.¬† So we're hopeful of exceeding that number.¬† So we're very pleased about that, as well.
And I think those are the main innovations.¬† But those three in particular, The Open in the Square, the temporary wi‑fi mesh, and the LED scoreboards are all new things we are delighted about and hopefully an enhancement to both the championship and the spectators.
Q.¬† Were there any problems at all from allowing mobile phones in last year in the end?
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Yes, it didn't go completely without incident.¬† There were some incidents where people did use their phones, but we strongly marshalled it.¬† We've learnt lessons which we're taking forward this year which we'll strengthen up, and we didn't get any complaints from any players.¬† Peter may correct me, but I don't think we did, which is very important.
We got feedback from those that were marshaling the policy, and we've put stronger marshaling in place, and I think as each year grows and people get more used to it that it will improve year on year.¬† But we were very happy with the way it went.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Introducing mobile phones back into the Open Championship.¬† It has so many benefits to spectators and also to people attending the championships to keep in touch with home et cetera.¬† We think we need to continue with this, and we will do so unless we have any major problems.
At the moment I think we're just delighted how it worked last year, and we're determined to continue with that if we possibly can.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think we'd really like to make this work because the end prize of being able to have spectators have the atmosphere of the Open Championship on the one hand but also be able to keep up with events around the course is a great prize to strive for.¬† And we'd really like to make this work so the spectators on the ground can be aware of what's going on at the championship as a whole as opposed to just the groups they may happen to be watching at the time.
THE MODERATOR:¬† And obviously, Johnnie, the main lesson learned is you encourage the stewards to be more positive, if you like, if they see a mobile phone being used.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† A big part of trying to get the message across was signage.¬† That was very clear and very good, but we also tried to engage a particular group of marshals to go ahead of particularly the marquee games and engage with the spectators beforehand before the players arrived, and that proved to be very successful.¬† And it's just reinforcing that message without being overpowering but just allowing people to use their mobile phones the way they want to but also to respect the fact that players are requiring to concentrate.
We're very fortunate that the crowd profile at the Open Championship still remains a very willing crowd who are very respectful of the etiquette of the game and the vast majority of cases are very, very happy to listen to that advice and heed it and work with us in making sure that we have the right balance between using a mobile phone but also having a championship where players can concentrate.
Q.¬† In terms of the LED screens out on the course, presumably there's a challenge there in terms of the direction of that, the information that comes through, to prevent oohs and awws within the crowd when certain developments are relayed that aren't going to impact on players directly in front of those spectators.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† We're working very hard on coming up with the right order, and we'll have complete control of those scoreboards.¬† We will have complete control of them.¬† They can be frozen, switched off.¬† A player's capability or concentration, again, would be absolutely key on this.¬† That we would be able to control what's on the board and when it's on the board to make sure we don't interrupt the players.
At THE PLAYERS Championship probably I think they have one of these on almost every hole and the Ryder Cup and things like that.¬† There is precedent of these being used, and we will certainly be looking very close at what information we put up and when.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think we need to strike a balance between providing as much information as we can to spectators without interrupting the players, and I think we're very keen to make it a much better enhanced spectator experience but at the same time make sure looking after the players very much as a score and information board for the spectators.¬† We have to work it the right way.
PETER DAWSON:¬† This is an experiment for us this year.¬† I think there's four of these out there, going out there, and we will err on the side of caution on the point you make for sure.
Q.¬† Peter, if I can ask you, last week you had around 20 journalists in your office and chatted as it were for almost two hours.¬† A considerable amount of that time was taken up discussing the issue of single‑gender golf clubs, this golf club in particular and indeed the R&A itself.¬† There are a lot of people who weren't in that office last week.¬† What would you care to say on that subject today?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, thanks.¬† Yes, we did have a long chat about a wide range of issues in golf and the gender issue was covered.¬† I think it's been very widely reported since both in the written media and on radio, and I think what we were essentially saying, look, we know that there are strong views about this subject.
We compared golf and golf clubs 30, 40, 50 years ago with today, and there have been massive changes in that time, both at dual sex clubs and at single sex clubs, so there's a clear direction of travel here.
On the other hand, we don't see very much wrong with from time to time men socializing with men, women socializing with women and so on.¬† We don't see very much wrong with that, obviously, and we do bring The Open Championship to the best links courses in Britain.¬† And we use nine of them, three are public, three are dual sex membership, three are single sex membership, but we do come for the golf course.
