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July 20, 2009
MALCOLM BOOTH: Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming to the post-Open Championship press conference. Joined to my left by Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A; Michael Brown, chairman of the R&A's championship committee; and David Hill, director of championships for the R&A. Michael?
MICHAEL BROWN: Thank you, Malcolm. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I don't know where to start here. All Open Championships are memorable, and this Turnberry Open was certainly a memorable Open. It very nearly produced one of the great sporting moments of my lifetime, and I don't limit that to golf.
But in the end, a very distinguished and fine gentleman in Stewart Cink with a good golfing record was the Open Champion, and we are very pleased indeed about that. He's been a good supporter of this championship. I think he's played in it 12 times. He did say himself he had missed the cut quite a few. And he felt it almost due him when he earned his victory yesterday.
It was a tremendous performance, 69 in the final round to come from behind and win. Absolutely first class.
We felt the week went well, and I think that's really about all I want to say. We're open to questions.
Q. Obviously attendance figures didn't match a lot of the venues, although this is a wonderful venue in its own right. Is there a concern at all, because presumably the R&A have, not lost several million pounds, but another venue might have produced a far greater revenue.
DAVID HILL: I think we were very pleased with the crowds. This is an outstanding venue. The players love it. It's a fantastic course for spectators to come and watch, except the fact that it's remote in comparison with all the other venues.
But our crowds did go up from 1994. They went up from 114,000 up to 123,000, so that's very much in line with the increases we would have had at our other Open Championship venues.
Does it worry the R&A financially? I don't think so, when you look at it over a ten-year -- if you take a ten-year view. We do very well at all the other championship venues financially, and when you take account of our media income and our total income, it really isn't a huge drop at all.
It would be nice to have obviously more money, but this venue is great for about 25,000 people a day, and that's what we had. Remember, that's paying spectators. It doesn't count you and I and all the other 5,000 or 6,000 that are in here completely free of charge.
We budgeted about 115,000. I really think it's a fantastic venue, and any thoughts of Turnberry not being part of the future Open circuit is just really not in the thoughts of anyone at R&A at all.
PETER DAWSON: I think that's right. I think it's such a good venue, has produced so far great Opens, that it rubs off on the rest of the championships, and it contributes to the success of the whole series of championships, frankly, rather than looking at them one by one.
DAVID HILL: And I think if you talked to the players and asked them to rate their favourite Open venues, I would suggest that most of them would probably put Turnberry right up there, and it's very important to the players to come to venues that they enjoy playing.
Q. Kind of along those lines, did it surprise you at all that the grandstands around the 18th were really not filled until Sunday, and Friday and Saturday was quite sparse? I was curious if you noticed that.
DAVID HILL: Yes, I think that's right. The grandstands are never full on Thursday and Friday at any Open venue around the 18th green. People are out on the golf course. They don't walk into the stands quite so much on Thursday and Friday because there's so many games out on the course. It's a long day at the Open Championship. It's only on Saturday and Sunday that the grandstands around 18 get busier.
And also the location of the tented village here is more towards the other side of the course to some extent. But one could argue maybe I should have only recommended putting up 10,000 seats. But we put up 15,000 seats to give our spectators the options of going into lots of different stands. Certainly yesterday all the stands were filled.
Q. Do you have any concerns for the spectators that there's nowhere for them to go once they step outside the gates of the course, and do you talk to them about that? In the 21st century it's great to talk about the players loving it and it's a fabulous tournament, but it's also about the event, isn't it?
DAVID HILL: Well, it is. There is a restriction on -- we work very closely with Visit Scotland, and we recognise that there is a lack of bedrooms, because I guess that's really what you're referring to, in this particular area. And that in itself limits the number of spectators who can come to the championship.
But if you take a ten-year view, we take the view that this is an outstanding venue and should be in the rota on that sort of basis.
Q. Maybe this is for Peter. With two terrific Opens now in which players over 50 have made a massive contribution to the staging of the championship, all the players are clearly fitter and more competitive than they've ever been before. Is this a trend which would maybe persuade you to look again at the age limit at which a past champion should compete in the future?
