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December 11, 2011
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
GORDON SIMPSON:¬† Welcome, we now have George and Keith, and if you have any questions at all to address to the two gentlemen, fire away.
Q.¬† Just going do to ask you, when Seve passed away in May, there was a lot of talk about changing the logo of The European Tour.¬† Just wondering now, we are sort of getting to a new season in a few weeks' time, what are the new initiatives in that regard to honour Seve's memory?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† There's been a lot of talk then and a lot of talk since it, but I don't foresee a change for next year, no.
Q.¬† Just with the Euro crisis and everything happening in¬† Europe, what impact has that had an the Tour?¬† Have you lost any sponsors, or are there any tournaments you will not be including in next year's tournament because of the economic situation?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† No, our problem next year is actually fitting all of tournaments in and it's jockeying for everybody wanting the best date they can have.¬† We are getting more inquires and more negotiations from many different parts of the world, and the difficulty is holding good dates.
I think when we had this discussion just before we launched The Race to Dubai, everybody was most concerned about the FedEx series and how we would actually have any events during the FedEx series right at the end of the Playoffs.
Our tournaments against the Playoffs have been very successful and we are indebted to players like Martin Kaymer who have not joined the PGA TOUR and have played a lot in these times, and have done so very successfully, and all of the other players who have shown great support at this time.¬† It's a problem of too much, really.
Q.¬† If you have a problem fitting the tournaments in, how do we arrive at an earlier date for this?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† How?¬† Because we are going to have to change.
As you have seen this year, we had quite a few weeks where we had two tournaments in the same week.¬† So, for example, when you are playing in Australia and Asian, and we have co‑sanctioned tournaments that we have half the field; and it's the same when we go to South Africa.
It's a question of really making it more compact, or just adjusting to what the tournaments and our players are prepared to work with.
Q.¬† So there's more weeks when there's two tournaments?
KEITH WATERS:¬† The plan is that the World Cup and The Presidents Cup, are obviously not on any tour schedule next year.
So we are going to move to the traditional date for Dubai, or the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, which will be the end of November.¬† It will stay in that date for as long as we can see in the future.
There are some plans for other events in December in different parts of the world.¬† So this has been a cooperation with all of the international tours to actually set in the season dates, and we have secured the end of November for the foreseeable future.
Q.¬† After the World Cup, Stephen Urquhart, CEO of OMEGA, accused the tours of greedy scheduling.¬† Wonder if that was an accusation you would relate to?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Well, what do you think my answer's going to be?¬† I think it's either yes or no, isn't it.
I think he's completely entitled to have his own opinion, and I think if you went on through his remarks, he covered quite a lot of ground, saw no reason why the World Cup shouldn't be taking place in June or July.
Well, I think if you're running the Tour, to have a limited field event then, in the run‑up to The Open Championship, we would not be too popular.¬† So one has to fit it in.
I thought it had a tremendous field this year from the players; and everybody always wants more, but many of the teams had actually the best players that could represent their countries.¬† You can always find the one country that doesn't have someone playing.
You can't really expect me to say that we think the tour is greedy.¬† We had questions earlier on the prize money here and whether we are going down.¬† We concede the money is being paid in certain parts of the world. ¬†The leading players, that happen to be European Tour Members at the moment, are in demand, and we have to be competitive.
I thought it was a very good World Cup played in a competitive manner, and a great victory by the Americans.
Q.¬† On this subject of the World Cup, is the World Cup going to continue?¬† Does it have any guarantees for a long term?¬† And the other question is:¬† Will Hong Kong still precede the Dubai World Championship next year?
KEITH WATERS:¬† Yes, the plan is to continue with the World Cup.¬† We are in discussion with a number of venues and sponsors.¬† There may not be a title sponsor in the future.¬† It may be various partners.¬† There is some discussion about continuing with the alternate years; that is certainly favoured by a number of countries.
Going back to the scheduling issue, it is very complex.¬† At this time of the year, most of the tours around the world are looking to have their final events.¬† Obviously the Japanese Tour finished last year.¬† The Asian Tour finishes next week.¬† We have managed to finish in the middle of those two.¬† It is incredibly complex and incredibly difficult to keep everyone happy.
Referring to what George said earlier, there are actually too many tournaments.¬† I think there's actually six tournaments around the world last week when the Japanese Tour was trying to finish their season.
Hong Kong will be the penultimate week, that is the plan, certainly for the next few years.
Q.¬† On that basis, is the World Cup still likely to stay in the Far East?
KEITH WATERS:¬† Probably in the short term, but it's likely to move around, also, in the longer term, yes.
Q.¬† Can you bring us up‑to‑date on what's happening in Scotland and Ireland and other events in Europe?¬† And how difficult is it to maintain the identity of the Tour as it is at the moment with all of these offers you are getting from the Far East with not so many back home?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† We are still committed to our own events at home.¬† We have shown great commitment to the Irish Open, which is very secure in its week.¬† We have a new way forward for the tournament kicking off in a year, but it's absolutely secure in the date we published.¬† Everybody has read Rory McIlroy's statement a couple of weeks ago that he's definitely playing.¬† All of the Irish players are playing, in addition to quite a few of the other world players.
The Scottish Open is a work‑in‑progress.¬† We have tremendous support from the First Minister of Scotland in talking to different companies.¬† We have a lot of people vying for the date, but then that would be maybe a year on in Scotland and move it.¬† We are committed; if Scotland is committed to us, we are committed to Scotland.
We felt Castle Stuart was exactly the right preparation for The Open Championship this year, and so did most of our players, all of our players at one stage.¬† Very unlucky with the weather.¬† So if we can keep it going at the right level, we will, but at the moment we are very confident.
Q.¬† Can I just confirm, is it going to be called the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai or DP World Championship?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† It's going to be called the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
Q.¬† Why have you got the words "Tour" and "Dubai" in there?¬† It's very clumsy, isn't it.¬† Dubai World Championship is a nice, clean title for the event.
KEITH WATERS:¬† The name of the title sponsor is DP World.¬† So it is the Tour Championship sponsored by DP World.
Q.¬† About the Lake Malaren championship in China, I believe you guys have already had words with the Lake Malaren guys.¬† Any progress on that joining The European Tour as such?
KEITH WATERS:¬† We are in discussions with Lake Malaren and a sponsor and the Chinese Golf Association.¬† That's one of the reasons why we haven't released a schedule today, because we are in negotiations for the number of new events and obviously scheduling issues.
Q.¬† Just going back to this DP World thing.¬† So Dubai made an offer of 8 million.¬† Wouldn't you go and shop that offer to other places, or is that good business practise or not good business practise?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think there's quite a big price to be paid on loyalty, and we have a habit of being quite loyal with our people if they are on the right terms.
Just in this room today, I'm delighted to welcome the organisers of at least two direct tournaments that have got big histories and two big promotion companies who promote tournaments.¬† I could ask these two guys, that if we came every time we get an offer slightly bigger than theirs, should we dump their date and go there; how long do you think we would be in business, do you think, back there.
Now, here in Dubai, it's well chronicled the challenges that have been faced in this region and in regions of the world.¬† The gentleman from Scotland, the gentleman from Ireland know the reality of the situation.
When you have people who actually really fought through the tough times to deliver this Race to Dubai and Dubai World Championship; I think if we can get acceptable levels of money, which our players regard as completely acceptable, and the conditions have become better each year.¬† We are all very well looked after and all treated the same in the Atlantis Hotel, one of the world's great resorts.¬† The course has got better every year from ‑‑ it was good when Lee Westwood won, and it was criticised because wasn't enough rough; there wasn't any rough to speak of, but if people knew the challenges that summer, it was good.
Now each year, this course has got better.¬† Things can be moved in the tough economic cycle.¬† This is when we don't walk away from partners when they are strong this time; others might.
Q.¬† Back on the logo.¬† There was some pretty big hitters, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, who wanted to see it changed after Seve's death.¬† What is the argument for not doing it, and has it gone through the Tournament Committee?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† We talked at the time.¬† There was an awful lot of emotion in that at the time.
There was a strategy when we used the Harry Vardon image together with The Race to Dubai, putting together the ancient and the modern, if you like; first touring professional, which was Harry Vardon, with this iconic Race to Dubai trophy.
Seve's image, as the Tour's image, is one that people were very emotively involved in going for at the time.¬† We said and we sat around the table that that will be taken calmly at the end of the year when emotion has gone out of it.
It wasn't unanimous.¬† It is his image.¬† We have certainly kept the Seve Trophy going with the name back in the title with Vivendi.¬† We staged the Seve Pro‑Am, Viva la Vida, ¬ĎOle Seve¬í at Wentworth where we raised 725,000 pounds for his foundation and cancer care.¬† That's our starting memory of the great Seve, and we are supporting another thing which will raise a lot of money for him again next Wednesday in London.
The marketing companies have looked at incorporating his logo into our change, but the change is not going to happen right now.¬† We might start thinking about it once we finish this tournament, i.e., tomorrow, but it's been a very busy end of the year.
Q.¬† What about Bahrain?¬† I know you have not announced the schedule, but is the Tour coming back to Bahrain any time soon?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think we are come back when we are invited.
KEITH WATERS:¬† We are not playing in Bahrain in 2012.¬† As you have aware we have announced the first half of the schedule and the Volvo Champions event will be down in Fancourt in January in a few weeks' time.
Q.¬† Any word on 2013?¬† Would you like to go back?
KEITH WATERS:¬† That's dependent on a number of factors including Volvo, and IMG who stage the event.¬† This will be taken in due course.
Q.¬† I have a parochial question, but I'll ask a sort of international one.¬† Does the current crisis with the Euro prompt you to think in any way of changing the base currency of the Tour to the dollar or the pound sterling¬† (laughter)?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think you're ahead of us, Karl.
Q.¬† In other words, no.
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† You're ahead of us.¬† Might prompt us when we go for lunch after these interviews we might start talking about it.
Q.¬† With talk about it collapsing, it might leave the Tour‑‑
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† The economic situation, the thing moves almost like a dog, a lurcher.¬† So you lurch one way and you lurch the other way.¬† I think these are decisions that are taken very calmly.¬† We have a lot of economic advisors, bank advisors, and we read the papers ourselves.¬† I don't think we need to jump at the moment, but we will monitor the situation.
Q.¬† One for Keith.¬† Keith, are we going back to Killarney next year?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† 'It's under review,' said Keith's assistant.¬† We hope to announce the Irish Open venue before Christmas.¬† Hope to.
Q.¬† I would just like to ask George, obviously on the back of what Luke might achieve or is likely to achieve today, there's talk that quite a few European Tour Members may take up US PGA cards in the years to come, and try and replicate his success.¬† Is that a concern for the brand going forward, or do you think that the brand at the moment is strong enough to lure in and to keep those players and retain them?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Well, naturally we want every top player that we can to be a Member of The European Tour and play as many times as they can on The European Tour.
Rory McIlroy, in particular, and Lee Westwood, are following Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen in joining the PGA TOUR.¬† It's made uncertain times of the year, if they get into the FedEx Playoffs, we don't see them.
Rory has gone back to joining the PGA TOUR.¬† I've spoken to him, he's told me his schedule, and he won't play in Crans‑sur‑Sierre this year.¬† In a way, that's fine, he can say that; but he loves playing in Crans‑sur‑Sierre.¬† The organiser in Crans‑sur‑Sierre is in the second row down here, and how many times have you heard Rory say he loves playing there.¬† So, he has to go.¬† He's a young man and he has all different arrangements, the money in the FedEx series at the end of the year, you've got to give it a go.
Luke Donald, in particular, actually lives in Chicago with a house in Buckinghamshire; so it's a natural thing.¬† He's always played and always played at least the minimum number.¬† He reassured me, whatever our number is, unless we go up to 20, he will continue.
We are at 13 now.¬† There's no impetus to change that number.¬† If anything, it's whether we need any regulations at all on numbers, because we are so competitive at different times of the year.¬† We are concerned, because we want to make all of these players welcomed back here.
But if I could ask the question back to the floor, when we launched The Race to Dubai, certain people down here, who are not involved anymore, went on about the world's biggest tournament and money and all that sort of stuff; those people aren't involved.
Well, I was directly asked a question from the floor:¬† Did we launch The Race to Dubai and this Championship to attract Tiger Woods to play here.
My very specific answer was:¬† No, we would always make Tiger Woods welcome if he wanted to play, but it wasn't done for that reason.¬† We wanted to hold on to our own players, and I saw our responsibility was to develop our own Tiger Woods'.
And I said at the time, which shows I'm reasonably Einstein, if you like, for example, Rory McIlroy could be the Northern Irish Tiger Woods.¬† Martin Kaymer could be the next German, we have just seen him play really well in at HSBC in Shanghai, could be the next German Tiger Woods.¬† I wasn't bright enough to think Alvaro Quiros would come through and the rest, but that's it, each country.
If you look at the vibrancy now in Europe, you look at Italy with the Molinaris and Manassero and the other ones just underneath‑‑ in a way, Peter Cowen, in his coaching business calls it the 'pyramid of learning,' how they coach.¬† You see now across Europe, different bodies, professional golfers, the PGAs of Europe, the Federations, all building the game from the bottom up.
One reason it gives you confidence in Scotland, a question down here with the First Minister, his commitment, is his commitment to club golf in Scotland, lots of people are playing.¬† You see that in every country in our Europe.¬† The coaching has got stronger.¬† There are so many dedicated people trying to make Europe better, not just here.
Q.¬† We have heard all of the players talking about Luke's achievement, what it can mean at the end of the day; but just wanted to hear from you, what did you think of him winning the Money List on both sides?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Anybody who has seen Luke Donald's performance this year knows what a tremendous achievement it has been, and especially going to Disney when he had to win to win the PGA TOUR Money List, which he did.
He's had to come here finishing in the top nine, and he had, for him, a poor‑ish first opening round, and he's in the second‑to‑last match now, potential winner of the tournament.
He's certainly, I agree with you.¬† I mean, Rory started really well today I believe, as I came into the tent, so who knows how these things can go.¬† I can't see Luke finishing outside the top nine today.¬† Time will prove whether I know what I'm talking about or not, but I can't see it.
Q.¬† Embarrassing to cross sports, but Bernie Ecclestone recently said that Europe is finished and that Far East is really the market that he wanted to take Grand Prix to.¬† When you look at The European Tour now, the Asian swing is bigger and more lucrative than ever.¬† You have events like the Shanghai Masters desperate for Tour sanctioning.¬† Do you see the balance of power shifting in a similar direction?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I read one of the major player managers telling me we are all finished, as well, which is quite good when he's got a lot of players.¬† No, I don't.
The Open Championship is still going to be the championship in the world.¬† It's still the Home of Golf.¬† I think you respond to market forces at given times.
We have to go where the money is at different times of the year.¬† China, you can't certainly play in China in the winter.¬† So these things have a way of balancing out at different times.
GORDON SIMPSON:¬† Thank you very much, everyone for your attendance today and good luck for the rest of the day.¬† Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports