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July 18, 2018

Clive Brown

Martin Slumbers

Johnnie Cole- Hamilton

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom

MIKE WOODCOCK: Good morning, everyone. We'll make a start. Welcome to the R&A press conference here, the 147th Open at Carnoustie. I'll start this morning by introducing our panel. On my far right is Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director of Championships. In the centre is Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive. And to my immediate right is Clive Brown, Chairman of the Championship Committee. I'll start this morning by asking Clive to say a few words of welcome.

CLIVE BROWN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 147th Open. Carnoustie is one of the truly outstanding links courses in the world of golf. As you know, it's been a warm and dry summer in this part of Scotland. The links is certainly running firm and fast and is in superb condition.

We've received positive feedback from the players in practise, and the course is exactly where we want it to be at the start of play tomorrow.

May I say, it's good to see so many of you here again this week. We really appreciate your continued interest in The Open and the support for the game of golf.

Just a few weeks ago, we lost one of our outstanding Open champions: Peter Thomson's achievement in raising the Claret Jug on five occasions, four times in five years, from 1954, may never be bettered. Most important of all, Peter was a true gentleman and a fine ambassador for our sport. We have paid tribute to Peter in the 18th arena, and we will do so again at the presentation ceremony on Sunday.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a real sense of anticipation for this year's Open. With so many emerging talents competing against established champions, it promises to be an exciting week of golf. Thank you.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Thank you, Clive. We'll make a start. If I can ask you to raise your hand, and we'll get a microphone to you for any questions you might have.

Q. A question for Martin: Martin, you've been doing some fantastic work in terms of women's golf, Golf Charter, et cetera, but the fact remains that the champion here on Sunday will probably make ten times more than the women's champion the week after that. Is that sustainable?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, those issues are linked. We have a thing in the R&A, we always talk about what's our primary objective? Our primary objective is to make sure that our game is thriving 50 years from now, and that's what's driving and pushing us forward, and it sort of underpins everything we do.

I believe very strongly that when you look at the amateur game, that the growth of women playing golf, women working in golf, and families playing golf, it is critical to the long-term growth of the amateur game.

If I just look at the UK, the most frightening statistic I've seen on that is that between 2016 and 2017, the average age of membership went from 54 to 58 years of age. That is a significant problem that was have to face. So the Women in Golf Charter is one of our major planks of trying to get the amateur game to grow.

If you look at the women's professional game, in your question there, directionally, we absolutely want to drive up the prize money for the Women's British Open, and that is something that we're working on and thinking about very carefully.

But professional golf's a business, and it's a business about how much revenues come in from TV, from sponsors, and then you balance that against how much it costs to stage the event and how much you pay out in prize money, and there's a very clear correlation between the two. And what we have to do and what we're working very hard with all our partners in the LPGA and the LET and the European Tour and the PGA TOUR is how do we improve the business model that's underpinning women's professional golf? Directionally, we will go that way. That's absolutely the right answer.

But if we can grow the women's amateur game, then that helps build the business model at the top end, and that's what we're trying to achieve.

Q. Gentlemen, following the previous major championships, have you had a look at the rules following the incident with Phil Mickelson in the third round at the U.S. Open, and had he done that at The Open, would you have disqualified him?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: I have talked to Phil since he's been here last week, and he spoke to the media at the Scottish Open last week. Not putting words in, paraphrasing his words, but essentially admits that it wasn't his finest hour, and I agree with that.

We understand the USGA and the referees' decisions that were made at Shinnecock, and we completely respect those decisions. In the event of a similar situation this week, clearly, the first thing is you understand the facts because you never get the same situation and there will be lots of reasons. But we have looked very carefully at the rules, and I don't think it was good for the game and not the right way to have played this wonderful sport, and we would make a decision based on the facts of any incident that happened later in the week.

Q. The explanation from the USGA at the time focused on Rule 1-2, that if you could find another rule that would punish the same offense, it would go to that one rather than 1-2, which is disqualification. Do you see that as a loophole, something that may tweak the close of that loophole?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: Actually, they went to 14-5.

Q. Sorry.
MARTIN SLUMBERS: And Rule 1-2 says you can't use 1-2 if you've used another rule, so they used 14-5 which doesn't have a DQ option in it. But there are other ways, there are other parts of the rule book which refer to etiquette and the powers of the committee, and we're fully aware of those clauses that are in that rule.

Let's also remember that it's a moot point for next year because, as of 1st of January 2019, there would have been a DQ option in that equivalent rule.

Q. Martin, there was a notice sent out to 2,000 or so players asking for their drivers to be tested. I'm curious what -- I don't recall that in the last couple years, so curious what prompted that. What were you hoping to find, and did you find anything?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, we've always had an equipment test capability down on the range, certainly since I've been involved in The Open. It's been an option for players or the manufacturers to take their equipment in and have it tested.

