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July 18, 2015

Peter Dawson


MIKE WOODCOCK: Good evening, everyone. We'll make a start. I'm joined by Peter Dawson, the Chief Executive of the R&A. Peter is in to discuss today's events, so I'll hand it over to Peter to give a few opening remarks and then we can take questions from the floor.

PETER DAWSON: Thank you, Mike. It's been a tough day, frustrating day, I'm sure, for everyone. It started this morning when we woke up to the power of the wind that we were broadly expecting. It was very strong indeed, had been very strong overnight. We had to take a few steps structurally to make sure we didn't get blown away, especially with the TV towers, and then early this morning between 6:00 and maybe 6:45, we spent a great deal of time out at the far end of the golf course. Traditionally here if the 11th green works, then everything else works, and we putted and we marked balls and we placed them back and we putted again, and while it was very windy, we did not get one ball move at that time of the morning right up to quarter to 7:00, so we took the view that the course was playable, although difficult, and play began. Very soon after play began, balls did, in fact, start to move, which was very different to what we had experienced up to quarter to 7:00, and that ended up in a suspension of play. What had happened, and the wind readings show it, is that the wind speeds after 7:00 increased by about 6 miles an hour over what we had been experiencing prior to the start of play, and that was enough to tip it over the edge. Had the wind speed reduced slightly, we wouldn't have had any problems, but it didn't, it increased. We were then at great pains all day to ensure that the players weren't put back out. Obviously if there was a chance of ball movement on the greens, and we'd been waiting and waiting and waiting, measuring and measuring and measuring, until now play has resumed at 6:00. When play was suspended, we were experiencing average wind speeds of 25 miles an hour gusting to 40. What we're experiencing now is 15 to 20 gusting to 25. We believe firmly that -- I hope I don't regret saying this -- that play will proceed to finish tonight and that then we will have completed the second round. At the end of this evening, we will, of course, establish the cut, do the draw, and we're going to return to normal Open mode of the third round being played tomorrow. By normal Open mode I don't mean which day. We're obviously a day late, but we're going to play the third round tomorrow. We haven't decided yet whether that's going to be in two balls or three balls, we'll decide that later, and then the final round on Monday and crowning the champion on Monday evening. That's our plan. The weather forecast for tomorrow and Monday, whilst there is some rain in the forecast overnight tonight and into tomorrow morning, and there will be winds in the sort of 10 miles an hour, maybe riding to 15 bracket, there's nothing in there to particularly worry us, so we're confident -- famous last words, but we're confident that we will finish play on Monday and crown the champion then. That's what's happened today. Happy to answer questions.

Q. Peter, as you say, the 11th is the best barometer on the course. With the problems that Brooks Koepka seemed to be experiencing immediately out there having to replace his ball, wasn't that an indication that perhaps play should have been halted even earlier than it was?
PETER DAWSON: Well, when you're faced with a possible suspension of play, you want to be sure that you know what you're doing. You want to establish facts from wide parts of the course. We had a rules official with every game. We sent Grant Moir, one of our top men out there, to see what was happening, and it did take some time to establish that they couldn't find a spot to put the ball down safely. That, of course, results in players at other holes carrying on with play, players waiting behind on the 11th tee maybe hardly having hit a shot, and I appreciate people thinking that that might be unfair and unreasonable, but it takes a smarter guy than me to actually avoid that, but it does take time to establish the best course of action and make the right decision.

Q. It seemed that Jordan Spieth in particular felt play shouldn't have started. I wondered whether you had had similar feedback from other players and how you reacted to that?
PETER DAWSON: Well, clearly with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been better if play hadn't started, but the decision was taken based on the evidence at the time. I supported it fully, was an integral part of it, and I believe it was the right decision given the facts at the time we took it. When you're out at the far end of the course and balls are not moving on the 11th green, although it's a tough day with a big wind, it's the right decision to play. It proved that as the wind increased that we would have been better not starting, but we did start.

Q. Were any of the greens cut this morning before play started, and in hindsight was that a wise move?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the greens were cut at this end of the golf course, if you like. I think out to the 5th and 13th, and then beyond that they were not cut. That's something we do when there's big winds around here because our past experience is always that it's the far end that that's the problem. I know Louis Oosthuizen's ball moved on 13 quite considerably, but the previous group that I stood out there and watched, the Paul Lawrie group, had no problems putting out on 13 at all. What happened out there was the wind increased, and had that wind been as strong at quarter to 7:00 as it was at quarter past, we wouldn't have started.

Q. What impact has the alteration of the timetable had on the media coverage? Have the media companies been able to adapt their coverage to suit?
PETER DAWSON: Well, as far as television is concerned, they've had a tough day, of course, filling in, and I've seen that ESPN in the United States have kept running, showing replays and commentary and discussion and interviews and so on. BBC have done well, too. I'm not sure what the situation is in Japan to be honest with you, but all the companies are planning full coverage of what's going on now and of the subsequent play tomorrow and Monday.

