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July 10, 2011

George O'Grady

Alex Salmond


SCOTT CROCKETT: It's my great pleasure to introduce a distinguished top table, on my immediate right, First Minister, Alex Salmond, on my far right, Chief Executive of The European Tour, George O'Grady.
First Minister, it's a great pleasure to you with us here today, and I know you are excited about the initiative we are going to speak about, perhaps you could just start us off with a few general comments on your visit today here.
ALEX SALMOND: I'm delighted to be here and looking forward to seeing a bit of golf this afternoon. You have a press statement on the success of the 'Drive it Home' initiative, but, in fact, the prize for 'Drive it Home' attracted so much interest this year that 63 per cent entries in numbers is actually around -- inaudible -- with Sam Thomas, which is taking place here at Castle Stuart for the lucky winner.
But the 'Drive it Home' has had a substantial effect over the last few years of attracting tourists in Scotland. As many of you know, I think the most important initiative that we have in golf is the club golf initiative. The aim is to put a club into the hand of every nine-year-old in Scotland. This year we are over the 40,000 mark. We are going through the 40,000 mark for the first time, and that represents about 76 per cent of 25-year-olds in Scotland.
We have had enormous cooperation in the European Tour and the R&A and we have had enormous cooperation from the Scotland's professionals. I've just talked to Martin Laird, Alastair Forsyth, Scott Jamieson, Pete Whiteford and Paul Lawrie in the last ten minutes and I've obviously managed to adjust their swings, noticed a few things creeping in, but more importantly each and every one of them volunteered the services to help when the club golf initiative and in addition to the availability of club golf spreading through the schools of Scotland -- inaudible -- the participation of The European Tour but also the individual professionals is an important ingredient.
I was with Jack Nicklaus at Gleneagles -- inaudible -- and five of the 32 have gone on to the coaching stage of club golf and we are trying to replicate that sort of success, and no mistake, with this initiative -- it's great to see the leaderboard today peppered with great Scottish professionals but this is the initiative that is going to propel Scotland into the dominating power of world golf, that's the only way to do it is to have the base of the pyramid as great as it can be and to coach people through and make sure not just this leaderboard but The Ryder Cups and great tournaments of the future will feature Scottish professionals at the top of the game. Club golf is fundamentally important.
Obviously the freak weather -- my home is in -- [] Strickan which is not far from the course, and we did not have a spot of rain. Not a spot. Maybe should be a golf course in Strickan [], something like my back garden would do. But what happens when you have adversity, it's how you overcome it, and I'd just like to complement everybody who pitched in yesterday in order to get the course into the condition it's in today.
Now I have just bumped into Phil Mickelson about five minutes ago, and he described this course as one of the best courses he has ever seen. So I think today will indicate the efforts of people to get the tournament back on track and this course, Castle Stuart will be vindicated in years to come as one of the outstanding venues of golf, not just in Scotland but the world, and you have Phil Mickelson's word for it.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Before we take questions, George, I'm sure you would like to issue your own welcome to the First Minister.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Every time we come to Scotland to meet the first Minister, we on The European Tour are just as impressed as you are now by the enthusiasm and drive that he has on all aspects of golf here in Scotland and encouraging us to bring tournaments here.
I echo what he said about the teamwork here on this tournament. I've just come back this morning, having been here from Tuesday till Thursday night -- in fact, we see what happens when I go away for a day, no play takes part at all. But Peter Adams, our Championship Director, and Mike Stewart, our Tournament Director, the thing that's really happened in adversities, everyone has rallied around together, the police, local authorities, the club itself, the amount of work they have done has been really incredible.
I've been to Sunningdale yesterday and with a company there on Friday afternoon, and a lot of people said they saw this on television on Thursday and said it looked really good. And I said, it's far better in the flesh, before the rain came I might say. But the television pictures have been marvellous of the area and we ever delighted with the tournament so far, as is Barclays, as I've just been with the President, Bob Diamond. He played golf in Nairn yesterday, almost unblemished for 18 holes of golf, so very, very localised.
I think there was four times the average July rain fall yesterday, in a couple of hours, so must have been -- thank goodness I wasn't here. All I can say is welcome, First Minister, and thank you for this initiative. It's part of The Ryder Cup bid process, and to think so many new young people are getting a really good start in golf in Scotland, boys and girls, I think we'll see what we can do to drive the attraction of this forward. We'll see if we can rally Sam Torrance, put him in a Pro-Am somewhere, either here or one of our Senior events here, because they are really good coaches, as well, and add to the excitement of these young kids' experience. Thank you for what you do.

Q. I know your visit here as been eagerly anticipated and much appreciated but it must come as a special thrill to you to see such a prestigious event taking place at a venue so close to your own heart.
ALEX SALMOND: Very much so. Was particularly pleased to see the crowds today as we were coming through. I think the public showed in the first two days and again today how anxious they are to support this event. I think it is a magnificent -- I flew over the course in my recent helicopter tour of Scotland and actually did a detour to fly over it. The first time I've been to the course itself, the location is absolutely stunning. Totally stunning, and the golf course looks magnificent. It looks so good that I could hit a ball out here, not necessarily in the right direction, but I could probably manage to hit it.

Q. Can you just confirm the freakish aspect of the last two or three days and the weather doesn't in any way endanger the status of The Scottish Open here over the next two or three years or even longer, or will it hold a question mark?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think we have had lots of tournaments where we have had bad weather before. It happens. Looking back to Wednesday, The Barclays Pro-Am in the afternoon was very successful, slightly inclement weather but the amateurs and pros when they came in all actually enjoyed the day.
On Wednesday afternoon you would not hit a shot at Loch Lomond, and you would not hit a shot at St. Andrews either, localised rain within St. Andrews and down south. These things have happened, and we know what it's like to be in the eye of the storm. This could come again and the storm could be at Nairn; it could be up the road and this could be blissfully in sunshine. I think we have all been around; Barclays and myself have been around long enough to know, these things just happened.
ALEX SALMOND: We detected quite a bit of enthusiasm today from both the Tour and the sponsors. I was at The Ryder Cup last year and I remember the First Minister of Wales with his head in his hand on Saturday and by the time I left him on the Monday, he was happy as Larry, because we had the freakish weather at The Ryder Cup. And they showed there, what the organisers have shown here; the ability to recover from these conditions. But these things happen. Freakish weather happens and it's how you respond to it that matters.
I've been hearing today about the offers of help that came pouring in from locals [] and everyone else, and if you get the locals on side, you know you have summed up the enthusiasm. We have worked through the adversity to make sure the tournament will continue and that's how it will be seen, freakish weather for one day and this tournament will go on from strength to strength as the course, as Scottish golf will.

Q. (Inaudible.).
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think the exact phrase is, the intention is to be here for three years. We are well aware that Barclays have ongoing contract negotiations. This is the end of their contract, and we have no reason to think we are not going to continue, but they are free to make their mind and away we go.
So the intention, I think right back to your first question on the weather, weather will make no difference to what we are doing. They love this venue. Everybody has really embraced it, and there's a positive mood. I'm going in for lunch with the president of Barclays and we'll continue the discussion.

Q. Regardless of the positive images and words, the pictures that have gone in newspapers all around the world today, are you a little worried about that?
ALEX SALMOND: No, I've just been speaking to Martin Laird and I watched the golf coverage of American tournaments almost every week when I can and they have interruptions on a very, very regular basis.
I think what will be interesting today and I'm looking forward, you saw the pictures of the first clearly yesterday, an extraordinary landslip and to actually get that back into playing condition in 24 hours is a magnificent effort. I think people will remember the people gathered around and pitched in and got the course back in playing conditions.
Folk around the world know that everywhere is subject to freakish weather, and incidentally there are many places around the world where the weather is freakish and worse than what happens to us.

Q. Inaudible.
ALEX SALMOND: Hugely important. I think the strategic move, that's the move to a links tournament before The Open, is fundamentally right. I think the professionals by a huge majority believe that. Particularly the folk who look for a bit of practise on links golf and competitive conditions before The Open. I think that's very much appreciative. I think people have been hugely impressed by this venue, and by the nature of it.
If you want to get a piece of yourself in the world, this is the type of place to be able to do it and as one of the guys said to me, if you can't play golf here, then you can't play golf.
So I think for all these reasons, this is a great venue and it's obviously great for the economy and Highlands of Scotland and the decision to come here will be vindicated, I have absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever and I have no doubt about the importance of it, as well.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you very much.

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