PETER DAWSON: Well, as you know, we did reduce just two or three years ago I think it was, the age limit from 65 and under to 60 and under on a transitional basis for those caught in between, and Tom Watson is actually the first past champion to come up against the 60-and-under limit, which next year would make his last exemption in that category. Had he won the Open, there is already a condition in the entry form which would have given him a further ten-year exemption.
But in the generality of the question, which is why limit it at 60 if players are able to compete at that sort of age, well, I don't think we contemplated a 59-year-old leading the Open Championship going into the back nine on the final day at the time, and every year after the Open we look at the exemptions, and no doubt we'll look at this one. It's much too early to say what, if anything, we'll do with it, but we'll certainly be looking at it.
Q. Just going back to the crowd figures, can you give a guesstimate, given that the crowd figures are down on last year than the associated revenues from catering, et cetera, will be down, as well, a guesstimate of the figure that income would have dropped this year compared to last year?
DAVID HILL: Yeah, of course everything has dropped, but we're absolutely conscious of that in making -- the championship committee are absolutely conscious of that in making the decision to bring the Open Championship back to Turnberry.
I mean, I know every venue, I've been here 30 years, inside out. I can guarantee next year at St. Andrews you'll have at least approaching 200,000 people; at Birkdale you'll have 200,000 people; at Hoylake you'll have 200,000 people; at Lytham you'll have 200,000 people; at Muirfield you'll have about 160,000 people. It just reflects the location. The northwest of England is a huge population area. The R&A are great fans of the northwest of England for golf. It's a wonderful golfing area. But you go to Muirfield, Carnoustie and Turnberry, and there's just not the head count around there.
Q. Can you give a figure then, how much you estimate the drop in income at a venue like Turnberry compared to last year?
DAVID HILL: It's probably about Ã‚Â£3 million.
Can I just add, when we take our overall revenues, it's not substantial. It's not anything that's worrying us.
Q. How do you look upon the older generation competing at the Open? Does it say something good about the game of golf, or are you concerned that the really young guns don't seem to be able to master links golf?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the spectators love to see the old players come back, don't they, and I think that will always be a feature of The Open Championship. We'd certainly want it to be. It's great to see the names of the past competing. But I do think it's important that we see them in a state where they are reasonably competitive. We don't want it to become a procession. It still has to be a golf championship.
Tom Watson certainly seemed to be able to steer his golf ball around a links course better than many, and in particular, I don't know if the statistics will back this up, but it appeared to me watching on television, to be able to hit a lot more fairways or miss a lot fewer in the thick stuff than anybody else. And clearly that was key to his success, apart from the fact his putter was fairly warm at the time, but he kept the ball in play and knew how to do that.
Many golf courses these days perhaps don't require that degree of accuracy, but this one certainly did.
Q. Does it concern you that the really young guns, specifically British players, that we expect to be used to these conditions are not able to master these courses?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think, you know, again, the generality of that question, there are a huge amount of young talent coming through these days at amateur level and senior amateur level turning pro, so I've got no particular worries that home-grown players aren't going to be featured prominently in this championship in the future. I don't think we've ever been quite so blessed with so much talent coming through in the amateur game. I think it's just the time for that working it through. Why one or two of them haven't yet won a major, I don't know. They're certainly good enough to.
Q. Next year is 150th. Do you have any special plans, I'm sure you probably have, to celebrate the occasion at St. Andrews?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we might crack open a special bottle of whisky. Do you want to talk about that one, Mike?
MICHAEL BROWN: Well, it's obviously a very special occasion, 150th. Our present plan is to have what we call a Champions Challenge on the Wednesday afternoon as we did in the year 2000, and that was extremely popular with the fans. And given decent weather, I think that will go down very well again and will be very well supported as indeed it was the last time.
Q. I understand this is the first year of drug testing at the Open. Is there anything you can report this morning, or when can we expect any results to be published, please?
PETER DAWSON: I'm not just certain sitting here if we do publish results under the European Tour policy, unless there are some abnormal findings. It normally takes ten working days or thereabouts to get results back, so we won't know the results of the drug testing of this championship until the end of this month approximately.
