July 13, 2005
ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND
PETER DAWSON: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, and here we are, the Open Championship is almost upon us. Another year has gone by. Thank you, all of you, for the coverage you've been giving the championship this week. It helps to popularize the event, without it we would be much the poorer.
We are very pleased with the way the golf course has been developing this week, and we've received by and large very strong support from a vast majority of players I've spoken to about the condition of the course and its setup. The players are enjoying them, I know that from talking to them. The best players are here, one or two very unfortunate scratching, particularly Padraig Harrington, whose father died. We're very sad he's not with us. But I'm sure he'll be with us next year.
Last night's past Champions dinner we held in The R&A clubhouse was a very successful affair, and it was good to see 23 past Champions here playing in this year's Open. We also had at the dinner four I think it was four players who are not participating, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player, Bob Charles was there, Peter Thomson, of course, who had won the championship here at St. Andrews 50 years ago this month, so it's quite an anniversary and a great thing to have him here.
The championship is all set to go. We have a terrific field. The course, I think, is set up to find a worthy champion, and we look forward to seeing how the next few days unfold.
We're here to answer your questions, so please fire away.
Q. The bombings in London, I presume you had your security well up to scratch. But did you take a conscious decision to take additional security measures following that.
PETER DAWSON: David Hill on my left has been most concerned with this subject and he'll answer that question.
DAVID HILL: We've obviously taken advice from Fife police force, and we've acted upon their advice.
Q. Meaning additional measures have been taken since Thursday?
DAVID HILL: They've reviewed the situation and have taken some additional measures.
Q. David, were you perturbed by Michael Campbell's comments last week about the security, his fears for this week?
DAVID HILL: I was surprised because The R&A have always taken the matter of security very seriously at the previous Open Championships, especially since September 2001. We worked very closely with Group 4 security and particularly local constabulary to insure that everything we do here is up to a standard that players and spectators would reasonably expect. They, in turn, the Fife police are always aware of any current level of security, and they can up it at any time if they feel they have to.
Q. Is there any message to spectators who are coming here to allow more time or anything like that, because of security measures that may be implemented?
DAVID HILL: Not as far as spectators are concerned. They're very relaxed with the position the police have taken. They've gone into it in great detail. There's no concerns for spectators coming here. Due diligence will be taken, however, but we're not allowed to reveal the exact nature of that.
Q. Were you surprised by Vijay's comments yesterday, which drew a parallel with Carnoustie, that doesn't seem to be echoed by the other players? Do you have any concerns about the course?
PETER DAWSON: I didn't hear what Vijay said directly, but I was surprised by what was reported. We don't do anything to doctor the rough. And this year's growing conditions have been unusual. We had a very long, dry cold period in the early part of the spring, but then it got wet but still cold. And the rough has grown up, as it has up and down the east coast really recently in the last six weeks or so. It's become quite severe in places. But to compare it with Carnoustie I find astonishing.
As I think through the golf course, I can only think of three or four holes where rough could even be said to be a factor at all, certainly not a factor in the 1st or 2nd or 3rd, maybe a little bit of the 4th, maybe by the 5th, nothing on 6, nothing on 7, 8, 9, 10, a little bit on 12 and so on. There are really very few holes where the rough is a factor at all on the golf course.
I think the 17th has become a hole requiring a more accurate tee shot than perhaps in past years, with the rough that's there on the right. Other than that, I found the comparison with Carnoustie very surprising.
Q. Is The Old Course still an adequate test in calm conditions?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the Championship, as I recall it has been played in calm conditions in 1990 and in 2000. On both occasions the top player in the world at the time came through and won the championship, admitted on each occasion with record scores. And so clearly it is a course which can find the top player in the world in calm conditions. That's been proven by those two winners. The course has, as you know, been lengthened a little bit this year. Some might say toughened up in one or two places, and we are very, very satisfied that it is a sufficient test for today's golfers.
Q. Given your choice between calm conditions and sunny, that would make things pleasant for everyone watching the tournament, and wind and rain that would make it as tough as possible. What would you rather have?
PETER DAWSON: Sunny and windy (laughter).
Q. Peter, could you discuss the changes in the Road Hole Bunker, please?
MARTIN KIPPAX: The position with the Road Hole Bunker is that we had the advantage of what the Road Hole Bunker was, and a video of Doug Sanders in 1970 is really quite surprising what it looked like. It's not what people imagined it to be with the unfortunate events many years ago. We felt it was getting smaller. And what we've done is we've extended it, particularly to the right hand side by two feet, three feet or so. And we've recontoured around the entry, let me put it that way, to the bunker, so that a ball that misses the bunker on the left hand side is more likely to go into it. I think the players appreciate that. It's still a severe test. It does the job that it's always had to do and I think that the improvements are just what I suggest, I think they're improvements.
Q. Do you feel that the champion is more likely to come from the Top 10, should we say, than the previous two years?
PETER DAWSON: I think it is certainly true from the last two years. It would have been difficult to predict the outcome of the championship, as it turned out. But on both occasions the very top players in the world were very, very close. And I don't think the course setup at Royal St. Georges or at Troon could be criticized for not throwing up the top players in the world being in contention on Sunday afternoon, who eventually won, of course, worthy winners on the day appeared on both occasions. So I'm very confident that this course will throw up the top players of the world again competing on Sunday afternoon. Who will eventually succeed remains to be seen. But I haven't had any problem in the last two years with that, either, because the top players were right up there.
Q. I'm sure you were ready for a question about the qualifying situation and exempt players. A few players who could have been here aren't here because of the system you adopted. A comment on that?
MARTIN KIPPAX: Shall I answer that one? The position with IFQ and with entry into The Open Championship, we feel, has been really quite clear, that if you choose IFQ, and that's the route that you've got to go along, and you withdraw from IFQ, simplistically we feel that you've withdrawn from The Open championship.
If I can give you a bit of an analogy, if we take the Olympic games and the heats and the final, if somebody withdraws from the heats it's a pretty rare thing to see them in the final. And really where we are, because we believe that if somebody does withdraw, then it's quite clear to us that they're withdrawing from The Open Championship.
Q. But somebody withdrawing from the heats in such an example does not have another route into The Open. These players withdrew from that qualifying tournament, thinking they had further routes into The Open.
MARTIN KIPPAX: I don't know what it might give them to indicate that they might have another route. The way that the entry form is worded doesn't give any definitive explanations as to what we define as being withdrawal. But if somebody withdraws from a tournament and asks for their money back, our assumption has been that they are not interested in entering The Open Championship. And that's what happened on a couple of occasions.
As far as the rest of it is concerned, we have taken it, just like LFQ, final qualifying the Local Final Qualifying as opposed to IFQ, if you don't get there, you've missed your way into it. And as far as we're concerned, we've made it quite clear, I think, that through IFQ, you can make your choice as to which IFQ you're going to join. When you've done that, if for some reason or another you feel you don't want to enter that IFQ, you can't swap around. The idea is it's final qualifying.
Q. But might you put on the future entry forms that that is the consequence?
PETER DAWSON: I honestly think that if it was the case that someone could withdraw from IFQ, but still get in the championship, then that would be worth putting on the entry form. That would be different from common sense. The common sense is if you withdraw from the IFQ, you're not in the championship. I don't understand why it's so difficult to grasp.
Q. On the entry form, any progress on changing the entry form for next year? And the second part of the question is, some players were reaching the 14th hole in the second shot with a 6 iron, I wonder if you thought it was worth all the effort to extend the hole?
PETER DAWSON: On the first question, as we've said before, the Championship Committee will have this matter resolved in time for the next entry form's production later this year, and is examining the details of this whilst maintaining the principles that the strength of the field in the championship or it's qualifying events will not be diluted. We do not have an announcement at this moment, we have said it will be later this year, and that's still the case.
MARTIN KIPPAX: As far as the 14th hole is concerned, or indeed any other hole, realistically, you all know, as well as I do, that the condition of a links course is something which gives rise to some anomalies. I can remember in 1997 refereeing in front of Tiger Woods when he hit the 6th hole, the long par 5, with something like a driver, sand wedge, and leaving the 7th to go to the Postage Stamp and seeing a ball arrive on the green with a 4 wood. The reality is that just like the 14th could play driver and a 6 iron, the reality is if the wind comes around the other way it will be a driver, a long iron or wood and yet another shot after that. And what we've done as far as the lengthening of the hole is concerned is, in realistic conditions when the wind's against the 14th or blowing from left to right, those bunkers are back in play.
And the purpose of lengthening the hole was just that, was to try to reinstate, if we can put it that way, the way that the course was originally designed, so that hazards are still in the way. The fact that we get a wind behind and somebody is capable of hitting it with a driver, 6 iron, these things will happen.
PETER DAWSON: A few weeks ago, there was the day when Retief Goosen couldn't reach Hell Bunker in two, a few weeks ago. It can go either way.
End of FastScripts.