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July 14, 2004

Peter Dawson

David Pepper


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to David Pepper, Chairman of The R&A Championship Committee, and to Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of The R&A. I'll hand you to David Pepper. David.

DAVID PEPPER: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and particularly, John Hopkins. Thank you very much indeed for a most delightful dinner invitation last night. It was a wonderful evening, and much appreciated. And can I also say thank you very much indeed for all the coverage that so many of you have given this championship already, we much appreciate it, and hope you'll continue to do so for the rest of the week.

If I can hand you over to Peter Dawson, who would like to say a little about the golf course, and one or two other matters.

PETER DAWSON: Thank you, David, I echo David's thanks for last evening, which was a most enjoyable occasion. I thought Colin's speech was one of the best I've heard in a long, long time.

A couple of words on the golf course. I'm sure you've already been talking to the players. We're very pleased with the setup. I think the players are, too. The greens here are, I think, the best in my time, as involvement in The R&A in terms of how smoothly they're running. Last night's rain has obviously slowed things down, but we were planning to put some water on the course which we now didn't have to do, because it was beginning to get a little bit fiery, and had there been no rain before Sunday, we would have been in some difficulty, I think. The rain was not unwelcome, and I think it gives us a chance to now prepare the course as we would wish right through to Sunday without any fear of it becoming to fiery.

So we've got a good links course, we still think it's going to be fast running. The wind is changing direction daily at the moment. And I think the players are beginning to realize that seeing the course one day is not seeing it the whole week. We're very pleased with the setup.

So that said, I think we're open for questions. Thank you.

Q. Any further thoughts on the qualification process and what happened at Congressional? Have you had any meetings since then?

PETER DAWSON: Well, overall I think the qualification process has been a success. We set out to open up the championship to as international a field as possible and we've succeeded in I think that the numbers have gone up compared with last year from 111 to 378 world ranked players teeing it up in the championship, if you include the qualifying events as part of championship. We were also concerned to maintain local final qualifying to give club professionals, amateurs, and the like, the chance of getting into the championship. And this year I'm delighted to say that we've 18 spots, if you include the scratchings that have come from local qualifying, and 11 of those have come from people who played in regional.

So the accusation that this was going to shut out the smaller man, if I can use that term, has proved to be unfounded. 11 coming through from regional equals the record of recent years, and we have five amateurs in the field, two of them came through that qualifying process, and three were exempt. So overall, we're very pleased that we've opened up the championship to people from the southern hemisphere, from Asia, from Europe and from North America in a way that we haven't done in the past.

Obviously the number of withdrawals that we experienced at Congressional was extremely disappointing. We've taken the view that we need to understand why that occurred before reacting to it in any way. And we're looking forward to a meeting later this week with the PGA TOUR who have agreed to come and give their views and an explanation of what occurred.

And quite frankly, until we hear, that it's difficult to say what action is going to be taken for future years. So we need to do this in a very measured way. But overall, we're extremely pleased with the success of the qualifying concept.

Q. What were your observations of Shinnecock Hills, and I wonder if you could give your philosophy to setting up the course for The Open.

PETER DAWSON: Well, both David Pepper and I were at Shinnecock Hills as rules officials, and for other meetings. I think Shinnecock is a fabulous golf course and in the early days of the championship it was receiving nothing but praise. I actually had to leave on Saturday. I didn't see it on Sunday as David did, and he'll have some remarks in a moment. I think one of the big differences to the United States and the UK is that we are very fortunate that our weather patterns and nature, itself, allows golf courses to grow and to flourish without too much interference. The extreme climates you have in the United States means there's more manual interference with golf courses to get them right. And it's very difficult when you're setting up a golf course to know just how right or wrong it's going to be.

I think the USGA would agree that they got it wrong on Sunday at Shinnecock, but when you're trying to set up a golf course that's a strong test for players, it can be very difficult to get it right. I'm not here to criticize the USGA, far from it.

DAVID PEPPER: I would merely add that having found that the golf course had got away from them on Sunday, I think that they reacted extremely promptly and efficiently and worked out the best way of solving the problem, which they managed to do. I think the other thing to bear in mind, that very definitely the best two players in the field came first and second at the end of the day.

I was fortunate enough to go around on Saturday with Retief Goosen, and on Friday a Phil Mickelson and both were playing incredibly well. And I think the USGA at the end of the day, when all was said and done, having acknowledged that there was a problem with the golf course would say, but we did find the two best players in the field.