Q. Could you provide a little more detail, please, on the Koepka situation? Who was the rules official with that group? Did he indeed refuse to play on, and if so, how does that situation play out as it relates to the rules official? Can he deny that right at that point in time? Is there a penalty involved at all? How does that all factor?
PETER DAWSON: Well, when we're out there in a wind like that and the rules of golf are there to be applied but they are very tough to apply when the wind is howling around you, and it's obvious with the rules official in attendance, the player was having difficulty replacing the ball, felt that the conditions were such that play wasn't practical. Second opinion was called for, and hence Grant Moir went out there. He tried the same thing, and actually eventually they decided to play on, but replacing the ball at the nearest spot where the ball wouldn't move. As that was happening, the Louis Oosthuizen incident occurred right at that moment, and taking all that together, we decided to suspend.

Q. Could you have wiped out the 32 minutes of play this morning and had them start over, and if you could have, was that considered?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I wish we could. Rules of golf do allow you to wipe out a full round, but sadly not part of a round, and it's something that maybe the rules committee would like to look at for the future, but the rules of golf do not cater for that at this time.

Q. What is the stimpmetre reading for the Old Course for The Open Championship?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we've been targeting between 10 and 10-foot-6, and we were achieving that every day, but we have kept the 11th green about six inches slower than those readings, and we've been consistently able to achieve that each morning.

Q. And at the 2013 Women's British championship, what was that reading, the same? Do you keep it the same for the women?
PETER DAWSON: I don't know the answer to that. It's not our event and we were not intimately involved, so I can't answer you. I'm sorry.

Q. Any thought to perhaps in the future, coming here with slightly slower greens?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think we like to keep the greens at what I would call championship pace, without going crazy about it. I think what we've seen today is too strong a wind, not too fast greens to be honest with you.

Q. Given that many of the spectators will have spent the last 11 hours spending a great deal of money in the food courts, beers, merchandise, et cetera, do you think a 60 per cent refund on today's ticket is fair?
PETER DAWSON: I do. You know, it's in our conditions where we're living up to those. I can appreciate that some might disagree with that. We are tonight having quite a bit of golf. A lot of people I know have had a good time out there, and you can make an argument many ways about this. I think our decision to open up the championship to a very low price of £10 on Monday is the right thing to do, make it a sort of public day, and let's hope we get lots of people taking advantage of that.

Q. Was there any consideration given to trying to play 36 tomorrow, or was that just not possible?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I'm not sure if it would have been possible because it does depend on the cut line, the cut numbers. It's not a traditional thing at this championship to go to two-tee starts and three-balls. I know we did it at Hoylake just the one time. I know we said that wouldn't be a precedent. We weighed it all up and thought it would be in the best interest of the championship and in keeping with its traditions to go with the two rounds of golf in the next two days.

Q. In 2002 at Muirfield, the greens were considerably slower and they played in conditions that if you were there seemed very similar to this, except for the fact that they had rain, but they were much slower greens, so I wonder if there was ever a consideration on that. And then secondly, in regards to the field size after the cut, some tours have the ability to cut even smaller field size if they'd like to. Was that ever a consideration?
PETER DAWSON: Well, if I can deal with the second point first, it's in our conditions of competition for The Open Championship that we can extend into Monday, and indeed if we had to into Tuesday morning, and so with that as a condition, I'm quite sure that the additional people who would have been cut if we'd had a full cut might have had quite a lot to say if we didn't extend to Monday. So we think the full cut is the right thing to do and in keeping with the conditions of competition. The greens at Muirfield back in '02, I can't remember the exact speeds, but you know, this business about ball roll in a wind is not just related to green speed. It's also very much related to grass type, and we've done a lot of experimentation with the Sports Turf Research Institute into this, blowing balls on different types of grasses, although at the same stimp reading and you get very different results, and the greens at Muirfield actually don't seem to allow the ball to blow to the degree they do here, even at comparable speeds. I can't answer you why, it's something to do with the structure of the grass leaf.

Q. Everybody is having to make sort of revised plans for Monday. Could you give us an indication of what time you expect to finish play on Monday evening?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we're still discussing that, actually. Television obviously have an input into this, but I doubt if it will be very different from the standard Open finishing time which you would normally expect on a Sunday, which is a 6:30-ish finish then followed by the ceremony, but I'm not announcing that as definite at this point.

Q. You said the 11th green a few weeks before the tournament is now puttable in high winds with the changes you've made. You've also said today that the green speed is on that green treated differently. Might you be willing to reconsider what you feel is the championship green speed that you discussed earlier? Is that something that would seem reasonable in light of what's happened?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think for the vast majority of days here, if we went down to a green speed of something say -- pick a number, nine feet, and we played The Open Championship here, I think most people would think the greens were far too slow, to be honest with you. So it's a balance. 10 to 10-foot-6 is an appropriate green speed at St. Andrews in the vast majority of days. We've had a very difficult day today. The slope on the green at 11 is not directly connected with that. That's connected with slope as opposed to wind speed, and I still think what we did there was perfectly appropriate.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Peter, thank you for joining us.
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