To think that we might not come, let's say, to a course as wonderful as this with its history in the championship is something we couldn't countenance at all.¬† I hesitate to make the quote but a little like taking the boat race to the humber if you didn't fancy Boris' policies.
The history of The Open and Muirfield are strongly interlinked, and the club here are‑‑ we went through the detail of women playing golf at Muirfield, which is much more easily accessible than many people think, and all I was really trying to do at that meeting was to get the point‑‑ some facts across about single gender clubs that are not often reported, and I think that we did reasonably effectively.¬† It was put out on the wire services, as well, so everyone had a chance to hear about it.
I think frankly the subject has been well covered now, and we don't have anything new to say if you like that wasn't reported last week.
Q.¬† One of the things you spoke about at that meeting was the coverage of the issue.¬† How did you feel that went?¬† Did you feel you got your views across?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Thank you.¬† I don't look at it as favourable or unfavorable.¬† But I do think it had a better factual balance than coverages had in the past.¬† Your enthusiasm for covering the subject never fails to amaze me.¬† Congratulations.
But in all seriousness, I think it was covered in a very balanced way.
Q.¬† I think those of us at the Masters or watching the Masters on TV noticed that a young Chinese boy was penalized for slow play.¬† Jim, you're in charge of the championship committee, and at the Open.¬† What's your policy?¬† What's your strategy?¬† What are you expecting this year and are you willing to implement the rules of golf as we understand them if necessary?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, I think we continue to be concerned about the pace of play for golf at all levels.¬† We are absolutely determined as far as the R&A is concerned to try and contribute to including the pace of play as best we can.
We have a policy and we have procedures which we will implement in our Open Championships, but we have in terms of contributing to this, we have been engaging particularly with the home golf unions this year.¬† We had a workshop with the Scottish golf union where we spoke to the coaches and the development people there to try and instill in them an understanding of why we need to improve the pace of play and hope that they will pass that on to their elite players.
We've got workshops going on, two finished, I think one more to go with the other home unions.¬† We have a batch of documentation which we have distributed to over 120 of our affiliates and our organisations across the world, not to try and take over this but to try and help people to use consistent policies so when people are playing in different events in different countries they're being faced with the same requirements.¬† So there's more of an understanding than perhaps there has been in the past.
With our own amateur championship last year at Troon, and we will be doing the same this year, we sat every competitor down.¬† We asked them to read the pace of play policy and guidelines before they're allowed to register so we're trying to ensure as far as we can that people actually do read the documentation.
This year at Royal St.Ports we're going to put up on a screen in a registration office pace of play video to again try to draw awareness to people to play quicker.
We don't see the players from the R&A viewpoint much during the year.¬† We only have a small number of events, and that's why we've got to kind of engage with our other organisations to try and get this consistent approach.
We also believe we should be starting at, if you like, the bottom of the elite.¬† The top amateurs we can do very little to influence the European Tour and the PGA Tour, but we do think if we start at the sort of elite amateur level we can encourage people to play a bit quicker.
I think we have a big concern that the pace of play is affecting the game.¬† It's affecting club membership.¬† It's spoiling the enjoyment of the game for many people, and we are determined to do whatever we can to include that.¬† And the same thing applies to the Open Championship.¬† We will have a pace of play policy and a schedule which we will be applying as stringently in the Open as we will do in the Amateur Championship, the Boys' Amateur Championship, and other R&A events.
Q.¬† Given reasonable weather, what would you expect a round to be here in July?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, Mr.Rickman was out yesterday with his stopwatch walking around the golf course.¬† He hasn't actually reported back to me yet as to what the time is walking from the greens to tees.¬† We're probably going to be in the same area as we were last year in the four hours 30, four hours 25.
But in the Amateur Championship we took 10 minutes off the time schedule last year from the previous year.¬† We're going to have a look again at this year to see if we can get another five or ten minutes off that.¬† We're never going to take an hour after the pace of play or even half an hour in one fell swoop.¬† We need to do it gradually; we need to educate the players.
The biggest thing for us here is engaging with the players and educating the players, and not just the players but the coaches as well.¬† The pre‑shot routine in many cases eats up the 40 or 50 seconds each player is allowed before the player has shot and we need to get that improved as best we can.
It's an education process, educating the players, explaining to them how they can improve their pace of play.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I'd add to that that every four years R&A runs an international golf conference, and it happens to be this week.¬† Over the next three days in St. Andrews, delegates coming from all over the world and pace of play is a big agenda item.¬† We'll be talking more at the club level than the championship level because it is recognised that this is an inhibitor, if you like, to people coming into the game, and at club level something needs to be done about it.
It's a big topic there, and I hope to get some positive outcomes out of it.
Q.¬† There's a walking rules official with each group.¬† Will you tell them to instruct players to improve pace of play even if they haven't fallen out of position?¬† Because it seems to me you know the trick, once players are out of position they speed up.¬† When they're not on the clock they go back to their old ways.
JIM McARTHUR: ¬†We always try to encourage the walking rules official to be aware of the time schedule and to speak to the players as early as possible.¬† To say, look, we're okay just now, but there's a possibility of falling behind here and you need to keep up with the game in front.¬† So we're always actively trying to do that.¬† You don't want to be too heavy‑handed and dive in there when it's not necessary.¬† I think encouragement, being aware of where the group is against a time schedule is very important.
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think it's quite a tough job for walking officials to do that, especially as the players don't encounter this most other weeks of the year.¬† So there's a degree in diplomacy to be sat, I think, to make this effective.
But in theory at least the walking officials should have quite an influence in how pace of play properly handled.¬† You're quite right that we do this to the best of our ability.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† There's obviously communication between the groups between the matches.¬† So if you have one official that has a problem, he can relay that very quickly to the officials behind.
The communication process is actually very good for that, and I think that does help the pace of play.
Q.¬† The old heads tend to know how to play the system.¬† Casual observers looking at what happened at the Masters had the impression that you would punish a 14 year old but not one of the stars that golf has almost this two‑class system.¬† How do you feel about that?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I don't think that's the case at all, certainly not the case with the Open Championship.¬† We feel a lot of importance in treating everybody the same.¬† There is a schedule, yes, people do have ways of getting around the system.¬† For example, the caddie might walk up to the ball and put the bag down and the player is 50 yards behind.¬† Well, in a situation like you have to try and identify that and the officials have got to deal with that.
But certainly in terms of dealing with amateurs against professionals there's no discrimination at all as far as we're concerned.
Q.¬† Will Tiger be asked to read your pace of play policy before he's allowed to register for The Open?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† We are talking about amateur events here.¬† Professionals we assume will read all the documentation that's sent to them.
Q.¬† Peter, do you think pace of play in the Open Championship has any bearing on pace of play at club level?
PETER DAWSON:¬† A variety of views on this.¬† I'm slightly skeptical about this actually that you see a lot of amateurs copying the pros, not the least because it's so damned tiring to spend looking at putts and things like that.¬† Looking out my window at St. Andrews I don't see a huge amount of that though people at other clubs say it is a factor.
I think pace of play at club level is much more to do with far too much fourball golf perhaps, courses being set up rather than players ought to be playing, tees set up too far back for them and so on.¬† And perhaps just a general brush‑up on where to leave your bag and all the conventional things while you're putting that do speed play up.
But I don't think that I really see most people with great long pre‑shot routines and pacing around the greens looking at putts.¬† It no doubt has some bearing on it, but I think there are other factors at play at club level, as well, that are perhaps other issues.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† One of the issues that comes coming up at turn to play.¬† People play in sequence rather than par level, and I think one thing trying to people we're involved with is you need to be prepared to play.¬† When it's your turn to play, you should be ready to play.
And I think if we can keep talking to people‑‑ if we see somebody who has a routine or is not preparing to play the way we should speak to them quietly about how they should be preparing to play their next shot.¬† It's important that we do that.
PETER DAWSON:¬† It used to be you'd have breakfast at home, go and play golf and have lunch at home.¬† Golf has very much a half day activity.¬† Now it's stretched to perhaps two‑thirds of a day activity.¬† I think we all believe that is having an adverse on participation especially amongst people 25 to 40 bracket with families or whatever age you want to pick.
I would love to see more golf clubs have two‑ball only times back to the morning, so golf would only take half the times or less, and I think it would bring a lot of these people who are lost to the game for at least some years back into it because it's not impacting on their family lives quite as much.¬† That's my personal hobby horse on this one.
Q.¬† The average pace of play in the first round of the Masters was five hours and 19 minutes and some argue there should have been more than just one penalty.¬† How do you guys feel about that?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I think all that you can do as a tournament organizer, I guess, is apply the rules as they have been distributed to the players, and I was a rules official at the Masters.¬† I was listening on the radio to what's going on, and what happens is that a group gets out of position, they go on the clock, and the experienced players catch up and within the rules they are fined.
The young amateur, unfortunately, perhaps didn't have the experience to do that, and despite many, many warnings, he was called out quite badly on more than one occasion.¬† And I think the rules official or the timing rover had no option but to apply a penalty within the rules of a competition.
I'm quite certain if a professional had done the same thing as a young 14 year old had done, he'd have had a penalty too, but they are perhaps more wily than that.
I think the question then is is the system working rather than was it properly applied because it was certainly properly applied.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think the inexperienced caddie didn't help the situation, either.¬† I think if he had a more experienced caddie it would have helped him play a bit quicker.¬† Maybe not.
Q.¬† I think you used the exact same phrase stringently.¬† Can you tell me or confirm that nobody actually got a penalty at the Open last year and is that kind of hard to believe how long it takes if the rules are being applied stringently that nobody got one?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† There was no penalty last year at the Open.¬† I think that the timing last year at the Open was perhaps pretty good.¬† I think we were pretty much within the time schedule of maybe 10 minutes out, but that's pretty good in the circumstance of a major event.
But this is not a short‑term fix.¬† It's very much a longer term process of trying to improve pace of play steadily.¬† But we are determined to apply the rules as stringently as we possibly can.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Our round times at the Open last year were the best we've had for a long time and that was very gratifying.¬† I think if I remember, Jim, we did have a penalty for pace of play at the Amateur Championship, and the Boys, Johnnie has reminded me.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† We're not actually going looking here to impose penalties.¬† What we're trying to do is to engage with the players and to help them to play quicker.¬† That's what we want to do.¬† If we have to impose penalties, we will impose penalties.¬† But it's not a question of he's a slow player, let's focus on him.¬† We're trying to improve the pace of play of the whole field, and it's with the officials and the players working together.¬† And it's part of the documentation that we issue about the policies and the procedures.¬† We also issue guidance for the players and guidance for the officials.¬† So the players know what's expected of them and the officials know how to apply the procedures.¬† So we're trying to do it as an education process rather than as a penalizing process.
Q.¬† Have rounds got longer as golf courses have got longer?
PETER DAWSON:¬† I think statistically that's true if you just compare how long things used to take in the Open with now, but the lengthening of the courses, nowhere near explains the lengthening of the round times, nowhere near.¬† They used to play two rounds a day in the Open at four minutes starting intervals.¬† Think about that.¬† Now we're at 11‑minute starting intervals and no chance of getting two rounds in a day.
The lengthening of the courses hasn't explained it.¬† Quite honestly, if you look back in time, I was looking here at Muirfield and in the 1930s when Perry won the championship, the course was 6800 yards.¬† We're talking 7150 or 7190, whatever it is.¬† That hasn't in any way explained the increase in round times.
The Old Course at St. Andrews in the 1930s was 6850.¬† We're playing it at 7300.¬† It doesn't explain the doubling of round times or whatever that have been experienced.
Q.¬† Can I ask a question about the rota for The Open?¬† I know it's not set in stone and there are nine courses.¬† St. Andrews is going to be every five years, and would you ideally like to have given variables?¬† I know some courses might drop off and come back on, but would you like to have them in order?¬† Would you like to see them coming in the same order, and would it be St. Andrews every five years?¬† Is that ideal for you?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, we don't have a policy that's cast in stone on St. Andrews being every 1994 Open exactly the five‑year cycle since, but it has fallen into that.¬† We think the number of venues that we have is about right, because a 10‑year cycle for the other venues is perhaps about as much as most clubs or courses would like to have in terms of the disruption it causes to their normal day‑to‑day activities.¬† And we also like to have a little bit of flexibility about the sequence so you can avoid situations like having a Ryder Cup and an Open Championship next door to each other in the same year or a Commonwealth games and an Olympic Games and an Open in the same part of the country.¬† So a little flexibility about the sequencing is no bad thing, either.¬† The number is about right.
