May 29, 2005
GORDON SIMPSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and thanks very much for your attendance. It's nice to see a full house in here, and clearly you want to hear about what the two gentlemen have got to say today.
I'll introduce the top table. On the far left is Jim O'Donnell, who is the Managing Director of BMW U.K. and of course is president of the BMW Championship. On my immediate left is George O'Grady Executive Director of The European Tour, and George is going to go to bat first. George, take it away.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Thank you, Gordon, and everybody for finding the time today. I think this is traditional in the PGA Championship, The Players Championship, we get everybody together at the end of the week to basically comment on how we think it's gone. Thank you very much for your support. The standards of excellence we demand in all aspects of our business have been met this week. I think from our side, speaking on behalf of Jim, and everybody in The European Tour, we've been delighted with how everything's gone. Of course, if BMW are happy, we are even happier, as well, and Jim will speak for himself.
We've had a very positive week in organizational sense, Tour dinners, player meetings, and other business matters during the week. On our golfing side, we've been very pleased with the test laid down by the golf course, and the differing wind conditions and weather conditions we've had to face and everything else has gone well. At the end, we'll take any questions on the Championship or matters in general, and we then hope you'll join us in toasting what we feel has been a tremendously successful week.
JIM O'DONNELL: Thank you, George. I can only echo from BMW's point of view. We are delighted firstly with the field out here. I think there were one or two comments about the people that are not here, and I think we should concentrate on the people that are here. And it's been a fantastic tournament and shows a great deal of confidence in the Tour and what BMW have brought to us, so we are delighted with that. We thank God for the weather; the weather has been spectacular. I think it's the first event since the early 1990s that we have not had any rain, so that's spectacular. The feedback we've had from the customers we've invited has been excellent, and I'm sure the hospitality this year will be in even stronger demand from our customers next year.
So all in all, we are delighted with the events, we think it's coming up to be a wonderful climax. I have no particular favorites in terms of who should win. I just think whoever wins will be a worthy contender, given the conditions on the golf course this week, particularly the wind yesterday.
So from BMW's point of view, we are delighted with everything that's happened. We are delighted with the coverage of golf, and we are aware sometimes it's referred to the BMW Championship, sometimes it's the PGA Championship. I don't think that does any harm at all, because it makes sure in the public's mind at least that they know the BMW is the PGA. So all in all we are delighted with all of the media coverage as well, so thank you for your contribution.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Before we ask for any questions, just one other set of introductions in the front row down here. This whole tournament is a team I think the people from The European Tour, you all know from the media centre led by Gordon and Scott and Roddy, but from BMW themselves, you've now met Jim, I think most of you know Marco Kaussler from the BMW tournament in Munich, who does a lot of the arrangements over the years. You may not know, but I think you've got to know Peter Walker who is the general manager of sports marketing for BMW in the U.K. I think they are a company as we see who puts enormous attention to detail. Michael Kirsch, corporate affairs and public relations. And the general manager from Munich arriving this afternoon or any second, Stefan Krause, member of the board of BMW AG who firstly started discussing the details of this agreement in Munich with BMW International Open. Also you'll be meeting Torsten MÃ…Â±ller-Ã…ï¿½tvÃƒÂ¶s, who attended the press conference here in January. They are a very professional company who leave no step unturned, and their desire with us is move this tournament forward to have its true championship status over time.
And Gordon, any questions with that.
GORDON SIMPSON: If you have any questions for Jim or George, please feel free to ask them.
Q. Ben Curtis the other day expressed that being the only American in the field, he hoped in the future that more Americans would be enticed to come over to this championship and see development in that area; do you have to in mind for the future?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think we are first and foremost about having every European Tour member want to play their own championship, and that's certainly the target we have.
Conversations have taken place with all of the well, the other four European Tour members who have not come as to the reasons why they are not here this year. It's on their radar screens, I think is a phrase. For us, we are certainly not enticing anybody, unless you call enticement a really warm welcome and a continuing desire to make this the best championship we have.
