September 26, 2006
2007 MISSION HILLS WORLD CUP ANNOUNCEMENT
JAMES CRAMER: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is James Cramer, and I'm the director of public relations for the PGA TOUR in the United States, and I'd like to welcome everybody here for this important World Golf Championships announcement. I'd like to begin by introducing the dignitaries that join me here on the stage, and I'll start to my immediate left with the Chairman of the International Golf Association, Mr. Jon Linen. To Mr. Linen's left, Commissioner of the PGA TOUR, Mr. Tim Finchem. We have Dr. David Chu, Chairman of the Mission Hills Group, Vice Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultive Subcommittee for Strategic Proposal, and Vice Chairman for the China Golf Association; the Executive Director of The European Tour, Mr. George O'Grady; and Ms. Carol Chu, Executive Director of the Mission Hills Group.
I'd also like to recognise some of the representatives that the other tours that join us here today, the Chief Executive of the Asian Tour, Mr. Louis Martin; the Commissioner of the Sunshine Tour, Mr. Johan Immelman; and representing the PGA Australasian Tour, Mr. Andrew Georgieu.
I'd like to ask Mr. O'Grady take the floor and make a very important announcement.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Thank you very much, James, and I think on behalf of The International Federation of Tours, welcome today. To those I can see who were in Ireland on Sunday night, congratulations in getting here because it was a fairly tiring week for all of us, and the hours everybody put in there on Monday, we appreciate you being here today and finding time to join us.
The announcement is a straightforward one. The World Cup this year will be played in Sandy Lane, Barbados; it is going to Mission Hills, China, for the next two years, and thereafter it will become a fully fledged World Golf Championship event for the following ten years. So we have a ten year commitment in China at Mission Hills. We have with us the team owning and representing Mission Hills, David Chu, on my right hand side, Chairman, and his daughter, Carol, and the rest of the family in the room, as well.
It's a highly significant move for the Federation because it takes a World Golf Championship event outside of the United States. It keeps the World Cup in the rest of the world and backs up our long term plans to move in China.
Our congratulations to David Chu, and we're looking forward to joining him. Again, those who have the history books, remember that we had the World Cup there in 1995, so we are, in fact, coming home. Thank you for your time again.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, George. I'd now like to ask Commissioner Finchem to make comments.
TIM FINCHEM: Let me just preface my comments by thanking George and everyone involved with The European Tour for their hospitality last week and this week. Those of you in the media here with us, as George indicated, we know that you're a little tired from last week. I know that I am, given the fact that my wife and I had a room immediately above the European team room on Sunday night (laughter), and we dozed off around 6:00 a.m. Our congratulations to a phenomenal effort by the Europeans last week.
I'd just like to comment that from the PGA TOUR perspective, we're delighted with this development. The World Cup has had a long history of trying to create interest for golf around the world, and certainly at this juncture in our humble history of the game, there's no more important place to focus energy on creating interest in the game than in Asia generally and in China in particular.
The fact that David Chu and Mission Hills Group have committed to support the World Golf Championships for the next dozen years is a very significant development. It means that The Federation will be in China in a very prominent way for a very good period of time to raise the flag and create interest for the game of golf. And that's the real message for today, and of course the next two years with the World Cup, with a higher purse, we think it will strengthen the World Cup competition which has developed over the years to be quite compelling.
So I'd like to thank David and the Mission Hills Group and all of the Tours of the International Federation for their commitment to moving forward in this regard.
Let me just further comment that eight years ago we started the World Golf Championships as a Federation initiative to bring the world of golf closer together, to bring our Tours closer together, to cooperate in many ways, to create championships that allow the best players in the world from everywhere to compete more consistently through the course of a year against each other.
As we look back on those eight years and the rest of this year, recognising that we've been in nine different countries on five continents during this period of time, I think we're achieving that mission, and we want to thank, again, everyone involved.
But for today we're delighted with this announcement on behalf of the World Cup, certainly, and in our intent to grow interest and grow the game of golf in China and in Asia. Thank you, James.