Q. Peter, if a player of 59 had done what Tom Watson did this week a few years ago, are you pretty sure you would not even have considered bringing down that age limit?
PETER DAWSON: I think there are many ways to phrase an exemption. I mean, one could have an extension of the age limit for any past champion who had performed particularly well. There's a lot of ways of doing it without making it a catchall. But I'm sure if someone at age 59 had been winning the championship, bringing down the age limit would have been lower on the agenda. But we brought down the age limit in order to give more spaces in the championship to younger players allegedly in their prime to compete.
Q. Just following up on that, to go back to the Augusta National flip-flop they had earlier in the decade of the letter and then rescinding it, it seems like that and the U.S. PGA seem to just allow the players to decide for themselves to decide when it's time for them that they compete anymore. Have you ever considered that, or do you just not trust the guys to know?
PETER DAWSON: No, the age limit condition in the Open goes back many years. It's not something new by any means. I don't think it's something that we would change, having an age limit. I don't see a difficulty with it. Someone will probably tell me it's going to be against the age discrimination legislation, but we'll look at that if that arises.
Q. Peter, how do you think golf stands with its chance to be an Olympic sport, and what kind of impact the outcome of this championship would have with a 59-year-old Tom Watson almost winning the championship?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the position of the Olympics is that we will know next month, the middle of August, if golf has got onto the short list of two that the IOC executive board is going to be recommending for voting on in October. We've been able to put golf's case with one voice across the game very strongly for both men and women, and I think we have a good chance. But all the other sports, the seven sports competing for two spots, will have put good cases, as well.
I think as far as how would the IOC view an older person winning a golf championship, if that was your question, I could only think that with their policies in the IOC of inclusiveness and sport for all, I think that would have been welcomed. I don't see that as anything other than strengthening our case.
Q. For David, has anything happened in the past year or two that would persuade you to look at Royal Portrush again as a venue?
DAVID HILL: Well, coming from Royal Portrush, I have to be very careful what I say here. I think the one thing I would say is you should never say never, and this venue is a great demonstration of a wonderful golf course in classic links condition and about 25,000 people a day. And the infrastructure, it's taken us a few years to get there, but we have made it to work.
I know the championship committee do like to go to new venues. The huge media income we have now enables us to come to Turnberry, and I would suggest 10, 15 years ago, we had to go to venues where we were attracting 200,000 people because the income was so important to us. But now with new media income, it does give us the opportunity to look at other venues.
But unfortunately, as I see it at this moment in time, the infrastructure at most of the other venues that we might wish to consider, whether that be a Dornoch way up in the north of Scotland or a Portrush or a Porthcawl which have all had their names bandied around, is probably not quite there at this moment in time.
But it's no longer the case, I would suggest, and I'm being very careful what I say here, that we have to go to venues which attract 50,000 people a day. But equally I don't want to -- I certainly wouldn't want to recommend we go to venues which are all ticket 25,000 people a day, because that just leads to the type of crowd that I don't think the golf wants.
The thing I've always loved over all the years I've been involved, and I know the championship committee have supported this, is that I've said it many times, anyone can come to the Open Championship on the day of the event, and I think that's the one thing that distinguishes this championship very much so compared with an Augusta or something like that.
The crowds out there yesterday, I mean, they may not have all been sitting in the grandstands on Thursday and Friday, but they were certainly watching the big screen in the tented village, for example. There were 2,000 or 3,000 in there, and the spectators had a great time here.
So 50,000 a day is maybe not the type of venue we have to go to any longer, and that's what I would say.
Q. What's this new media income?
DAVID HILL: Television income. I mean, Peter will tell you.
PETER DAWSON: He meant a new level of media income.
DAVID HILL: The event last night was going out to -- most countries in the world had the option to take this championship last night. Peter, if you'd like to elaborate on that.
PETER DAWSON: Yes, it goes now -- the Open reaches over 600,000 homes I think with the latest arrangement we have in China. That's a big reach and something that the media companies are prepared to pay for. And it's incumbent on us to produce exciting, good championships at great venues in order to continue that. It's just part of the package.
Q. You're the only one of the four majors that doesn't from time to time issue special invitations. Is that a hard-and-fast rule that there is no prospect of changing?