Just to introduce a new topic we have said in the past that we are looking at Portrush, and that study continues to be undertaken.
The generality of it we feel quite reasonably comfortable with the number of venues we have, and it seems to be popular that we go back to St. Andrews every five years, and I see no major way that that policy is likely to be changed in the near future, but I am looking at Jim.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think that's correct.¬† One thing I would say from a personal view point is we are missing a venue in the southwest of England or in that southwest corner, South Wales, Bristol or somewhere down there.¬† Although we have looked at what's down there, there is nothing really at the moment that jumps out there to take it down there.¬† It would give us a better balance if we had one in the southeast and one in the southwest down there, but there's nothing obviously at the moment, and that might never come, but that's just a personal viewpoint.
Q.¬† In terms of course setup, I don't see the name of the superintendent in the packet, but could you talk a little bit about who controls the course, the technical terms of setup, whether you go to things like specific stimpmetre reads, faze, cuts and all that stuff.¬† If you could describe the process.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Sure, the course manager here is Colin Irvine, and he's a very experienced man.¬† He's been at Muirfield for a long time.¬† I just forget he's been at another Open venue, too.¬† Maybe not.¬† But he's a delight to work with and keeps one of the very finest courses in the country in terms of conditioning.
And the buildup to the Open Championship and the course setup and how we do it is a discussion between the R&A, the club, Colin, in this case, and we take advice from the STRI, who come with us on joint course walks, very frequently during the year, not just in the year of the championship but in the years building up to it, as well.
We have scientific measurements now going on about smoothness of greens, trueness of greens, firmness, green speed and so on, and we have target ranges for our championship venues, and we measure the actual results against those target ranges, and they're reported on very regularly as we go.
We're looking for high green speeds but not so high that we are frightened about balls moving in winds.¬† We've got a very scientific measurement now of hardness and of green smoothness and trueness, and so we're trying to get all of our venues within those ranges.
It's noticeable that our East Coast venues because of the weather conditions find it easier to get into the hardness and bounciness range than perhaps some of the wetter West Coast venues do.¬† But the target is always now to be able to be within the range even if wet weather.
And we've made great strides towards that in the last four or five years.¬† It's been good.¬† STRI have been a great help to us in this regard.
JIM McARTHUR:¬† I think that is one of the big issues is the weather.¬† You can take all these measurements but you have to take into account the weather conditions as the event is happening and that can cause some difficulties in making decisions.¬† In an ideal world we'd like the greens a bit quicker, but we can't take that chance that we get strong winds and the event itself is in some doubt.
PETER DAWSON:¬† Getting the turf quality right, getting rid of fibrous material during the surface, works wonders in terms of the course behaving as you want it to do even in rain, and that is the drive that is going on at every Open venue.
Q.¬† Portrush is an ongoing issue, but are you able to give us any indication which way the wind is blowing?
PETER DAWSON:¬† I really can't at the moment.¬† It's a fantastic golf course, no question about that.¬† Although things like spectator movement, accomodation, traffic, trains, all that is in the mix as is commercial‑‑ likely commercial results.¬† I'm sorry but it would be premature of me to say anything.
Q.¬† Are you disappointed that the cricket authorities are put on an ashes test the weekend before the Open?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, it's become I a Wimbledon moving a week closer to the Open from 2015, we've got Lord's tests coming up against Open weekend, arguably it never used to happen when BBC covered everything, but now that different television stations cover various events, I think this kind of competition is a more likely feature of the landscape.
We do our best to liaise, but we're not always successful.
Q.¬† Going back to Portrush, taking the Irish Open there last year, did it in any way illuminate the viability of staging The Open Championship there given the fact that there were 130,000 there for the week there during the Irish Open?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, Johnnie was there for us and I'll let him answer most of this question.¬† I think the main thing that came through for us was the enthusiasm of the Irish golf crowd and supporters of the event who turned out in very big numbers and were great supporters of golf.
But Johnnie, you were there at the time.
JOHNNIE COLE‑HAMILTON:¬† Yes, I did visit during the Irish Open with some colleagues from my department, and it was a hugely successful event, and it was very important that we saw how that hugely successful event unfolded.¬† As Peter says, the thing that jumped out was the enthusiasm from certainly the local population of just the general locality.¬† And also with those kind of numbers which have never been dealt with before, there were a lot of positives that came out of it.¬† In terms of I want on the park and ride and I used that transportation system and saw it for myself, went round the car parks.¬† There's a lot of positives that came out of that, and it certainly was a very successful event that it could clearly handle.
