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January 24, 2017

Joseph Abraham

Nick Tarratt

Fahad Nasser Al Naimi

Mohammed Faisal Al Naimi

Gary McGlinchey

Doha, Qatar

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the landmark 20th edition of Commercial Bank press conference.

A quick overview of the running order. Shortly, we will hear opening remarks from Commercial Bank Chief Executive Mr. Joseph Abraham, Mohammed Faisal Al Naimi, Executive Director of the Qatar Golf Association, and Fahad Nasser Al Naimi, General Secretary of the Qatar Golf Association. This will be followed by questions from the floor. Following the questions-and-answer session, there will be a short photo call here at the top table, and interview opportunities with one of our spokes people today.

Following the press conference, you are all welcome to enjoy lunch in the Commercial Bank chalet in the back of the Doha Golf Club clubhouse.

Now I'm pleased to introduce our VIP panelists. Mr. Joseph Abraham, Chief Executive Officer, Commercial Bank. Fahad Nasser Al Naimi, General Secretary Qatar Golf Association. Gary McGlinchey, tournament manager, Doha Golf Club. Mohammed Faisel Al Naimi, Executive Director Qatar Golf Association. Nick Tarratt, Director of International Office, Dubai, European Tour.

This year, is a very special milestone for the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. The landmark 20th edition, for 20 years, the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters has witnessed the best talents in the sport graced Doha Golf Club championship course as they compete for the Mother of Pearl Trophy. Over the 20 years the championship has played host to many of the world's favourite golfers, and its illustrious list of winners features many who have since gone on to reach the very pinnacle of the game.

To mark this huge milestone in the history of the game, the tournament will see some of the world's finest golfers take the field the next few days to include Europe's first U.S. Open Champion, for four decades, Ireland's Graeme McDowell; Great Britain's 2013 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters Champion, Chris Wood and his Ryder Cup teammate Andy Sullivan. Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera-Bello, major champions Martin Kaymer, Ernie Els and Paul Lawrie, and 2018 European Ryder Cup Captain, Denmark's Thomas Björn.

We look forward to witnessing these great players and over a hundred others, including three Qatari golfers, take to the course for this historic edition of the championship.

I'd now like to hand over to Mr. Joseph Abraham Commercial Bank Chief Executive Officer to welcome you all to the official start of the 20th edition of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

JOSEPH ABRAHAM: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I'd like to welcome to you the Doha Golf Club and the 2017 Commercial Bank. We at Commercial Bank are really honoured and privileged to be the naming sponsor for the Qatar Masters.

This is now our 12th year that we are actually sponsoring this, and over the last 12 years, we have seen the tournament grow from strength-to-strength in terms of the lineup of world-class players and also the participation of people from Qatar and from abroad who have come to watch and take part in this great event.

The Qatar Masters would not be what it is without the support and sponsorship of other respond who ares who have also been here, and of course the Qatar Golf Association, the Qatar Olympic Association and of course the Doha Golf Club, which as always, will provide a magnificent facility for us.

Most importantly, the Qatar Masters is a part of the national vision of Qatar to become an educational sports and cultural center for the gulf region and Commercial Bank is probably one of the most important sporting events in Qatar's sporting calendar.

What a beautiful day it is, and we look forward to this weather continuing, so that we can have some spectacular golf over the next few days. We look forward to a very enjoyable time for our world-class lineup of golfers and for the crowds who will definitely come to watch the world-class golf. Thank you very much.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: General secretary of Qatar Golf Association Mr. Fahad Nasser Al Naimi.

FAHAD NASSER AL NAIMI: Good morning, everyone. I would like to welcome all of you for this press conference, and I hope for all of you a good time enjoying our tournament this week. Good luck for all the players who is going to play the tournament.

Also I'd like to thank our main sponsor, Commercial Bank, and we look forward to develop our tournament in the future.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Before we open up for questions from the media, I'll get things started myself with a few questions to the panel.

Question to Mr. Joseph Abraham. What is the main objective of hosting a prestigious European Tour tournament for the bank, and for Qatar?

JOSEPH ABRAHAM: As I said, basically Qatar's national vision is to be a sporting cultural and education hub for the gulf region, and the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters I think is a spectacular sporting event which puts Qatar on the international sports map.

We are proud to be associated with it because the Qatar Masters is all the things that Commercial Bank tries to achieve for its clients: Which is excellence, which is something unique and which is providing world-class service to our clients, and the Qatar Masters actually ticks all these boxes.

So it's something that we are happy and proud to be associated with, and it's also supporting Qatar's national vision.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: What are some key numbers that you can share with everyone that showcase the size of the tournament and how its grown in recent years in terms of playing field, spectators and sponsors.

JOSEPH ABRAHAM: Well, as we said, this event has grown from strength-to-strength over the last 12 years and from what I can say, the figures, the attendance, has gone up by over 26 percent to around 25,000 people come and it's become a big community event for Qatar.