We take our governance role very seriously, not just on the rules of golf and amateur status, but also equipment standards, and we felt it was an appropriate next step to more actively seek to test players' drivers straight out of the bag.

We actually did it in Japan earlier in the year at a Japanese event, and we did a random sample of the field playing, and all of those players have very kindly brought their drivers in, or their caddies brought them in straight out of their bags, and we did the testing. You know, the players were very interested in what we were testing, and it was very friendly atmosphere. And, no, we had no problems.

Q. Was the testing or any of your efforts prompted by the spike this year in driving distance? And compared to last year, your comments here, where have you moved in terms of your views on -- that's based on that spike in distance?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: No, it wasn't driven by the spike at all. It's driven by us just trying to keep moving the Championship forward and making it more complete and making sure that there is a service provided to ensure that the players are going out there with clubs that are conforming.

In the second part of your question on distance, this time last year, I made a comment that we were waiting to see what the full year distance numbers look like, but I expressed in this room that we were concerned where the preliminary numbers were going, and that our concern was based upon the balance between skill and technology and whether the balance between skill and technology for the recreational game and the elite game was appropriate. And that's the concern that I outlined a year ago. We still believe that, and we still believe that what we are looking at is not just an instantaneous where we are today, but very much where are we going and where's the game going 20 years from now in terms of that balance between skill and technology?

Golf is a game of skill, and long may it remain being a game of skill. We started the distance report three years ago, driven entirely because I believe that we needed to get transparency, and there was too much Chinese whispers around what data were we looking at, so we published it. And it was fascinating seeing the results and the comments on the published data.

When we published it at the beginning of this year, we were very clear saying that the concern that I had alluded to a year ago was real, and with the USGA, we said that we would now want to start an open and constructive dialogue around the hitting distance. We've started that process. We've talked to a number of people. From my perspective, I'm in listen mode. I'm listening. I'm talking to lots of constituents in the industry. I'm getting their perspective around what they think about how far the golf ball is being hit and where it is going, and I am absolutely of the view that I will continue listening and that whatever the outcome of this work over the next year or so will be done collaboratively and as an industry, and we need to work together and talk together and make sure that we do the right thing for this wonderful game that not only employs all of us, but actually that we all love.

Q. In this day and age when all the major championship courses are being increased in length year over year, tournament after tournament, what prompted the R&A to cut down Carnoustie's length by 19 yards? And what does it say about the golf course?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: I think it says two things: One is this is a fantastic golf course. This is a wonderful links course. This is an old-fashioned and yet modern links course. It is very challenging. It is very challenging when it's in regular play. When it's in the conditions we've had after six weeks, eight weeks of a heat wave, it is a very interesting golf course.

You know, I think that golf -- we need to remember golf is a game of, what did you score? Did you win your match? And I think this golf course is more than enough to find out who's going to score the lowest come Sunday.

With respect to why is it shorter by 19 yards, it's because we also want to create a world-class experience for all our spectators and also for our players, and we put a grandstand on the 1st tee, which we've never done before, and it's created a fabulous amphitheatre on that tee, which I am really looking forward to hearing tomorrow morning. And that's why it's 19 yards shorter.

Q. Could you please explain why Bryson DeChambeau was not allowed to use a compass? Maybe expand a little bit.
MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, it's been very well covered by yourselves around what the purpose was, Bryson using a compass or a protractor on his green book, and he's talked very much about checking hole locations. But if you look under the rule around artificial devices that we have, it says that the rules do not allow equipment to be used in an abnormal manner, and we decided that a protractor being used in that way is being used in an abnormal manner, and therefore, discussed it with Bryson and the PGA TOUR and came to the conclusion that was in the press release.

Q. Martin, the captain of Carnoustie Golf Club this morning shared his concerns with BBC Scotland that Carnoustie was now perhaps too small to host an Open Championship, and that in the 11 years since it hosted it last, the infrastructure required has just grown massively. Does he have a point? And do other venues on The Open roster, may they now be viewing themselves as not having the size and capability to host an Open Championship?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: I think everyone has a point. I'm not sure I agree with him. I think The Open has grown. We had the same conversation, Johnnie and I, with the captain at Royal Birkdale last year. It's grown as golf has grown. As we have sought to ensure that The Open is one of the world's greatest sporting events, and the infrastructure definitely has grown around it.

But the way I look at it is, for Carnoustie is that this is a great links course. If you go back to 1999, by bringing The Open here, transformed Carnoustie. It transformed it in terms of the money that was invested in the golf course, in the golf club, in the infrastructure around here to make it happen. It is a challenge that the railway line is right there. It makes it difficult for Johnnie to bring in lots of articulated lorries. But we feel very strongly that this is a great golf course.

Actually, once you get here, there is plenty of space to build it. I love the fact that the village is primarily behind the golf course and the golf course is out there. I love the fact that the contractors and the media compound -- for those of you that haven't been out to the media compound, it's fascinating to go and see. It's five acres of space out there, but it's right at the end of the golf course well away from play. Where at Troon, we had to put it right in the middle of it. So I think there's plenty of space here.

And you know, I wish we talked more positively about here. I've had a number of our overseas visitors come in and see me this week. A lot of them have arrived in the last 24 hours, and a number of them actually walked the spectator route because all of us who work in this game try to learn from each other. I know, when I go to other golf courses, I go and try to be a regular spectator and learn. And they walked from the entrance gate through, and they all came in to me and said, wow, isn't this fantastic? This is embodying one of the great championships. You're embracing young people. You're embracing tradition and everything else.

I think that we bring, The Open brings huge value to Carnoustie as a golf course and as a town for decades to come, and this course is driven by tourists playing here. We are very proud to showcase this golf course and this town on the world stage. We can always work with space, and I think Carnoustie has plenty of it.

JOHNNIE COLE-HAMILTON: I would actually say as well, from my perspective, in the 20 Opens I've been involved in, this has been one of the most positive experiences I've had in building a modern Open Championship. I would say the cooperation we've had from clubs, the cooperation we've had from Carnoustie Links and Angus Council has been a positive experience. We're very pleased with what we've built out there, both in terms of the village, in terms of, as Martin said, the TV compounds, the contractors compound. There's absolutely adequate space here, and there's no concern from my perspective.

It's been nothing but a positive experience, the whole Open Championship build.

Q. Take the positive, and just as a followup, my apologies, but take the positivity to one side. If we see a growth of change and a growth in The Open Championship and the staging of the event in the next ten years, as we've done from, say, Carnoustie 2007, is there a point to be made in actually having to look at the size of a town or a venue in hosting The Open going forward?
JOHNNIE COLE-HAMILTON: For me, every Open venue has strengths and weaknesses, and we continually work with all our Open venues over areas where there are concerns from a logistical build, and they all cooperate fantastically with us. At the moment, we have no concerns over any of our Open venues from an infrastructure point of view.

The venue will dictate a lot of what we do, and we can produce a successful and modern Open at all of our venues.

MARTIN SLUMBERS: If I may just add, at the heart of every Open has to be a classic links golf course, and that's what we have, and we work around that.

Q. Martin, a couple things: One, in the testing situation, was it a request or a requirement, both in Japan and here? And then secondly, if it was a requirement and a player decided not to participate, what options did you have? And then thirdly, it seems odd that you would test just to test. Usually, there has to be a reason behind it, and I didn't feel like your answer explained the reason behind the testing.
MARTIN SLUMBERS: Well, one of the discussions that goes on in the equipment world is what happens to the CT or the driver, as it wears. That's some of the questions that we've been working on in the new rule book as well around that. So as it wears, they generally get nearer to the CT limit, and what we wanted to make sure that we didn't have drivers going out there that are above the CT limit.

It was a request to players, and I think many of you underestimate, we have a very good relationship with our players, and it's a very collaborative relationship, and we had absolutely no problems with the players coming and were interested in what we're doing. A lot of them actually wanted to know how does the test work, and what is it really testing for?

Q. Are you at all concerned that the apparent disquiet and unhappiness in the no readmission policy, and is that policy in place for security reasons or to have a captive audience for financial reasons?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: The no readmissions policy was driven out of our desire to make sure that all our fans and our patrons and visitors to this Open have a great experience. We have had multiple problems for multiple years with fans buying unofficial hospitality, and then not getting the experience they thought they paid for, and they blame us, yet we have nothing to do with it. We think the unofficial hospitality damages The Open Championship, it damages our relationship with fans, and we wished it to stop. That's the reason we have the no readmittance policy. We'll review it every year.

Next year in Portrush, it actually will be an all ticket; you won't be able to buy a ticket at the gate at Portrush next year because there's equally a balance around security concerns for that event as well.

So we are happy with where we are on the no readmission. We're happy we're doing it for the right reason. And we will be reviewing it every year.

Q. Martin, talking about overseas visitors, there was one on the other side of Scotland last weekend. Were there any repercussions over here? Were there any calls for the R&A, could he or could some of these people come over? What would your reaction have been if he had? And where are we as far as 2022 and the possibility of an Open being staged at Trump Turnberry at that time?
MARTIN SLUMBERS: We had no communication from Number 10, the Foreign Office, or the White House concerning the President of the United States and his visit to the other coast last week. I think, if I had been asked, I would have been strongly not encouraging him to visit Carnoustie. We were in the middle of a building site last Friday. There were lorries everywhere. It would have been very, very challenging to do so.

And with respect to 2022, I've already said, '21 we're going to be celebrating the 150th playing of The Open at St. Andrews, and in '22, we'll be going south of the border.

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