Q. You're not bothered by the winning score?

PETER DAWSON: No, the winning score here will be determined by the weather as much as by anything else. And we're out to find the best player in the conditions that prevail on this week, that's what we seek to do. I should have added, by the way, when I was talking about the qualifying process, that despite the withdrawals at Shinnecock, we did get 15 excellent equal fires -- sorry, not Shinnecock, Congressional, we did get 15 excellent equal fires at Congressional.

Q. Mr. Dawson, back at Congressional for a second, what has been the early feedback from what you've gleaned from some of the players in terms of why they did what they did, including seven people, I think, who haven't bothered to call and say they aren't coming? Have you heard any reason for that?

PETER DAWSON: I have to confess the feedback has been so variable that it's really impossible for me to comment on it constructively until we get the whole scenario pulled together by the PGA TOUR, and we're going to have that meeting later this week.

Q. Peter, again, in looking at the qualifying, do you think it's still early days in determining what you're going to be doing next year? Are you going to tweak some of the numbers of places available in various parts of the world to ensure there's a number of players in the field and number of places that are available?

PETER DAWSON: I wouldn't be surprised. It would be a miracle if we got it dead right. Some of the difficulties we've run into have been in treating reserves from the various qualifying events in an even handed manner, depending on the timing of the withdrawals from the main field. So we do have some, I think, small adjustments to make, although I'll stress we're happy with the overall principle, although David may want to add something to that.

DAVID PEPPER: I would add that the number of players is not necessarily relevant. We were certainly interested in the ability of the players and the use of the official world ranking points in order to determine those players, but I would agree with Peter that inevitably we will review everything, but we're pretty happy that we got it pretty close to right.

PETER DAWSON: Clearly you take an example like Angel Cabrera who had moved from outside of the top 50 at the cutoff date to the top-30s in the world rankings, and he did that without gaining a current form exemption from the short form money list, which has taken us by surprise, and we need to look at situations like that, clearly.

Q. In the 140 years you've had The British Open, you have gone to 14 different golf courses. The future of this championship, do you have any new golf courses on the horizon, like Kings Barns, Dundonald or anything like that that you could clue us in on?

PETER DAWSON: You know, we're going back to Hoylake in 2006, first time since 1967, so that's not new, but it's an addition to the recent number of courses we've used. And we do keep these matters under review. We are very happy with the quantity of courses and the quality of courses we have at present. We are not out feeling the need to add to it. But if a course presents itself that meets all of the criteria of the modern championship, it's not just the golf course, it's the infrastructure side of things. We look at it and we have people looking at it all of the time. But there are no announcements of any additional golf courses that are imminent.

Q. Is there one that you could possibly see 20, 30 years down the road?

PETER DAWSON: There are several that have attractions. It's too big a question for me to take one on at the moment. I don't think we're far enough advanced at looking at any of them to say that's a possibility or not, if I sit here and drop a name of a golf course out to you that's going to be an Open venue, isn't it?

DAVID PEPPER: There could be one that hasn't been built at this present time. One, I would say, that we do have a policy of allowing courses to mature for a long number of years before considering them, so you're not likely to see courses in the first even 20 years, I would suggest, of their life being actively considered?

Q. We had some controversy arising from the recorders hut. Could you talk about how confident you are if the players do their part a similar controversy is going to be avoided?

DAVID PEPPER: Well, as we explained at our press conference back in April, I think it was, we have made some changes to the recorders hut. It is, of course, the primary responsibility of the player to get the right score on his score card. But we felt that it was a little unfair to members of the host club once every ten years or so to actually be in a position to deal with the players, so now we have members The R&A, which -- we've set up a dedicated recording team of five of them and any one time two of them will be in the hut with the three players, and the ladies scorer will be there if the players want to make use of her. And occasionally, one of their caddies come in and then we have a second hut where all the other work will be undertaken. So we've, in effect, split it into two.

That apart, we've redesigned the card of the course, so that it's a little more user friendly, one or two minor changes on that, and we very much hope that the players are responsible in their own way to get it right, as well.

Q. Will there be a reminder from the starter that they'll still be receiving their own cards?

DAVID PEPPER: They will be handed their cards and made quite plain to them that that is their card, and that's what has been done all year.

Q. He is not being given a specific instruction this year to remind the players to exchange cards?

DAVID PEPPER: Not to exchange cards, no. That's their job. His job is to give the player --

Q. But he will physically tell them this is your card?

DAVID PEPPER: He will say, "This is your card."

PETER DAWSON: We talked to Ivor yesterday and he will say, "This is your card." And he is going to particularly say, â??That is your card,â?? to the PGA players.

Q. Cabrera is a particular player that fell through the net. The cutoff point for the world's top 50, is that something that you immediately realize needs re-examination and could well change?

PETER DAWSON: There is a case for looking at the top 50 on two separate dates, but this is one of the things we will consider. The obvious reason, of course, that there are -- there are two reasons that there are less players than recent prior years in the top 100 in the field, and that is that they've been exposed to an IFQ process on the one hand to prove themselves, if you'd like; and on the other hand, I think it's true at the moment that there are probably less European players in the top 100 than there have been in the last years, and there's a higher proportion to enter The Open than there is the American players.

Q. Two cutoff points could well --

PETER DAWSON: I think it's certainly worth looking.

DAVID PEPPER: 94 of the top 100 entered.

Q. There's a question about future courses. Nick Faldo has floated the idea of The Open going global and specifically to courses going back to Northern Ireland, maybe to the Republic, and even suggested going to Australia. I wonder what you thought of that. And anticipating your answer, is there a case for a fifth major, but a global rotation, taking in Sweden, Germany, France, maybe Germany?

PETER DAWSON: That's a new one (laughter). First of all, I think one of the great strengths of The Open Championship is its tradition. And playing on British-style links golf courses I think would preclude any thought that we would have of taking it away from the British Isles. In terms of does golf need a fifth major, I actually don't think it does. I think it's quite difficult to expect players or indeed the public to come to a peak more than four times a year of excitement for a major championship. But I do feel that -- I feel very sad that countries like Australia, when the Australian Open used to be such a strong event and has now gone into a period of some decline relative to its history, so I think something is needed to invigorate the game internationally, perhaps outside of the United States and the UK in terms of big championships, but I'm not quite sure what it is.

Q. Peter, could you just tell us a little more about this user-friendly score card?

PETER DAWSON: Yes, two or three things have been done. First of all, the score card is a little bit smaller than it's been in the past, and that's purely in reaction to players finding it a little big to put in their back pockets compared with cards that they've had on Tour.

The two nines are split into groups of three rather more clearly on the card, which we feel aides clarity and addition.

The size of the printing of the player's name in the top left corner has increased. And the player's name is also printed below the player's signature box, which should, I hope, make it rather difficult for someone to sign in the wrong place, unless he doesn't know what his own name is.

So I think what's been done on the card -- I said make it more difficult -- I think it's hard to imagine what else we could do, quite honestly, and please don't forget, this is the player's responsibility. And what we're doing is as much as we can to help him.

Q. On the qualifying, again, there was some talk about the date of the European qualifying and how difficult it was. Obviously, it's a very tight schedule, and it's very difficult for you to find a date that's going to be suitable to all. Have you thought about whether you might be able to change that?

PETER DAWSON: I must say this has come up a couple of times. We didn't actually pick the date. Obviously we had a period of time when it needed to be, but the date was picked essentially by our liaison with the European Tour. And it was picked on the date that was thought to be, in all the circumstances, the most convenient. What more can I say? And now we're hearing players being too tired, it's all too much, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, we did get a full field at Sunnydale. We did get a good field, and a good field coming into the championship. We'll review it and listen to what the players and the Tour say. This wasn't selected without all the factors this year. These issues won't go away.

Q. It did involve some of them catching late night flights, and teeing off before 7 a.m.

PETER DAWSON: I accept that. Others might say, why didn't you play it on Tuesday, and people would have been complaining they didn't have enough time for the practice round for the next event. It's not easy. If The Open Championship is a major and the date of the qualifying event was set well in advance, and people did have the opportunity to set their schedule accordingly. It's up to them.

Q. Could it not be done the weekend before, on the, say, the Thursday and Friday of the previous tournament, just take the top 15 or 17 players not otherwise exempt?

PETER DAWSON: The problem with that is the entry criteria for these tournaments are completely different from ours. How do we get the people into the qualifying events through that mechanism without having control of the entry criteria for the tournaments which we don't have?

STEWART McDOUGALL: David and Peter, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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