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July 19, 2010
ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND
MALCOLM BOOTH: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the R & A's post-Open Championship press conference. From the far end, can I introduce Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the R & A; Michael Brown, Chairman of the R & A's Championship Committee; and David Hill, our Director of Championships.
I think we'll just open straight up to questions, unless Michael, do you want to say a few words?
MICHAEL BROWN: Thanks, Malcolm, I will just very briefly. Well, we have a new and very worthy Open Champion in Louis Oosthuizen, a very nice young man who played tremendous golf under pressure and in the end won in some comfort, and it's nice to see a new talent blooming, so that's very good.
Our attendance this week I think at 201,000 I think it was, I'm well pleased with in the circumstances of the economy and the country at the moment and the absolutely foul weather we had at the beginning of the week, and we'd regard that as a very satisfactory attendance.
And just finally before we go to questions, I'd just like to thank you all for your assistance in the course of this week, and I hope the arrangements we've made for you have met with your approval. Thank you.
Q. Are you happy with the suspension Friday and the circumstances of it?
MICHAEL BROWN: Well, first of all, we were quite clear that question reached a point where play had to be suspended because we were getting reports particularly at the far end of the course of balls moving in such numbers that whilst I think at the end of the day only one penalty was incurred as a result, I think we had something like 20 instances recorded by the rules officials over the day.
But there was a spate of them at one particular time. If my memory serves me right, it was 2:40. And it was quite clear that to ask the players to continue at that point was not reasonable, so I'm perfectly happy with that.
I'm aware that there were one or two comments from players. It was interesting that Rory McIlroy thought it was nonsense that we had stopped play, because he was going quite well having played three holes in par and thought we should have kept going. But actually the weatherman and the recorded wind speeds were behind all the decisions we made, and I'm perfectly happy with what we did.
PETER DAWSON: Just to add to that, I think the comments we did get from some players were from those players who at that time were near the home end of the golf course. What they wouldn't have known was what conditions were like at the far end, and the players who were out at the 8th, the 7th, the 11th and so on, we didn't hear any complaints from them because it absolutely was unplayable for about an hour, which was the time that we suspended. We put play back on just as soon as conditions allowed.
We actually had no choice, and I think the suspension was handled by the rules officials extremely efficiently.
Q. Could you tell us when the -- will the next St. Andrews Open be in 2015? Is anything decided yet? And also, just interested to know the thoughts of the panel about the fact that this may have been -- in the last 20 years, four of the last five Opens here have ended with the biggest margins of victory; arguably the last day has been the least entertaining at St. Andrews of all of The Open courses in the last 20 years.
PETER DAWSON: With regard to the 2015 question, I seem to be getting asked this a huge amount the last couple of days. I don't know why people are asking it. Is there a hare running on this one? I have nothing surprising to tell you. We have announced up to and including 2014. We will be announcing 2015 later this year, and I doubt if it will be bothering your pens at the time, but we'll just have to wait and see.
With regard to the St. Andrews finishes, well, goodness knows. I think that's just coincidence personally. I think you can get big margins at any golf course. I guess you can get big swings here toward the end as much as you can at others, but certainly no more than at Carnoustie, so I have no answer to that question.
Q. I spoke to you Saturday morning about the suspension of play. Subsequent to that, I think it was Ross Fisher was talking about players not being given what he thought was proper communication about a restart. I don't know whether you follow European Tour procedure on that, about players being able to warm up.
MICHAEL BROWN: I'm not sure what his complaint was, but the players were asked to stay on course at the time. There's a bit of latitude there. Some wandered away, some were near practise facilities. But the rules official with each game was keeping a track on where they were. We gave them what I thought was perfectly adequate notice of when we intended to resume. That's then followed by a detail roll call around all the rules officials with each game until we know that everyone is back in position and ready to go.
DAVID HILL: I think it also showed the benefit of having a rules official with each game. Some of the other majors and Tour events don't have that.
Q. There's some thinking now the 18th hole is too easy. The old days of the Valley of Sin doesn't seem to be coming into play so much because of the distance people are hitting it. I just wonder if it had ever be contemplated doing anything to the 18th hole?
PETER DAWSON: I think you'd have your legs cut off if you contemplated that. The 18th played downwind substantially all week and therefore was playing short. I actually saw quite a number of people in the Valley of Sin playing their third shots actually, not their seconds. But the hole, short though it may be, and whilst the average score was well under par, it does serve to split players. You've still got to make your 3, or in the odd cases a 2, and a 4 just won't do downwind. So no plans to change the 18th. It's a very famous hole here, and we're still more than happy with it.
MICHAEL BROWN: My mind always goes back to that Open in 1970 when Jack Nicklaus gave honours to that green using 3- or 4-wood in all four rounds, so not a great deal has changed there, really.
Q. I'd just be curious, there's been a number of Open Champions who were a surprise it was their first major regardless. Would you look Louis any differently based on the margin of victory alone?
PETER DAWSON: I think based on the margin of victory, his demeanor on the golf course, the quality of his game and the steady progress that he's been making in the World Rankings and in Tour events I think very much mark him as a player on the rise. Every great Open Champion has to win for the first time sometime or other, obviously. That's self-evident. And I for one would not be surprised to see him win again.
Q. Michael, we talked about this briefly when we had a skirmish out on one of the fairways one afternoon. Would you please reiterate what the formal thinking is about two-tee starts, and you might address in the answer to that whether any more favorably attached to that idea than you have been in the past?
MICHAEL BROWN: I don't think I would have described our chat as a skirmish, but we've always done the traditional first-tee start. There are a number of reasons why that makes good sense at our Open Championship venues. Many of them simply do not lend themselves to transporting players to a 10th tee. There are one or two exceptions, but a lot of the courses would not work very well for that.
And I think a very good point was made in relation to St. Andrews in particular that the 17th is a great 17th hole, but it's a slightly different proposition if you're playing it as the 8th hole. Of course it allows for a slightly earlier finish in the day if you do the two-tee start, and it works, but we finished each day, and I'm quite happy with the way things ran this week.
Q. Peter, would you mind chiming in on that?
PETER DAWSON: Well, a two-tee start here would not solve the morning-afternoon weather differential issue because you're still going to have groups playing in the morning and groups playing in the afternoon. I don't think it would actually have a material effect on that. And we do feel, especially in windy weather, that the order you play holes on links golf courses matters. It matters to the way you approach the round or how good a frame of mind you might be in after three or four holes, and so on. We think that matters, and we're very happy with the way the championship has been conducted off a single tee. Perhaps there would be no time or desire to change that.
Q. Peter, you mentioned the economy. Would you summarise briefly what the economic indicators are looking forward for golf here in the UK?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think golf in the UK, there's been quite a lot of publicity about falling membership numbers at golf clubs and so on, which has been true. Waiting lists at golf clubs are certainly considerably reduced and in many cases been eliminated. But on the other hand, there's still as many golfers around, perhaps playing more on pay-and-play type courses and so on. I think golf is no special case. It will suffer from the economy. Just how much remains to be seen.
But it wouldn't take very much in terms of course adjustments, and I guess we are going to see one or two courses close but let's hope not very many. I don't think it would take too much to get the demand and supply equation back into balance.
But as far as professional golf is concerned, and particularly at the Open Championship, we are very fortunate to have very strong corporate support, very strong support from the public, very strong support from our television partners, and the economic condition of The Open Championship has never been better.
Q. How do you carry it out, or are you planning any follow-up action to Ian Poulter's much-publicized bust-up with the security guard which happened, I believe, on Saturday?
PETER DAWSON: I'm very sorry, I don't personally know the details of that, and if I should, I apologise, but I don't.
DAVID HILL: I don't know of them, either.
Q. He said that a member of the public said something to him that was quite insulting, he said something back, the security guard stepped in and in Poulter's opinion took matters into his own hands and at one point the Open threatened to become a heavyweight boxing contest between golfer and the member staff.
PETER DAWSON: There wouldn't be a slight exaggeration there, would there? Heavyweight boxing. Well, we'll have to investigate that. I'm afraid I'm not able to comment.
Q. Having taken the opening tee shot at the last 17 Opens, I'd just be very interested to know the theory behind the two Open Champions that opened proceedings on Thursday and Friday, Paul Lawrie and then Mark Calcavecchia?
PETER DAWSON: Are you asking was that by design?
PETER DAWSON: Believe it or not, it was, yes. 150th Open, we thought that might be quite nice. 150th anniversary, I beg your pardon, not 150th Open.
Q. Just going back to the golf course for a moment, the 17th hole we spoke about before the championship began, and you said, Peter, that players have been very complimentary about the changes that have been made. They were all quite critical of the amount of rough up the left-hand side and felt it was out of character with what was on the rest of the golf course. What are your thoughts on that? And also, why did you change the boundaries of the golf course so late in the week? What was the thinking there?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I do agree with Graeme that the rough left of 17 ought to have been somewhat thinner, but it grew away very rapidly amazingly in the two or three weeks running up to the championship, having been pretty much how we wanted it two to three weeks ago.
I think the 17th tee has been a great success in terms of stiffening the test of that hole. I said that at the beginning of the week, we were hoping that the road might come more back into play, and by gosh, it did. We had far more people on the road this year through the back of the hole than I've seen at previous Opens in recent times. To that degree we are very pleased with the hole, and the player comments by and large have been very positive.
I heard about Graeme's comments. I was out with Graeme when he was here practising and didn't receive any such comments, so I'm not sure if he's been misquoted or not, but the player reaction by and large has been extremely good.
Q. And the boundaries?
PETER DAWSON: Oh, the boundary. Our original thinking was to -- in putting in the new tee was that we should not affect the play of the 16th hole, which historically has been out of bounds to the right of the green, although we've very rarely seen players out there in recent times.
As the week wore on, we increasingly thought that it was just odd to do it that way. We had a similar situation at the 2nd tee actually, which is in a position that historically has been out of bounds in the play of the 1st, like at the last Open Championship. That tee was out of bounds in play of the 1st, as well. So we changed both of them this time. And one of the things that helped sway us was the fact that we were referred to old pictures of James Braid winning the championship in 1905 and playing off the railway.
So it is not true to say that that area had always been out of bounds. Clearly that's not the case. We just thought that putting the boundary around the back of the 17th tee made it look much more an integral part of the golf course.
Q. Are there any plans or thoughts about adding to the rota of venues for the Open?
PETER DAWSON: We always have an open mind, and excuse the pun, but we haven't got anything at any sort of advanced stage or investigation at the moment. We're very happy with the courses that we have.
Q. I think Ian Poulter has half joking when he said if we told you the average score for the 17th was effectively the same as in previous Opens that you might be putting it back another 20 yards.
PETER DAWSON: What, the green or the tee?
Q. Is that as far as it can go?
PETER DAWSON: You could go back lots of yards, but I don't think that would be appropriate. I think the hole is just fine. We have no plans at all now to -- I'll be proved wrong five years from now or six years from now or seven years from now, whenever the Open comes back to St. Andrews, but we have no even embryonic plans for lengthening the course any further.
Q. Just curious, have you ever had a Senior Open here?
PETER DAWSON: No.
Q. What's the thinking there?
DAVID HILL: Well, I think you'd need to ask -- the Senior Open only attracts about 20,000 or 30,000 people.
Q. That many?
PETER DAWSON: And the Links Trust already give up their course for the Dunhill Cup at the end of the season every year. They have an agreement with them, and they also give it up for the Links Trophy, which is a very good amateur event every year. So it's a big ask to bring another event here.
Having said that, you're correct. They've had the Ladies Open here, so one day maybe the Seniors Open will come here.
Q. Was that a big concession to have the women here?
PETER DAWSON: No, I don't think so. They were very happy to have the Ladies Open. That was nothing to do with the R & A.
Q. I don't know how much of this is television and how much of it is the R & A, but has there ever been any thought to putting the Women's British Open ahead of the Senior British Open to perhaps attract more coverage?
DAVID HILL: It's all about --
PETER DAWSON: Why do you think that would occur in changing the order?
Q. I'm speaking mostly from the -- can I just talk or -- I'm thinking mostly from an American perspective obviously, but I think the women's game gets a little bit more attention than the best player who happens to be over 50 years old, and more newspapers might stick around, whatever newspapers are left, would stick around and cover the Women's Open as opposed to having to wait two weeks.
PETER DAWSON: Well, it is true to say as far as I'm aware that the grouping of the three events in three weeks was designed to encourage overseas media and in particular American media and indeed American television to stay on these islands to cover all of these events. I don't think we've ever had a particular conversation about the sequence in which they should occur, and of course that's not in our power entirely. We're 50/50 with the Senior Tour and the Senior Open, and the Women's Open is an LGU event. So it would need a series of meetings to resolve that. But that's an interesting idea.