But the key thing that we're looking at is there's a huge jump between the Irish Open and The Open Championship, and not just in terms of spectator numbers but infrastructure, surrounding, car parking, hotels, commercial aspects.¬† This is a long process that we're involved in, and as Peter says, we're just in the middle of that just now.
Q.¬† The study that you're doing now is ongoing and the viability of staging an Open Championship in Royal Portrush, has that improved to a fair degree or has it improved at all?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I think, as I said earlier, it's premature to comment, frankly, but it certainly hasn't done itself any damage.¬† Put it that way.
Q.¬† Peter, kind of related to Wimbledon as you mentioned earlier, last week they announced an increase in prize money, seemingly partly at the behest of the players.¬† Is there anything to say on that in terms of The Open this year and are you under any pressure to increase prize money at the Open?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, last year all of golf's major championships I think at the exchange rate that pertain between the pound and the dollar were at the ¬£8 million level for prize money, and I know The Masters was again $8 million this year.¬† I don't know what the US Open is going to be.¬† I understand it's their media day today and they make an announcement about that.
We've adopted the policy of leaving or decision on prize money a little later than we used to do so I don't have an announcement today, and the reason we do that is partly because of swings in exchange rates that can occur, and it's very important that the championship remains competitive.¬† It doesn't have to be specifically every year with the best events in golf, and you'll find that we take whatever action is necessary to do that.
The Wimbledon prize money increase was large, as you say, and I understand in tennis that there's a feeling amongst the players that lower down the rankings they're perhaps not as well off as golfers are lower down the rankings.¬† And I'm sure some of the prize money increases has been directed at that issue in tennis.
But I stress I'm no expert at that if indeed I'm an expert on anything, but I certainly don't know enough about tennis to comment.
Q.¬† As you said last week, perception issues with the R&A as Wimbledon have done in this current financial climate, do you concern yourself with how that might look ordinary savings be better passed on to those buying tickets?
PETER DAWSON:¬† Well, I'm sure our championship committee would consider that aspect of it.¬† Do you want to be increasing prize money hugely and at the same time increasing ticket prices or whatever.¬† I'm not saying Wimbledon have do that one second.¬† I doubt they've moved the ticket price I would suspect.¬† But it would be a factor that the championship committee would considering for sure.
Q.¬† Regarding the drop heard around the world at the Masters, will someone will monitoring the telecasts as a rules official and with responsibility to alert players to possible infractions they may have committed before signing their score cards or is that still considered the purview of the player himself?
JIM McARTHUR:¬† Well, I think the ultimate responsibility is still with the player.¬† I don't think we'd want to take that away from him.¬† I think we do have people monitoring the play as we go along because we have the walking rules officials.¬† And if there is any incident that we he had facilities provided by the BBC for looking at‑‑ and we have in the past done that.
We are considering perhaps doing kind of a TV recording facility closer to the scoring area.¬† Haven't quite finalized that yet, but that possibly is something we would do.¬† Previously we had to go down to the television compound and look at recordings there, so we might try and draw that together again.
But we're not I think going to be trying to monitor every player in the field to be playing by the rules.¬† That still has to be ultimate the player's responsibility.
PETER DAWSON:¬† We do have and have had for many years rules people in both BBC studio and ESPN, so we're very quickly alerted to things that may occur on television, as well.
Q.¬† There have been some quite strong comments from Greg Norman in the last few hours regarding drug testing.¬† He said it was disgraceful that feels the issue should be more stringent, blood tests should be more stringent in the procedures.¬† Can I ask for your take on that, please?
PETER DAWSON:¬† I can't speak for the Tour's position on this and week in and week out it's the Tours who are administering drug testing.¬† As far as Olympic golf is concerned when the players come under The International Golf Federation policy, that will be a different story.¬† And we have a medical team working at the IGF now looking at golf's testing regime and coming up with recommendations for what's going to happen pre‑Olympic Games.
The issue of blood testing is up for consideration at the moment.¬† I haven't heard Greg's comments, though.¬† That's news to me.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports