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July 2, 2019
County Clare, Republic of Ireland
THE MODERATOR: Can you give us some thoughts heading into the week? It's been a long process for you, a lot of work. You've had a lot of involvement. Could you tell us your thoughts going in?
PAUL MCGINLEY: Yeah, first of all, welcome everybody. A lot of you have been writing very nice things about Lahinch and the Irish Open this year, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, and we really appreciate that, certainly in terms of the promoting the event.
We're well on our way to having sellout crowds for the weekend which is unbelievable really considering the Open also is going to be on here in a few weeks time in this country of ours and we can sell out, hopefully, two golf tournaments in the space of three weeks.
It's been a long process. Well, not that long, probably, what, 15 months, 14 months, maybe. And since initial conversation with Seth, with John Gleeson and (indiscernible) in particular, very quietly and privately, would there be an interest, and it kind of snowballed from there and here we are.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us about the golf course and the involvement you've had with the golf course in terms of the setup heading into the Open, and preparing it for the players so they have the same challenge that they'll face at Portrush.
PAUL MCGINLEY: That's one of my -- I'm wearing a number of hats here as host. And one of them is -- I'm not going to say an ex-player -- but a player who played a lot of Irish Opens and hopefully will play in the future, and one of the things, I'm a great believer in preparation and with The Open Championship in Northern Ireland, in Portrush in a couple weeks time, straightaway I always wanted to have a similar setup here. And I got in touch with the R&A and Grant, Grant Moir, who does the setup for them and he's been great.
And Miguel Vidaor, our tournament director, has been aligned. I've connected them all. We've had communication. Obviously we're not copying exactly everything we do because of the different designs of the holes. But we have information on the greens speeds and we have information on the rough heights, the fairway widths, the run-off areas. I was up in Portrush myself last week.
And I'm a great believer in that and the players who come here will feel really well prepared to win a major championship in a few weeks time. That's the plan. I've done it in the past. I did it in Wales the week before the Ryder Cup, when David Garland quietly had everything set up exactly the same as we had in Gleneagles, and I was telling all the players who -- if you wanted to play the week before it was going to be perfect in Wales because it was going to be a perfect setup in terms of all the things I just said.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. How stressful has it been and what's maybe surprised you or pleased you the most about being involved in this?
PAUL MCGINLEY: I wouldn't say it's been stressful. It's been fun. One of the things I've missed since the Ryder Cup captaincy, well, it was all of it. The captaincy was the end of the program. And that's how I saw it. I saw it as a program, putting it all together.
As I say, there's so many dimensions in golf. I saw it -- it's like dominos, and I see so many different dominos reflect different things and course setup and all the different elements that go into hosting or being the captain of the Ryder Cup, and so many different elements and hopefully then you tip one they all go together and that's where you get your success. And that's the way I've approached this one.
So there's a lot of them. Obviously the field is one of them. The course setup is another one. The condition of the course is another one. Embracement of the local community is another one. Foundation and how I'll hopefully raise funds for my foundation. Another one. All those things have like a separate agenda going on with each one with the idea that we click the dominos and they all hopefully turn into a big success.
And it hasn't been stressful; it's been challenging. I wouldn't say it's been stressful. Like any project you're involved in, there's ups and downs. With the Ryder Cup there's plenty of downs as well as ups in the preparation. And you're watching players' form, for example. If it goes up, you focus another, and then it comes to the pick. Nothing is free-flowing. But that's just life, isn't it, no matter what you do?
Q. When you first sat down at Gleneagles, what Lahinch would look like, did you ever envision it would be this incredible scene that we're looking at here today?
PAUL MCGINLEY: To be honest, yeah. Yeah, really the thing that surprised me and humbled me and that makes probably the biggest impression on me is how the locals have embraced it more than anything else. To be on the verge of sellout is quite extraordinary, considering, as I said, the Open is on in two weeks time.
And I know the corporate engagement has been very strong, too. All the corporate tickets are sold. And the same with my foundation. 50 people guests every day are paying a premium to be entertained and they're paying a high premium, so we can leave some local money in the community. And, again, I could have sold that out three, four, times it's great the way people have bought in so many different levels.
That's the thing that makes me happiest the most to be honest, the fact that people think let's do something, let's support this. And they have, everybody. Just look at the likes of the county council, packed out. (Indiscernible) I met all of those in one of the very first meetings, and they promised me this, that and the other. And I said, OK, I love it. And they've delivered on everything.
I just saw Pat Dowling, the county council chief executive, and they've done everything -- the bunting in the street, the painting of things. And somebody said to me in the airport today, he said, if a dog sat down for five minutes he would have got painted. It was something that (indiscernible). So, yeah, it's been, the whole embrace of the community has been fabulous.
Q. A lot of moving parts for these big --
PAUL MCGINLEY: A lot of moving parts.
Q. So all your different hats, player's hat, tournament host hat and European Tour board member hat. Does this event show a way forward for the European Tour in terms of organizing World Series events, in terms of going to venues that you wouldn't think of going to, taking a chance on going to smaller venues. Can you talk about that?
PAUL MCGINLEY: I think so. And certainly something we discussed at the board meeting last week. And it's not just here in Lahinch that it's happened. Ballyliffin was a huge success last year. And everybody thought it was going to be a disaster so far away and oh my God who is going to go there? There's no hotel rooms. That's always the first excuse: There's no rooms; where is everyone going to stay?
We surmount all of them, and we rolled it out into being an excellent event last year, and this one will be the same.
And Tommy Fleetwood did the same. We went up to Liverpool back in May and Hillside and that was a huge success. Setup (indiscernible) there as well.
So these communities -- and Lee did it a couple of years ago when he went up to Newcastle -- so these venues are starved for sporting events.
What's happening in the movements going on in sports, there's so many different movements -- the major championships and the Ryder Cup are going in a different trajectory than every other tournament. The players are more dominated, more interested in what's happening in majors, making everything particularly the top players revolving around the major championships, which makes those brands underwrite across from strength to strength [phonetic].
And you've got to look, where's our niche here? And the other trend you're seeing in sport is that all the big sporting events -- the big sporting events, the big matches the big game matches, the big rugby matches -- they're all in capital cities, all in major cities. What about the rest of the country, the part of the country?
And when you move it out, these people are starving and that was one of the ideas about coming down to the southwest of Ireland was first of all, it's separate away from the north, but also to come down to a part of the country that really doesn't have big sporting events.
Yeah, you have your Munster hurling and you have Limerick winning -- I'm sorry, your Munster rugby and Limerick winning last year and in Clare you have golf, but you don't have the huge scale that we have here at the golf this week.
Q. (Off microphone)?
PAUL MCGINLEY: (Indiscernible) yeah, I think not just in Ireland, though. We're certainly looking at it when it comes to the UK as well. I think you have to go to a country -- you can only do it in a country that has history of golf, which the UK does and obviously Ireland does too. But we're certainly not afraid of moving it away from capital cities, that's for sure.
We're going to have three now with Lee a couple years ago and Tommy last month and now this week. That's three events that are going to set up -- that's a pretty big bus that they're going to take from the European Tour perspective because the crowds make it. Crowds make the atmosphere. They and make the visions on TV look amazing, the noise, the excitement.
And it's great to be able to attract so many people. Doesn't have to be a capital city. In fact, the other argument that people in the capital cities, people say after -- I go to Ruby [phonetic] next and Ireland and down here.
Q. On that basis everything's in place this week for a great tournament. If it turns out to be as good as everyone hopes it will be, could you see Lahinch in the future (indiscernible)? Would you like to see that happen?
PAUL MCGINLEY: That's not a decision for me. We'll see how it goes, first of all. That's a decision for the club. But the indications are this is a one-off, and they want to put everything in and really just do everything they could to push the boat out to make this a one-off and that's the premise of what they've done. Everything they've done will be based behind that.
It's a big ask in terms of revenue that they have to give up. Obviously the green fees down here (indiscernible) this time of year, it's prime season. And it's a big ask for the membership to have as well, to be able to give up the golf course and have them to play off mats for a number of months, what they did in order to get the golf course in the pristine condition it is. Again that's a question for the club.
Q. All of the field is packed with international stars, world-renowned stars as well as PGA championships (indiscernible). Was it a hard sell really to entice all these players to come to the West Coast of Clare, the West Coast of Ireland?
PAUL MCGINLEY: It doesn't matter where you put it, I think it's a hard sell. Two weeks before a major championship, the American guys don't want to be on the road for three weeks, most of them. And that's one of the reasons why we don't have an even better field is we have the Scottish Open, that's a fine day, I think we're all agreeing on that.
So was it a hard sell? All we do is put the information in front of the players. It is what it is. My job is to communicate what we're doing, communicate this setup of the golf course, communicate it's going to be a links golf course. Communicate it's going to be great prep for the Open. Communicate it's going to be well looked after. Communicate that we're probably going to have very big crowds and huge volume and that they're going to enjoy coming to the southwest of Ireland. And communicate the fact that there's a major international airport close by. Communicate all those things and then it's up to the players.
You can't push them. And what I've found is the more you push, the more you communicate, the more you keep driving them, the more resistance there's going to be. So you just lay it out in front of them and let them make the decisions. And thankfully most of have. And it's been -- again, another thing that has been quite humbling is the quality of the field that we've assembled (indiscernible). We're very proud of that.
Q. There is no Rory. (Indiscernible) with that, but (indiscernible) everything, would you not agree with that? And the Open survives, don't flourish without him this week?
PAUL MCGINLEY: Rory is obviously a huge body blow. And the question, the challenge is, of course there's a challenge. That was a huge challenge, particularly after the announcement that we were coming here that he wasn't going to play. Of course it is.
A guy like that is, (indiscernible), I'd probably say he's the most charismatic golfer in the world and he's from Ireland and he decides not to play this year, of course it's a body blow. But I think we've recovered from that strongly. And I think the fact that we have sellout crowds is a validation of that, that it's the Irish Open and it will always be bigger than any one player. Rory would be the first person to agree with that.
We've had great champions here over the years. Nick Faldo, Seve -- wherever you want to go -- Langer, OlazĂˇbal, look through all the greats, they've all won it. Rory's won it.
I think in 20 years' time, when Rory's career is kind of winding down there will be another young Rory McIlroy coming on. And that's the evolution. The game is always bigger than any one player. And I think the validation of sellout crowds that we're anticipating, certainly the weekend is an indication that we haven't been too much affected by Rory not playing.
Q. You just said earlier you hope to play in the Irish Open again.
PAUL MCGINLEY: Yeah, I'm -- certainly not this year. I've played very little golf this year, of course. And I still love to play. All the different dynamics and stuff that I do in my life and I really enjoy it. I still love to play golf more than anything. And hopefully I'll get a chance to play some more Irish golf. I'm certainly not ruling it out, that's for sure.
I saw Tom Watson last week shot his age three times. What is he now, mid 60s? Late 60s. And three times out of four he shot his age. That's pretty good. Actually I work hard getting here (indiscernible).
PAUL MCGINLEY: You never know with Tom. But, yeah, it's well documented his wife wants to keep him in good health and that was the biggest challenge for him was to stay in America. So unfortunately he couldn't make it.
But he certainly considered it. And I said, Tom, this is the perfect place for you. He loved Lahinch. He loved the golf course. He's played it. He said, yeah, I could tumble it down those fairways, can't I? I said, (indiscernible) right, you can. But it didn't work out, and we wish him well with all (indiscernible).
Q. Can you give us a flavor of the kind of player it might suit? You mentioned the Open style of (indiscernible).
PAUL MCGINLEY: I don't think there's any one player in the field that you could rule out that wouldn't have the game to play this golf course. It's not a big course, just over 7,000 yards long. But when you make it a par 70, that makes it a long golf course at par 70.
And like any links course, it relies on the wind. It's built for the wind. The history of this golf course, for those who might not know, Old Tom Morris, Alister MacKenzie, two of the greatest designers of all time -- certainly MacKenzie, what he's done, the work he's done, one of his traits, I'm a big follower of golf course architecture, and one of his big traits were the green complexes and movement on the greens -- you look at all those courses like Augusta -- I played Cypress Point a couple weeks ago, another one of his greats -- huge movement on the green.
Lahinch is no different. And, yeah, it's just a great golf course in a beautiful scenery and (indiscernible) focus a little bit on the Klondyke and the Dell, the two blind holes. And with No. 16, it certainly can be described as quirky even though people describe (indiscernible) as quirky, (indiscernible) not the pure links golf courses that would (indiscernible) any pure links course around the world.
I think on the Klondyke or those holes that you go to a lot, two of my favorite holes on the golf course are the Klondyke and the Dell because I've played them so often. And you grow to love them.
And putting the video screen up on the Dell this week and having the stands behind and all of those things was done to mitigate the fact it is a blind shot. And one of the thrills of having a hole in one is to see the ball actually go in.
You obviously don't see it with the Dell, but you can now this week, all the players will. If you have a hole in one, they'll see it on the screen right beside the tee box.
So it's just one of those things we tried to add to make it a little more exciting, spruce it up a little bit around that hole. I'll be pretty surprised if there's not a hole in one on the Dell this week, really surprised.
They're forecasting low winds, 15 miles an hour maybe. Hopefully it's going to switch directions and create a little bit of a puzzle for the players -- hopefully. If it does remain only 15 miles an hour, that's okay, as long as it switches a little bit here and there.
Q. I know it's early, but have you spoken to any of the players who have played the course already? And what kind of reaction have you had? Who have you spoken to?
PAUL MCGINLEY: I just spoke to (indiscernible) on the way across. The reaction is they love it. They love the condition of it. They can't believe how good the condition of the golf course is.
I think we've been blessed, not just with great green keeping down here with Brian and his team, but Miguel Vidaor as well, I've been working closely with him, as I said earlier, and Grant. So we've got that all kind of twitched up.
The European Tour do a great job now of presenting golf courses. We have a great team behind the scenes who have been helping Brian the last 12 months in terms of fertilizers and all the kinds of things that go into preparing for a fresh professional golf event.
Speaking to some of the guys in Valderrama last week, they said it's the best condition they ever saw Valderrama in. Valderrama has been in some pretty good conditions. I think we're right on top of it now from a (indiscernible) point of view in the European Tour, and this is no different this week.
And yeah, I mean they're still getting to know it, the golf course. I'd say probably 98 percent of the field haven't played it before today. And some got here yesterday. And I'll be drawing a lot of feedback over the next 24 hours. Going to meet Miguel after this. We're go through the golf course and pin positions and stuff like that.
Look, I don't want to make it too difficult. I'd love to have a winning score here, 10- to 15-under-par. That to me would be a tremendous week. I don't want the players to walk away brokenhearted thinking, God, I played really well, I shot 71 today. This is a tough course or unfair course. I don't think it is.
And we're certainly not going to do anything to trick it up, make it just to get a low-winning score so the golf course can hold up. Far from it. It's a great golf course. Like all golf courses, it needs a bit of wind. And whatever will be will be. And if we get the 10- to 15-under par I'll be absolutely thrilled. That will be the test.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports