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July 21, 2008

Peter Dawson

David Toms

Michael Wells


MICHAEL WELLS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am joined this morning as you see by our Director of Championships, David Hill, on my left, and I have Peter on my right, and if I may just start with a few observations about the week.
Obviously we had a fantastic finale yesterday, a great winner, thrilling and compelling golf to watch and really exceptionally difficult conditions. The strength of that crosswind on the last four holes really was quite extraordinary, and I can't remember ever seeing players aiming at the stands to allow for a 30-, 40-yard drift in the crosswind. And you really can't say enough for the quality of the golf that was produced by the leading players in the circumstances.
The attendances over the week were terrific. We were over 200,000 people in, which is marvellous. I think it's only about the sixth time that that has happened for us anywhere, and all in all, we felt that we had a good week and a good Championship.
And obviously the weather was pretty challenging. I can't ever remember a tournament where we spent the first two days wishing the rain would go off, and the next two wishing it would rain to help us cope with the wind.
But in the end, I think tell be seen as one of the really good Opens, and what a worthy winner we had in Padraig.
I think that's about all I want to say at this stage. We are open to questions.

Q. (Do you have a complete attendance count)?
MICHAEL WELLS: It was actually 201,500 as of close of play last night and that will be subject to some refunds and final things, you can safely say 201,000.

Q. And where does that stand in the --
MICHAEL WELLS: I think it's the fifth or sixth highest, St. Andrews, certainly exceeded 200,000 on three occasions. There was Hoylake two years ago. And there was one other venue, I can't remember.

Q. Lytham?
MICHAEL WELLS: No, I don't think Lytham as ever gone over 200,000, but I'll find out information afterward if you want -- I think it might have been within of the Lytham ones, yeah.
When you talk about the weather and possible economic recession and no Tiger Woods here, I think it was really a wonderful crowd. I mean, we definitely lost four or five thousand people on Thursday. We just know that; friends who just didn't come on Thursday because the weather was so awful on Thursday. It was a very, very good attendance and very well-behaved crowd, filled over 25,000 portions of fish and chips throughout the week; 25,000 portions of fish and chips -- I think it that was Saturday night so probably up to about 30,000.

Q. Record for that?
MICHAEL WELLS: Well, definitely for fish and chips. And our coffee, number of cups of coffee exceeded 280,000.

Q. (No mic).
MICHAEL WELLS: Nothing at all. I don't know if any of you got up to the very big tent that my team installed by the main entrance where 80 per cent of the people came in, but it really worked very, very well. We were fortunate here because 80 per cent do come in at the same entrance, that's how it works. So it was easy to make sure the mobile phone policy operated quite successfully.

Q. (No mic).
DAVID TOMS: Well, we always have a few, but I can honestly say, Lewine, this is probably the lowest number of people that have been ejected from the grounds at an Open Championship in last ten years -- partly due to the remember.
PETER DAWSON: What's most memorable about it is I've never been to an Open myself is where I've had fewer people knocking at my door about issues. And it's been quite quiet from that point of view and whether it's about what's the golf course or what's being supplied to the players; that was quite noticeable to me.
I think it demonstrates, once again, that the northwest of England is starved of major golf events, and you know, golf up in this part of the world is probably as strong as Scotland. People talk about Scotland and Ireland, but there's no doubt in my mind that the normal west is still huge potential for golf, junior golf right the way through, lots of golf courses, lots of developed golf up here and all the local authorities have now started to recognise that after having been really in the background and way behind the Scottish and Irish for many, many years.

Q. I'd like your comments on the 16th for the week. It looked as though when you did go to the forward tee, I want to say the hole is not as strong as you would have liked; is that something would you look at down the road if you need to make adjustments?
PETER DAWSON: Yes, with the benefit of hindsight we could have done with other tees, one at 11, one at 16 to which we would have gone forward, but without going forward quite as far. I think 11 still played extremely well off the forward tee. It was still a very interesting hole, but 16 did lose a bit of its teeth. Nonetheless, with the strengthth of the crosswind, as Michael said, it was still a tough golf hole.

Q. Given the crowds, the excellent crowds, given the excellent champion, given the exciting competition, can we dismiss once and for all that this was the "asterisk" Open?
PETER DAWSON: I never thought it would be the asterisk Open, if you mean in the sense of an absent individual.
I said at the start of the week, Tiger, world No. 1, we miss him, but he has won three out of 11 Opens; so statistically, he probably wouldn't have won this one if history had been repeated. So I don't think this Champion has anything to worry about with asterisks against his name; in fact, he proved that last year, didn't he.

Q. Could you comment on Camilo Villegas in relation to Columbia being one of the countries you support through Open profit?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think in the sense of golf development, there are two important aspects. One is to push from the bottom with grass roots financing, and the other is to have stars from that country to whom people can aspire, and Camilo is certainly one of those as far as Columbia is concerned, and it's good to see. But he is just one example of what we hope will be a bigger trend, if I've got the drift of your question right.

Q. Can you tell us what you would have supplied to them and when it first happened that you started sending clubs or balls or whatever out?
PETER DAWSON: Specifically Columbia, I just can't recall, I'm afraid. I would have to get Duncan Weir to tell us that one. I just can't give the data off the top of my head.