Q. Will you get back to me on it?
PETER DAWSON: I will. I don't know when I'll be able to do that, but we'll let you know what the view is.
DAVID HILL: It would be interesting to know what the television companies think, as well. It seems to be their preference to go with the Seniors Open and then the Ladies Open.
Q. Is the road bunker as penal and it was?
PETER DAWSON: This year the road bunker was as deep as it has been in recent times, but the angle of the front face was somewhat less than perpendicular, if I can say that.
Q. By design?
PETER DAWSON: Yes. It's amazing, people say to me, oh, that face is vertical. If, in fact, you go and measure it with an inclinometer, it was 67 degrees this year.
Q. This is probably one for the Links Trust as opposed to you guys, but do you know what's going to happen to the 17th tee before the Open comes back here again? Are they going to just leave it there? Are there plans to use it permanently down the years, or what's going to happen?
PETER DAWSON: It'll be maintained as a back tee in the same way as the 2nd tee is. Whether the Dunhill people or the Links Trophy organisers choose to use it remains to be seen. I would imagine they would, especially for the Dunhill. I can't see Johann Rupert letting it sit there.
Q. In these days of professional sport, big money in sport, so many other sports have been tainted by cheating, bad sportsmanship, rows, screaming, shouting. Yesterday the relationship between the last two players, even after the 12th, was a great advert for golf. I wonder whether you're pleased about that, relieved about that. Even afterwards Paul was extremely magnanimous about the winner. I just wondered what you feel about the image of golf in those circumstances.
PETER DAWSON: Well, relieved, no, because I think it's what we've come to expect from golfers. Pleased, certainly, yes. The camaraderie amongst the players this year was particularly strong, and I thought the crowd reaction to all of the players who were here was just exemplary. I'm very pleased with it indeed, thank you.
Q. What's an inclinometer? Obviously it says what it does. But is that a proper name? Secondly, what was the angle of the face in 2005? And who decided and what was the thinking behind it not being the same this year as then? And fourthly, was the face of the bunker reverted three weeks ago? I read something about that before. Are they all connected?
PETER DAWSON: What happened three or four weeks ago was just a tidying-up exercise. The fundamental construction of the bunker was earlier than that.
An inclinometer is a proper name.
I don't know the answer to 2005; I can't remember, but I think it was three or four degrees steeper. And the reasoning behind it was that we wanted to give the players some kind of chance of getting out rather than no chance.
Q. Do you have figures on success rate of getting out?
PETER DAWSON: No. Well, there will be around, but I haven't got them. It much more depends where in the bunker you are if you're going to get out. That's the determining factor. If you're right up against the face, even if you've got it at 67, you're not going to.
Q. One more question about Friday. Some of the pin positions were unusual for St. Andrews. I'm thinking of the 11th, 17th. Are you happy that the setup of the course that day didn't contribute to the suspension in any way?
PETER DAWSON: Well, the suspension had absolutely nothing to do with pin positions, it was to do with balls were blowing about wherever they were on the green. They were blowing about where the players were addressing the ball, not where the ball was going into the hole, so nothing to do with the pin positions whatsoever.
Q. The traditions and attitudes I suppose of this Open, weather dictates the score is simple enough. But was there any part of you on Thursday, especially in the morning, that would have not felt right about a 62 or even a 61?
PETER DAWSON: Well, Thursday was an easy day. That's certainly part of it. That's links golf. You have easy days, you have hard days. The scoring is good on the easy ones. Yeah, I suppose I wouldn't -- would I like the championship to be won with four 63s? If you had four easy days, that might happen. I would very much doubt it. I think the scoring bounces out over time, and it certainly did again this year.
Q. Were you pleased at the way that the spectators, the golfing public, welcomed and generally treated Tiger Woods in such a dignified fashion, perhaps justifying your own faith at the outset? And do you detect a difference between the way the public treats Tiger and the way the media treats him?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I thought from what I saw of it the public reaction to Tiger being here was just what we expected and indeed hoped it would be. We thought they were very welcoming and supportive of him. Certainly seems to be a different reaction to when he turns up at golf tournaments when you watch what the public do and the amount that's still written about him in the media. But that wouldn't be the only time that's ever happened. So we'll just leave it there, I think.
MALCOLM BOOTH: Thanks very much for joining us. Thank you.
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