We're not prepared to announce the prize money statement for next year today. If you want to see all of the final financials on this events when they come, we want to keep this championship right at the forefront on The European Tour.
Q. Would you like it to be like the U.S. PGA where European players qualify; would you like that to be the same way eventually?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think anybody running a championship this big wants it to be as big as it possibly can. I think THE PLAYERS Championship I think you're referring to, is now an $8 million prize fund. We are $5.25 million, and I think we would want to get it to a situation and create rules; we already have the rules leading World Ranking players to play.
We'll do anything we can to make them welcome, but I think as rumored in the papers on how much people might wish to be everybody playing in this Championship is playing because he wants to play. We think that keeps our credibility and our status as a Championship right at the forefront and that's what we will maintain.
Q. Thomas BjÃƒÂ¶rn was very forceful about the Europeans who aren't here. What reaction have you had and how has he reacted?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I've spoken to Thomas, and Thomas is usually very forceful in anything he says. Even if he stated today is Sunday, he'd state it with a degree of firmness. (Laughter).
And I share his wish that all members of the Tour would want to play at the event, and for many years, I think they do, but there's so many choice, so many different things they can be doing. I think the ones who aren't here, certainly, I had a very nice e mail on Thursday from Sergio Garcia wishing us all the best for the Championship and saying he was with us in spirit. But I know what his future plans are. I think the very fact that he was sending his best wishes shows that in a way, if you're a member of The European Tour and you're not here, it hurts.
Q. But he has not been here since 2000.
GEORGE O'GRADY: He assured me that it's on his radar screen for the future. Which is not to say he's going to play because there's some other obstacles, but he would like to come back and play.
Q. You opened the players meeting the other night with a plea to the players to concentrate on the golf, to trust their committee not to do any more bad publicity. Were you dismayed this morning when you saw the headline?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, first of all, I didn't open the meeting with any plea. The meeting was very positive on Wednesday. It was a business outline of where the Tour is going to go in the future, but certainly in the immediate future and what we've had to do to put such a successful Tour on the table.
I explained to them some of the marketing methods we used to get there. I explained to them what it took to succeed in signing BMW against the wish of every other sport. Every other leading sport in this country, I daresay around the world, is jealous of us for getting a company whose commitment to excellence and standards of detail go ahead of them. We got it, and the players I think enjoyed learning what we expect from every player; with no lettering to any player at all. It was more of an outline of who they want us to be going ahead in this matter. And the obvious matter is, gladly yes, and their own marketing team explained certain ways, certain market research that we had to do and they had to help themselves.
At end I did make reference to the rules situation that has been gaining so many headlines. I did reiterate to them that in my opinion, and in the opinions of many administrators around the world, we have some of the finest rules officials in the business. And those rules officials talked to our players committee, which they did at the player meeting on Wednesday, the Tournament Committee, and they debated at length on all of the issues surrounding it, and that committee led by Jamie Spence makes a statement; that is it, finished. I'm well aware what's in today's papers and I find it enormously disrespectful of that player, if the comment as attributed to him are true.
We have a chairman called Jamie Spence, and we have 14 other members of committee who I could read out the names if I wanted to, and they have authority to debate how this Tour goes forward, but they have a responsibility. Statements about other players in the press after your elected officials have made a statement, just in case you didn't get it the first time, enormously disrespectful.
I would expect that player, if the remarks of the player are true, if they are true, I would expect him to apologize to Jamie Spence and to the 14 other elected members of that committee for publicly undermining their leadership of the Tour. Don't worry about my leadership or that of my staff; they undermine Jamie Spence and that committee, and that is unacceptable.
Q. But George, the statement, the words are true, because I have it on tape, and I think what you have to realize is that the depth of feeling on the Tour, and Gary was reflecting that depth of feeling, are you aware of the depth of feeling amongst players, he said 98 percent, all of the players I've spoke to, most of them off the record, feel the same way?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I don't deal with anything off the record, and everything I do is on the record. And yes, I'm perfectly aware of talking to a lot of different people. This Tour talks about its members; that means I talk to our members, but I repeat to you, Jamie Spence is a chairman of their elected committee. They are there to serve. They have been elected. This particular player stood for election once. He didn't get on; three other people. They trust the people who are running the Tour. This is not the Executives. It was a very powerful meeting on Wednesday with total and unanimous support from the room, and when there's a dissenting voice, he does not undermine me; he undermines his elected colleagues, and I think you'll find that is unacceptable.
Q. Will he be fined for what he said?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I expect him to apologize to his colleagues.
Q. And if he doesn't apologize?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I don't deal in hypothetical questions.
Q. You'll be seeking to have a conversation with him?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Instinct said the odd line is going to get into tomorrow's papers, and I think he'd be seeking to have a word with me.
I know that's a sombre note to cast at the end of I think, golf is a unique game. The European Tour is unique because the players are involved in these decisions. That casts us apart from every other sport that I know of, and we're not going to have it undermined now. They are capable of leading the Tour. Jamie Spence is an excellent Tournament Committee Chairman. He serves on our board and it's just not going forward. Nothing will in any way detract from a very, very successful championship, a very successful finish. I don't know if we have record crowds, but they certainly look like record crowds and it's all in the right spirit.
We think that issue will and should be put behind us and whatever else, whatever the issues are, The European Tour and the feelings shared by BMW were always close to the success of the championship, win, lose or draw, and we invite you for an orange juice or glass of champagne or anything more?
Q. I wanted to know if this matter has raised any question in your head about procedure, when there are disputes, whether it's right that that nothing can happen after the tournament finishes.
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think the issue in question, I am a great believer in the Rules of Golf. We had an experienced tournament director in Jakarta. He was informed of the incident, looked at the tapes, and ruled there was no case to answer. This is a subjective situation people can have their own views on. He is experienced tournament administrator. Our senior referee has stated, who was not there at the time, he it was at THE PLAYERS Championship I think or somewhere in America, and that probably won't happen again. He has stated he might have taken a different interpretation.
This is subjective and it's open to interpretation. An experienced tournament director said what is no misdemeanor. Somebody else takes a different view. The whole issue has been debated. Experienced players elected by their comrades to serve them in a very the names are all here for you to see, and they are very experienced and very hard, I've taken the decision, and made a statement. We know the kind of wording being used and that is not acceptable because it can't be correct because you don't get made a tournament director on The European Tour easily. It's a very tough role and you have to be strong. And we are going to be strong on this one.
Q. I totally agree with what you're saying, but you could have a situation where such an incident happens on the final hole of a tournament and effectively, under the Rules of Golf, you have ten minutes to make a decision or before the result is posted. Is it not right that there should be extra time to review certain matters?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I'll answer a question with a question. Should the R&A make the Rules of Golf or should The European Tour?
Q. I'm asking, do you presume that you consider whether the rules are right and make suggestions to the R&A?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We do not make the rule, are but the strongest lobbyist, and the R&A have agreed and rightly so.
But I could just as easily say, is it right that Harrington was disqualified at Benson and Hedges for what is really, probably, all of us would agree a ridiculous situation; that if it had been discovered one minute after the prize giving Harrington is fine. Harrington had no intention of taking advantage.
The Rules of Golf cover this, when the results are published, the thing is finished, unless there's some direct intention to get an advantage. And the one that's always credited was Sam Torrance at the Open at St. Andrews when he played from an out of bounds position. Had Sam Torrance done that knowingly, i.e., tried to get an advantage, then he would have been disqualified and stripped of everything under the sun; and he didn't know he was out of bounds and it was a genuine error. The result was unpunished and in the Rules of Golf it stands.
Q. At the time he was subsequently disqualified
GEORGE O'GRADY: And then they admitted they made a mistake. The R&A admitted they reacted in haste. These matters deserve to be dealt with with a cool, calm head, and this has been dealt with coolly, and calmly, considered by 14 experienced members of a players committee with a very experienced chairman, and they made a statement that we think finishes in my opinion.
GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much, George. Thank you very much, Jim and as you make your way out, please, if you just grab a grass of champagne we'll toast the BMW Championship, 2005.
End of FastScripts.