Q. On the question of issues and things, what is your feeling now about the 17th green?
PETER DAWSON: Well we didn't hear very much about it after the play started, did we, but I don't feel very much comment at all. But watching it the hole played actually quite well I thought for a downwind par-5 hole, and it did play its part in splitting the field.
I think we'll pause to reflect and review it and certainly have nothing to announce this morning, but it wasn't the great disaster it was built up to be. But then, I didn't think it would be, either.

Q. (What happens to the prize money for the amateur, Chris Wood)?
PETER DAWSON: I think there's a prize sheet outside and the money just goes down in professional order, so the pro who would been fifth or sixth or whatever the number is, would get that one place higher prize money.

Q. And exemptions --
PETER DAWSON: Exemptions Top-10 in this year's event.

Q. A question about the trophy. Padraig Harrington joked before the Championship started that he would like a smaller box for it so that he could find it easier to carry it around this year. He's won it again; any plans for changes in that regard?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the box is pretty bulky and they say you can't take it on as hand luggage, and he did raise the issue about some sort of modern polycarbon material for the box. And I asked the trophy people to look at it, and they haven't come back to me yet. It's a good idea and I'll look at it.
DAVID HILL: I think the problem was he was paying excess baggage (laughter).

Q. Can you speak to how he represented you last year?
PETER DAWSON: Well, terrific. He's been willing to do lots of things to help us, a recent example is his attendance at the Junior Open, but he's helped with us etiquette and rules films and so on. He's willing to put back in the game, and it's very good to see, and I'm sure he'll do it in the coming year, too.

Q. Has he been outstanding in that direction? On an order of merit of Champions, would you say he's played his part better than anyone?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I suppose the fact that he is from Europe helps us a bit in terms of the geography, but he's been as willing or more willing as anyone else. That's not a criticism of other champions, by the way. I remember David Duval was very willing to do things at the time, comes to mind.
But I think it has to coincide with programmes that we have that are suitable for asking Open Champion to participate in, and that has not necessarily been the case every year, but it certainly has in Padraig.

Q. Any thoughts of taking the Open over to Ireland?
PETER DAWSON: Well, it would be a big debate about whether he should keep the Claret Jug or get a new trophy -- Peter Thomson did it. No, we have no plans to go off shore.

Q. With the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, how many put together --
PETER DAWSON: Well, it's in a very crowded calendar and I suppose ideally a little bit of spread would help, but I don't think that's achievable given the knock-on effects of moving events. We'll be hard enough presseded to deal with the Olympic issue if that ever came up in terms of scheduling. So I think that's the next big scheduling issue to occur if golf does get into the Olympics.
The problem is, that bidding Olympic cities have a variety of dates to choose from. So you can't be certain what's going to occur there, but let's not get ahead of ourselves on that.

Q. Just going back to the crowds for a moment, do you think the Greg Norman factor had any noticeable effect on them?
PETER DAWSON: I'd be guessing. Obviously it was a big thing, a big draw, and there will be people at the margin who no doubt chose to come who might not otherwise have done but we can't gauge that. There's no controlled experiment. It's just a whole mix of factors.
I think getting 200,000 people in, given the weather, was a pretty stunning achievement, actually; and given the commercial environment at the moment, economic environment and Tiger situation. All credit to golf fans in this part of the country.

Q. How do you actually count the crowds that have already bought tickets?
MICHAEL WELLS: They are included in the preattendance, roughly speaking, 50 per cent of people have bought tickets in advance, and then 50 per cent pay on the.

Q. Are they actually counted, in advance?
MICHAEL WELLS: Yes, they have paid and these are people who have paid. So if somebody had paid in advance and decided not to come that, would have counted.
PETER DAWSON: Yeah, it's a ticket sales count.

Q. Just to follow what Derek asked earlier, and not to get ahead of ourselves, but are your dates restricted by anything if we look ahead toward a possible Olympic city? Is there something that reflects you to the middle of July?
PETER DAWSON: Our dates here? Well, there are certain effects here, namely outside of golf. Wimbledon and tennis and BBC and so on makes it very difficult for The Open Championship to move closer that way. Conversely, it's not a very desirable situation to have an Open Championship up against an Olympic Games.
So the fact that one might reschedule is not all because as far as we would be concerned. One of the great things about all of the golfing bodies coming together at this is there will be an honest attempt to make the schedule work, and just what an honest attempt will entail is depends, one, if golf gets in, of course; and two, big cities and date.

Q. (No mic).
PETER DAWSON: For us, we like the date that we have. We're very happy with the date that we have.
It would be a huge negotiation in terms of Wimbledon and other things. There's only a week's gap between Wimbledon and Open week, so we would not want to go that direction.

Q. Olympics --
PETER DAWSON: Well, we will get seven years notice of this; and therefore, there is time to see if an Olympic year or permanently that some calendar change can be accommodated.
But there's so many hypothetical what ifs, that I think we are best waiting to see what the dates actually are before doing too much work. Because not only do you have flexibility on the Olympic dates; you've got also flexibility within the Olympic fortnight as to which week you might or might not choose to stage a golf event.

Q. Have you any idea of the television viewing figures this year?
PETER DAWSON: I haven't seen anything yet I'm afraid.
MICHAEL WELLS: Probably tomorrow sometime I would think.
PETER DAWSON: I did get a reading on first day from the BBC, I would say, which was 20 per cent up on last year. That may be weather-related; people staying in, I don't know.
Very good, thank you everyone.

End of FastScripts

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