JAMES CRAMER: I'd now like to ask Dr. Chu to make his comments.
DR. DAVID CHU: Commissioner George O'Grady, Commissioner Tim Finchem and representatives from the Tours around the world, friends from the media, golf has over 500 years of history, and I'm proud to be part of these new historical moments.
I'm a strong believer in international goodwill through golf, and to bring the World Golf Championship to China, a country with 1.3 billion people, with the largest economic growth for the past ten years. By creating this new history, we can make golf a truly international sport. Golf can create a bridge for international goodwill between China and the world.
For and on behalf of the China Golf Association and Mission Hills Golf Club, I would like to thank The International Golf Federation and all the Commissioners for bringing the Mission Hills World Cup to China. This will be a great opportunity for the 400 million youths in our country.
We look forward to welcoming all of you to China for the next 12 years at the Mission Hills World Cup, starting in November 2007.
Thank you very much.
JAMES CRAMER: Thank you, Dr. Chu. I'd now ask Jon Linen to make comments on behalf of the International Golf Association.
JON LINEN: Some of you may be wondering what the chairman of the International Golf Association is doing here. We're the organising body for the World Cup, which started in 1958 by John J. Hopkins. As some people mentioned and Dave has mentioned, our whole focus on life is to bring golf to the world. I think we've done a wonderful job of that.
I was privileged to be chairman back in 1995, when indeed we historically came to China. Dave and Carol were instrumental in making that happen, and it was a magnificent event. We've had a wonderful relationship with the Federation since 2000 when we established this relationship, and I just can't think of a better way to continue the World Cup than to do what we're doing by going back home to China and extending its magic to that country and that area of the world. This is a great game, and this is a great event we're talking about, and it's a great place for us to be for the next 12 years.
JAMES CRAMER: We now have time to take some questions regarding the World Golf Championships Mission Hills World Cup and the World Golf Championships coming to China. Please, if you have any questions, this is the time.
Q. I thought the original idea was that these tournaments would travel one country to another year after year. It's lovely to go to China for that long, but have you altered the original idea?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We obviously have on this occasion. The World Cup has done exactly what Chairman Jon Linen has said. It has moved to so many different venues, and the last two very successful editions have been in Europe, in Spain and Portugal; we're in Barbados this year.
I think we are faced with economic reality, and we have views on other parts of the world in association with the tours that are here that will see other championships develop on this level.
I think getting the international calendar straight so that you can have World Golf Championships in other people's territory is a very difficult objective. This takes an existing date which the World Cup has traditionally had and secured its long term future. So in that sense, yes, it is a change. It is a change brought about by the kind of initiative to go to a developing geographical region with the leadership shown by Dr. Chu, which is not just any old venue in China; it's the world's largest golf resort and certainly largest five star resort with the existing ten courses it has on the property. It also gets to the heart of the Chinese golf and will be a catalyst for developing the game within the country.
Q. I was a little confused at the start. It goes to Mission Hills you said for the next two years, then after that it becomes a fully fledged World Golf Championship. Will there not be a WGC World Cup the next two years, or how does that work?
GEORGE O'GRADY: It secures the World Cup for the next two years solidly. Then I think it's been the objective of Dr. Chu certainly to have a fully fledged World Golf Championship event at his facility. Then that leaves the World Cup free to travel again if we so wish.
Q. So it would be a stroke play event or something like that?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Something like that.
Q. And secondly, do you know how it would be positioned with the HSBC Champions?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We're not stating yet which dates these tournaments are going to be played in three years' time. We've stated the date for 2007. I think it's likely it'll be a similar date for 2008. We're not saying the precise ones. I think the individual dates for 2009 onwards will come at a later date.
Q. So it will not be the World Cup after two years, or it could be?
GEORGE O'GRADY: It could be; it's unlikely.
Q. So Jon, your reaction to that, are you already investigating other possibilities beyond the two year period?
JON LINEN: We would work with the Federation and cross that bridge when we get there. Right now we know we're going to be where we're going to be for the next two years.
TIM FINCHEM: If I could just comment on this, I think what's happened is we've had a coalescence of three different things come together. One is the opportunity to have a World Golf Championship event supported in China for more than a decade; the second is that we feel strongly that at this particular point in time the priority is to bring top flight PGA TOUR level golf to China and to Asia; the third thing is we want to perpetuate the World Cup.
So we've addressed all of these things in a way that we've unfolded here today, which is we're going to take advantage of the commitment that China and Mission Hills has provided, we're going to perpetuate the World Cup for the next two years at Mission Hills. We intend to have World Championship golf for the ten years beyond that, but how that unfolds after the next two years is yet to be determined for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is as George mentioned, the world calendar is reasonably set through 2008. There are issues with the tournament structures and dates after that, in addition to these format issues.
So we will address those as we get to them over the next year, year and a half, but in the meantime we're going to focus our energies on making the World Cup as good as we can make it at Mission Hills for the next two years.
Q. George, do you have any facts and figures at hand about the amount of tournaments and prize money that is now being played for in China?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, not off the top of my head, but I can work it out pretty carefully. I think we're about at the reasonable limit of where we can go right now. This will be such a catalyst for the region because of the influence of Dr. Chu in the government sectors of China, I think that gives it a drive that the other events have been largely, with one exception, foreign companies sponsoring in China who can play the game of football. This is very much a Chinese facility with the backing of very significant people within China. I think we'll evaluate over a given time with all the Federations together just what kind of an impact that can have on the country. I think that's what makes it different.
Q. Is it six European Tour events going to be there next season?
GEORGE O'GRADY: It is six, yes.
Q. Is there a fear that the World Golf Championship events will be devalued by the fact that most or all will be in America for the next ten years, foreseeable future, and then the next one will be in China for 12 years; will it become stale after so many years?
GEORGE O'GRADY: From a European Tour point of view? I think everybody can have a view on it. I think it's been well chronicled that when all the World Golf Championships or the stroke play events, the Accenture, have been played in America. Not all of us were totally best pleased. But if we have to look at the force of the world economy where it goes, I mean, if we are sitting here, if I'm allowed to say so, a tremendous European victory in the Ryder Cup Matches just finished, and various people have said, why. Now, reading the papers for the last two days, better people than myself can work that out in a playing sense.
But I think there's probably three reasons as a businessman why we're doing so well. The first one is committed promoters and sponsors on The European Tour and venues.
The second one is the open door policy being followed by all the Tours, led by the PGA TOUR. Yes, it's true the European Tour players have played well, they played well as a team, they play well in different conditions. But most of the players, not all of them, are members of both tours. They've been given, if their performance is good enough, ready acceptance and a welcome to play on the PGA TOUR. Again, if your performance is good enough, it's easy to get onto the PGA TOUR. I didn't say it was easy to get onto the PGA TOUR; I said if your performance was good enough. It was very, very difficult when I came into the game a long time ago and you really had to make a commitment to play one or the other.
But our all our players are global players now. European Tour members, are taking all the benefits of the rewards being on the PGA TOUR brings. They give a lot back in terms of marketability and appeal and character and all of that, but that open door policy is crucial to the success of some of us in the world game that some of us aspire to, as players, aspire to play around the world.
The third factor from a business point of view is across the world everybody looks for leadership on how golf tournaments are staged on every Tour, certainly on The European Tour, we strive to make our tournaments as good as they possibly can be.
Q. Can we just have a recap on where we stand on the other World Golf Championships at the moment, the contract signed for the Bridgestone and the Accenture, how many years they're committed to venues at the moment?
TIM FINCHEM: Our schedules with the other WGCs are pretty much set through 2012 with CA becoming the sponsor for an early one in the first quarter. The second one, which will be in March, Accenture Match Play is unchanged, really. It moves over to Tucson from the San Diego area. And Bridgestone is unchanged.
So the real change for the next several years is that the American Express, played this week, will now be played in the March time frame in Florida.
Whether that pattern is continued for a long period of time or a short period of time, I'm not certain. I think the way we look at the World Golf Championships is primarily why they were designed and what they're there for and how they should evolve, and the evolution of late in the last few years has been the addition of the World Cup. Whether there's a different evolution over the next five or six years, we'll have to see.
I think that we are very satisfied with the performance of the World Golf Championships because even though if you live in a certain market, if you cover the game in a certain market or if you're a fan, you would like to see them come to your market.
But fundamentally from a global standpoint, the important thing is that they are designed, structured, formatted, presented and funded at a level that the best players in the world take advantage of the opportunity and then hopefully they're significantly communicated on global television. That's the driving import, and then the particular siting is of less import.
We need to get the first things done first. As we go forward, we'll certainly look at the other issues related to venues, as well.
Q. With that said, George, when is the next window of opportunity for one of these things to be in Europe?
TIM FINCHEM: After 2010 probably.
Q. Looking at the next four years or so?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think as we look at it now, no. I think we're looking at other parts of the world, as well, to come forward. I think at the end of this week, I think this is going to be a very successful World Golf Championship here at this resort. All the indications are that way. Whether it's a World Golf Championship event or just very, very good and strong European Tour events, it will evolve.
We had very good news last week that the German Masters, which has been out of The International Schedule for a year, with the Mercedes Company leading that sponsorship. That again is looking at a global view of how the golf tournaments are put forward. That is a tough time of the year for the European Tour. So you find ways that The European Tour in these difficult weeks can fight back.
Q. Is the Federation happy that the three events that you'll now see for the foreseeable future in the States will just look on television like any other PGA TOUR event? We see PGA TOUR events every week on television back here, and they're played on similar courses and they will still look like PGA TOUR events, the one this week, having the America express championship here, is that it will get British galleries following and they'll get the opportunity to see people with a higher standard playing in their own backyard, not having to watch on television on a Saturday evening or Sunday evening.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, I think although we're on European soil, at this press conference I speak for the European Tour as much as for the entire federation on what they can have their own views on, we've said before, we're not entirely happy that all the events are being played in America. But they are being played. We have this one here this week, and we have been to other parts of the world.
It is not so vital that a World Golf Championship is played in Britain, where we have The Open Championship every year. And we pride ourselves on some of the other golf tournaments we have that do have stellar fields from time to time. I think the other commissioners can be asked for their views on what it would do to growing the same in South Africa, Australia, Asia, Japan, wherever we go.
I think there is a view that the international televising of these World Golf Championships takes the message across the world. I think it takes a very American message, and that is one that we would do well to be concerned about and we do discuss, again, behind closed doors and in our various board rooms. I think we're all aware, we all read the papers, we had a week like the one we had, we had views from American writers, world writers on the development of the game; the development of technology, its impact on the game in the way courses are set up. We are sitting here at the site having gone around this course just before the Ryder Cup, the course in immaculate condition, although I think the modern day player will find it to his liking. If I was having a wager, I'd reckon the scoring would be quite low this week, unless the weather turns very, very Irish (laughter).
But it does send a message this week. This will be one in my opinion of the very best World Golf Championships.
Q. Just bringing it back to this event, have you perceived or do you expect to perceive a Ryder Cup effect this week?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Yes, I definitely think there will be, yes. I think the ticket sales, the hospitality sales, the interest in the tournament is far higher than we've had in Britain and sometimes outside an Open Championship.
I think the euphoria. It's all been said in the papers in the last two days, but from our point of view, that was a stunning Ryder Cup, not just in the results, but in the way it was played, the support of the Irish galleries, the support of the Irish government and the companies and the public. I know there was a huge corporate involvement, as well, but we tried to make tickets available to as wide a people as possible, horrendous weather conditions, horrendous parking, but people actually came through the Park and Rides with their Irish bands in good nature. We had one case of a phone or camera going off somewhere in front of Colin Montgomerie, not for an American player.
The respect shown to the American team in the words of their captain and the players was immense, obviously very patriotic for the Europeans.
To us, and others may have different views, it was a superb Ryder Cup.
JAMES CRAMER: If I could just get the dignitaries to join me out on the lawn, we're going to have a quite photo op.
End of FastScripts.