PETER DAWSON: We certainly haven't discussed changing that, and we think that the procedure we have for exemptions and qualification is the right way to go for a championship of this quality.
Q. You tell us every year, Peter, when we ask, where you are as far as the renewal of the contract is concerned. Would you therefore tell us this year? Are we approaching the end of a term?
PETER DAWSON: Do you mean in the UK with the BBC?
PETER DAWSON: The BBC contract that we have expires at the end of the 2011 Open, and that will complete over 55 years' continuous coverage of The Open Championship by the BBC. So we have a long relationship, and we will no doubt be discussing the future coverage sometime over the next 12 months or so I would think to see where we go beyond 2011.
I've always said we always like to have the Open Championship accessible to as many people as possible on the one hand, but we need to have the commercial situation right because we give so much of our money away for golf development projects around the world, and happily we've been able to achieve that balance up until now with the BBC, and I know they'll be very keen to continue.
Q. How many people are involved with running the Open, sort of both paid and unpaid, and what sort of income does it bring to the region when you stage the Open in an area?
DAVID HILL: Well, we issued about 8,000 badges this year for people doing a job of work at the championship. That includes the media, marshals, et cetera. And the income, the amount of money spent outside the pay gates from our surveys, is estimated to be around about Ã‚Â£50 million. One can raise up to Ã‚Â£75 million depending upon what angle will you come from. But it's of huge benefit.
As with the Ryder Cup, there is no -- whether it be Visit Scotland, northwest of England, Kent, lots of places are very, very keen to host this championship because of the economic benefits to the area. And of course here in Scotland, it's not just around the Glasgow area. There were a lot of Americans here yesterday who had spent a week in Scotland, and their whole week was based upon coming to the final day of The Open Championship. But for the other six days they've been golfing around Scotland.
Q. I'd just be curious, just given your level of involvement throughout the year in this Open, when you come here Monday morning and it's over and you see the grandstand and everything, did you find yourself today having a hard time believing what you had seen over the last four days than previous Opens?
PETER DAWSON: I always think this is the worst day of the year in many ways. The championship is over, the adrenaline levels are falling back, and things start to be dismantled. It's not my favourite day of the year to be honest. But we can look back this year as we've been able to do most times in recent years on a very successful Championship. We have to turn our minds to next year's now, not look back at this year's.
Q. I heard that you were going to have a drugs test last week. Now, this may be a colleague winding me up, but we did have photographers outside. Somebody said that you were going to do it at 9:00 the next morning. Was that a rumor, or is there any truth in the story, and if so, did you pass?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think I said myself at our press conference that I was going to have a drugs test the next morning, and I did. And I wanted to go through the procedure that the players are taken through so I could see what it was like and understand what it was all about. And it was all done extremely sensitively, I have to say. And enough said, really.
I don't know what the results are, because as I said earlier, it takes ten working days to get them back from the lab. But I went through the whole process, and little sealed bottles have been sent off to some unfortunate person to test at the other end of the country. We'll see when it comes back. But I really wanted to do it to see what the procedure was like, and it was thorough, it was quick, and it was sensitively handled.
Q. How long did it take?
PETER DAWSON: Oh, the whole thing took about ten minutes, I think.
Q. The performance of Scottish professionals at the Open in recent years has been dismal. I wondered whether as a Scottish club the R&A are concerned about this and whether you might consider funding a special project to revive fortunes.
PETER DAWSON: Well, I suppose we've been funding plenty of programmes in Scotland at the grass-roots and amateur level. I don't know what the answer to it is. I have to be honest, why the Scots pros don't do better than they have been. Goodness knows the Scots amateurs won the world amateur team championship and the European amateur team championship the last 12 months, so they're on top of the world in the amateur game. And they're very good links players, these particular guys. So over to them is all I can say.
Q. Forgive me for being so blunt, I just wonder what is the overall income from new media?
PETER DAWSON: What exactly do you mean by new media?
Q. Well, in the same way you said it, television.
PETER DAWSON: I'm sorry, I can't tell you that, because every TV contract we have has a commercial confidentiality clause, and we've never declared what it is.
Q. But if you give away a ballpark figure you're not giving away any individual contract figure.
PETER DAWSON: I'll be the judge of that. I'm sorry, I'm not going to answer it directly.
PETER DAWSON: Guessing. What do you think, Angus, 40-ish?
PETER DAWSON: 45.
Q. How many players were drug tested, and do you reveal who they were?
PETER DAWSON: No, we don't. They're randomly selected. It was another week on the European Tour. We just used their policy and anti-doping procedure, and that was it.
Q. Just a very quick one. Was there any disappointment that the ECB had actually scheduled the Lord's Ashes test alongside the same weekend as the Open?
PETER DAWSON: Yes, I think we were disappointed. Open Championship week has long been a fixture in the calendar. David has probably got a little more history than I have of discussing dates and schedules, and maybe I'd ask him to comment on that.
DAVID HILL: Yes, I think we were obviously disappointed for sports fans throughout the UK. I sit in a group which looks at all these fixtures, and I think the problem cricket has is it has so many test matches, not just test matches but one-day internationals. So their fixture calendar in recent years has become very, very crowded.
Of course I really can't say more than that. But in an ideal world, going back until about four or five years ago, you had Wimbledon finals, the British Grand Prix, and then the Open Championship. And the cricket team didn't have a choice in that would be the best way to describe it because obviously you can't have three successive weekends without a test match in the middle of summer. But let's just say it was handled accordingly.
But I think you'd need to speak to the English Cricketing Board, but they were obviously under pressures, as well, I guess.
Q. Are you likely to send them a message of your feelings?
DAVID HILL: Well, I'll tell you for sure, because they're on a non-terrestrial television, at least six, seven more times more people watched the Open Championship yesterday than the test match for that reason. One of the amazing facts, which is a fact, is that more people watched the Walker Cup at County Down than watched the Ryder Cup on television.
Q. How do you know that they have figures?
PETER DAWSON: They're published in the ratings.
DAVID HILL: They're published in the ratings. I mean, more people watched the Walker Cup than watched the Ryder Cup. It's a fact.
Q. Including American viewers on that one?
DAVID HILL: No, in the UK.
Q. Peter, just briefly, on the Olympics, if we were to assume if golf does get in, I wonder if you could speak to the schedule for the Open? There's going to be some cramming together, I guess, to make room for that. How flexible can you be?
PETER DAWSON: The thing about the Olympics is there are no fixed dates for it until you know which bid city is successful for 2016, and there are four of those, and as I understand it, they bid for a two-week window between mid-July and the end of August to stage the Games. So until the bid city is determined, we're not just sure what the dates will be for 2016 or any other Olympic year.
When we do know the dates, we will have seven years' notice always of what those dates will be, which is plenty of time to make adjustments, and the game of golf has committed to adjust its schedules to allow for the Olympic competition.
As far as I'm concerned and the R&A is concerned, in the past the Open Championship has not come up against the Olympics. PGA has done so far more often. I personally wouldn't want to have an Open Championship during the Olympic Games because of the type of thing we've just been discussing, which is competition for viewers and ratings and so on. To me rescheduling is something desirable as opposed to undesirable if you're going to be up against an Olympic Games. But we have seven years' notice, and I think that's the key.
Q. You would have to work with the U.S. PGA on this I would think as the Olympics are usually in August and maybe they'd need to come forward. How much room do you feel comfortable going backwards or forwards?
PETER DAWSON: I think it's a difficult question to answer. I've always got to do that case by case really. It's going to be a lot of people going round the table and discussing the schedule, not just the men's game but the women's game, too.
Q. For Michael on the Champions Challenge next year, because you're having that, and presumably you will be inviting all your past champions again, I know there's to be celebrations at Prestwick, too. Do you think that will encourage more the past champions perhaps to attend the function at Prestwick in advance of The Open?
MICHAEL BROWN: Well, what Prestwick are doing is a private matter for Prestwick Golf Club, and I happen to know they have invited all the past Open Champions, and they're hopeful that a few of them will take up that invitation. But that happens on the previous weekend and doesn't really impinge on the preparations at St. Andrews at all.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
End of FastScripts