We also have a world-class lineup of players, as you've already mentioned, and the field keeps improving. We also have a number of very important sponsors who join Commercial Bank in sponsoring from hotels like the Intercontinental and the Radisson Blu. We can just go through the list. We have Rolex, Diners Club International, QIC, The Gulf Times, Qatar Duty Free. There's a whole list of very important Qatari companies who have also joined us in sponsoring this very important event.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: From a European Tour perspective, how has the Qatar tournament evolved in line with golf in the region in the past two decades?

NICK TARRATT: Thank you, Michael. Good morning, all. On behalf of The European Tour, firstly I would like to congratulate everyone on this, the 20th Qatar Masters to everyone at the top table, the Qatar Golf Association, the Qatar Olympic Committee, Commercialbank and Doha Golf Club. Congratulations to all.

I actually attended the first Qatar Masters in 1998. It was won by Andrew Coltart, and it was a very different Qatar Masters and a very different Doha in those days.

The Qatar Masters fits centrally on The Desert Swing. In 1998, The Desert Swing became a two-event series and in 2006, it became a three-event Desert Swing. The Desert Swing is ideal for preparation and application and delivery for the players in preparation for their year ahead. Qatar fits nicely in the middle of the series. It has a quality field, and what Qatar and the Qatar Masters stands out for the players, is a quality golf course, quality facilities, good weather and Doha and Qatar hospitality. The players are always well looked after and we have a good field, and look forward to a great week. Thank you.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Thank you, Nick. It's good to see you again.

Question for Gary. How has Commercial Bank helped shape sport in Qatar in the past, and what does the future look like?

GARY McGLINCHEY: I think for me, the Commercial Bank is really a great opportunity for the junior golfers to get close and see the best golfers in the world in action, where they can understand by focusing on training, they can become professionals with their career path.

And I think we have some kids now that have been inspired since they were young professionals, so young kids. Clarke Lutton, he was the Doha Golf Club junior champion maybe in 2000, he was the club champion in 2006 and here we are, ten years later he's playing in the Qatar Masters.

We have also have Miguel, who is a kid to watch out for the future. He's 16 years old, and he's already made a career decision I'm sure to become a golf professional.

So golf, having the Qatar Masters, it gives these children a career path. They are planning from when they are 12 years old, they will finish high school, they will look at opportunities for golf scholarships in the US. And following on from that, the next step if you're good enough is to try to qualify to become a Tour player and come back here and play in the Qatar Masters.

And of course, as Michael said, we have three Qatari golfers playing this week. Which again in 1998, these boys were probably five or six years old and they are all going to play here this week.

So I think that's the beauty of having the Qatar Masters and here in Doha. Can get so close to the players, because I know we have 30,000 people here all week watching it. But the same kind of event in the US or in Europe, you can't get close to the players because there's a 100,000 people there. So it's pretty unique in that respect, and I think great for the community. Thank you very much.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Thank you, Gary.

How does the course itself now differ from the championship course of the first edition in 1998? Maybe Nick will remember that.

NICK TARRATT: I was behind the ropes.

GARY McGLINCHEY: I played. I think technology's been one of the things in terms of equipment. I mean, the bunkers here on No. 10, which used to be No. 1, when you design a golf course, maybe they design the bunkers 250 yards from the tee. Technology with the golf ball and the equipment, the players now hit the ball, it's not unusual for these guys to hit 300 yards.

So over the years, we've had to move tees to ensure the bunkers are still in play. And with the machinery, we've got new overseeding with the grass. There's lots of advanced technology there. This week, we are already hearing some positive comments on the greens. We tried a new seed to overseed the greens this year, and they are running very well.

But for me, I think the technology is more with the equipment and the guys hit the ball much further than they did 20 years ago. And we are lucky here because we have the space, so we put in new tees and the Tour will advise us maybe next year, we will have to put in some new tees to make it longer and more difficult.

But the guys are athletes now, too. Twenty years ago, these guys, they don't go to the gym, but now every guy on Tour, they are like a professional athlete. They live, breathe golf. They go to the gym. Their diets, they all have dieticians. I think globally overall, golf has become a much more athletic sport than it used to be.

NICK TARRATT: Just to follow that up, we have Mikael Eriksson in the room, the tournament director, who is here for the first time. And I spoke to him this morning and the feedback from other officials and players around, they said the greens are the best they had ever seen for the Qatar Masters, so well done Doha Golf Club.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Question is to Mr. Joseph. As a bank, as a title sponsor for Qatar Masters, what is the main strategy, to focus on golf, rather than other sports in the community?

JOSEPH ABRAHAM: I think it's about actually supporting the vision for the country. I think golf is one area which as I said earlier, this is an international, world-class tournament, and that fits in with our strategy of providing world-class service and products to the Qatari population.

So the brand association is something that remains positive. We like to focus our efforts on multiple community activities, but this is probably the most prominent of the sporting events that we are sponsoring at this moment.

We have been very happy with the results the last 12 years, with the quality of the tournament and the positive association for Commercial Bank. So I think that's why we have continued and we continue to be very happy with how it's turning out.

Q. I know you've already alluded to the history of the tournament, but if we can just elaborate a little bit. Did you genuinely believe that this event and golf in the Middle East would reach a milestone like 20 years? We've seen similar anniversaries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as well, but of course when it all first started, it was presumably hard to get just one golf tournament up and running in one place. And now the whole Desert Swing, they are hitting these significant landmarks which is in many senses, given where it was when it first started quite a establishing.
NICK TARRATT: I first came out in 1990. A little bit of history: I first played the course with Peter Harradine before it was open, and so I go a little earlier than 1998 in Doha.

The challenge that any tour has is not one-off events. It's to get a flow of events for players and the officials and the circus coming to town, and that is what is ideal for the European Tour. We have three tournaments on The Desert Swing, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and Dubai next week. It's perfect for the players: Not much travel and great weather and facilities. So it's a great kickoff for the season.

I first remember 1985, I was involved in the Tunisian Open. It was the first time that The European Tour went outside Mainland Europe. It clashed with the Masters, the first event of the year.

So you can see in not too long how The European Tour has become a European Tour, 12 months a year, giving opportunities for our players at all levels. So it's very important to have nice facilities weather, and Doha provides that.

Q. Mr. Abraham, I just wondered, what from you've been saying about the sponsors, I just wondered if there's been any question marks over the future of this tournament, from what you've been saying, that would be no. Because there are other events in Qatar, for example, the cycling event, Tour of Qatar has been cancelled this year because of lack of sponsorship.
So I wondered if there's been any such problems with this event, I'm guessing from what you're saying, there's not, and would you expect the event to carry on for another 20 years, for example?

JOSEPH ABRAHAM: Well, as the main sponsor, I can say that Commercial Bank has been very happy with how it's developed over the last 12 years. So I think that's probably the best indicator of sponsorship satisfaction. And as I mentioned earlier, we have a range of about 15 other main sponsors from all sectors of the economy, ranging from hotels to I think automobiles to water to clothing to you name it.

Obviously this has a very wide appeal to the various sectors of the economy, and so we would also, given the quality of the actual tournament and it's international standing, I would say that this definitely has a very important appeal to Qatari companies, which would therefore, we hope that they would likely continue sponsorship.

Ultimately it's their own position, but the quality of the tournament and the results achieved have actually been very good for the Qatar companies who have sponsored it. Plus, of course, it's part of the national vision to build Qatar as a sporting hub, so this is a very important part of this vision.

Q. My question is to Nick. It's nice to have you back here. You said you've been associated with golf in Doha for more than 20 years, and having followed this event since the last year, you were talking about the golf course, the participation. Of course we had the first Ladies European Tour event a few days ago, and even the ladies were mentioning that the greens here were some of the finest. Looking at the special edition, the participation, where do you see Qatar Masters in the future in terms of getting the best of the best to play?
NICK TARRATT: I think we can all congratulate everyone around the table on the quality of the field this year. I think looking at the players, just from the player entries here, we have the likes of Alex Noren, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan, Martin Kaymer, Robert Karlsson, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell. Last week's winner in Abu Dhabi, Tommy Fleetwood.

So I believe we have a very strong field this year. It's a very loyal field. As I said before, players love coming to Qatar. They are well hosted and I think players are going to continue to come here.

So the weather's fine. The golf course is good. What more could they ask for?

Q. For the last couple of years, we started on Wednesday and finished on Saturday. What is the reason for moving it back?
GARY McGLINCHEY: The global traditionally all over the world finishes on Sunday. Originally moved it for crowds, but television viewing figures are far, far less.

So the valuation to the sponsors for TV viewing is far lower because no one can watch it on a Sunday. Guys in America don't watch on Monday, they wasn't watch the Qatar Masters because it finishes on a Saturday. A lot of the rationale was the television numbers.

And then the other issue was there's guys playing on the West Coast of America last week and they are trying to come to play in Qatar. If they are playing from the West Coast with the time difference and the length of the journey, they get here and the Pro-Am is on and they can't have a practice round. Doesn't give them enough time to get from the West Coast to the States to come and play.

Every other event is Thursday start, Sunday finish in golf. And that was the rationale for the move, to improve the TV and try to make sure guys can get here from the States and prepare properly.

Q. You just mentioned television viewers and moving the tournament to Sunday. Is there a figure that you have for how many people were watching globally tournaments prior to now and what percentage of it might increase by switching it?
GARY McGLINCHEY: We have the reports from Tour Productions, 400 million. But the other thing I think, as well, is in the U.K., guys watch football on Saturdays and they watch golf on Sundays, and I've had lots of guys that want to watch golf on Sundays and it's finished. People forget. Almost globally people are programmed that golf is a Sunday finish, and maybe Monday, if they have weather delays. But very seldom is it a Saturday finish. 400 million is the global TV audience.

MIKE SHOUEIRY: Okay. I would like to thank everybody for coming today.

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