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November 25, 2012
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
SCOTT CROCKETT:¬† All right, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance today, and thank you very much for your attendance this week at our season‑ending DP World Tour Championship.
Joining me on the top table today, Chief Executive of The European Tour, George O'Grady; and on my far left, Keith Waters who, is the Chief Operating Officer of The European Tour and also our Director of International Policy.
It's traditional at this time on the final day that as well as enjoying what is sure to be a very, very exciting final day, we look ahead to the next season and that is why we are here today.
You hopefully will have had a copy of the press release and our schedule for 2013, and to kick off today's press conference, I would like to ask George O'Grady to say a few words.
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Thank you, Scott, and thank you everyone for your support:¬† Firstly of this week's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai; and for those who I can see in the room that supported so many of our tournaments throughout The Race to Dubai.¬† We have ones who do the feature tournaments, ones who give the analysis and ones who enrich our understanding of the game and also those who do all of that but they cover so many different tournaments, we fully appreciate your commitment.
I think this is an outstanding schedule for next year.¬† Keith's been largely responsible for it.¬† You'll see the change that's coming at the end of the year.¬† It is slight tweaks.¬† We are not talking any big changes.
We have taken account of all of the other comments that Rory, of course, has won The Race before he came into this week, but if you think this is the fourth race to Dubai that we have staged, and each one has been one by the then‑ranked world No. 1 player.
We are very fortunate that Rory and Luke are in the last game today, and this will be the final shootout.¬† So there's nothing too much wrong with the idea.¬† But it's got to be tweaked and we are looking at the bonuses.¬† You'll see by the conditions in the finale at the end, I think 'The Final Series¬í as we call it, that you have to play two of those three tournaments, but if you play all three you get an uplift on the points.
We are of course slightly disappointed that we have lost events in the Eurozone countries and we are working on that for next year.¬† The depth of that crisis is very, very strong.¬† And I think we know if accountants are put in charge of the issue, the big thing is to cut costs wherever you can; whereas the strength of The European Tour is you market your way out of problems with tremendous value for money we feel.¬† All our research states that, and we are redoubling our efforts at the middle and bottom end of the Tour.
But to have that finish to the Tour that, we have talked through and we have taken the opportunity the last few weeks to talk it through with our leading players and their managers, and I think a lot of them are excited about it.¬† Even though it is a very crowded year towards the end, this gives it a great finale.
Everyone is delighted still playing in Dubai where the weather conditions are perfect; the golf course this week we have been told by the players, they view the course as in immaculate condition, made for attacking scoring; and the facilities here, they all have been outstanding.
For the actual details of the calendar and any other features, I'll ask Keith, who is the Chief Operating Officer of the Tour to flush it out a bit.
KEITH WATERS:¬† As George mentioned we have had some success in various parts of the world in finding new sponsors, new tournaments, but our focus has also been towards the bottom end of the Tour Membership.¬† We know that it's been a particularly difficult season for players who came through the Qualifying School or The Challenge Tour ranking.
We are still hopeful of adding two or three tournaments to that schedule.¬† In fact, I'm slightly disappointed we weren't able to do that today.¬† It would have completed the schedule but some of that is a work‑in‑progress.
For instance, we are talking to Miguel √Āngel about his tournament down in Andaluc√≠a.¬† As you know, it's been extremely difficult sustaining the last year, but Miguel himself is absolutely determined to keep that tournament alive.¬† So hopefully over the next few weeks, we'll reach an agreement with him to continue and we have one or two other opportunities, as well.
Just to create or add more opportunity for those players at the bottom, you'll also see in the release that we are going to change the qualification for Category 8, which is the main Race to Dubai ranking, and we are going to reduce that number from 115 to 110.¬† That will also include the Affiliate Members; so if it had been this season, there would be nine spots less for those players in that category.¬† That will create more opportunity for The Challenge Tour and Q‑School players to play.
We are adjusting those categories, also.¬† So there's more of a mix between those two as the season goes on, and we are going to look at doing just one re‑rank of those players during the season.
As George has said, we have had a challenging year and we are trying to readjust, and we also are very aware that there are more and more opportunities outside of Europe.
We are in discussion with the other tours as to how we can improve and address some of the challenges we have had in the last year, but we are very, very hopeful that we have seen the worst in terms of the recession and the challenges on our schedule, and we look to the future with some real excitement and encouragement.¬† So, thank you.
Q.¬† Can we just go through this final series, how many players get into each event?¬† There's no change in presumably the HSBC?
KEITH WATERS:¬† There will be some change to the HSBC.¬† We have negotiated a fill‑the‑field category with The Race to Dubai rankings, as well as the World Rankings and the FedEx series.¬† That will be announced later next week, but there will be some change to the eligibility.¬† There will be a World Ranking Top‑50 category, also.¬† So basically, there will be less champions than were previously.
The criteria for the BMW Masters will be very similar to this year, but it will be based on the current Race to Dubai rankings from the week before; the conclusion of the Perth event. ¬†And the Turkey event will be almost exclusively current Race to Dubai rankings.
So it will give an opportunity for those members who have played well during the season to play in the last three events, an opportunity to qualify here, and obviously the bonus pool at the end.
Q.¬† Roughly how many players in each one?
KEITH WATERS:¬† Each tournament will have 78 players at the moment.¬† That's predominately because of daylight.¬† We are discussing whether we can get to 90 in the first event at BMW, but it will be tight and there will have to be a cut if we did that.
For those players that finish outside the Top 110, it will be the end of the season and we will start the Stage 2 and the final of the Qualifying School immediately after the Perth event, and we will re‑open the season after Dubai and give opportunities to those low‑ranked members to play later in November and December.
So there is going to be an end of season, basically in the middle of October, for the lower‑ranked players.
Q.¬† Any clarification or any situation cleared on the Singapore and Hong Kong events which lead up to this tournament so far?
KEITH WATERS:¬† Yes, we had hoped originally that both of those events could have been involved in the end of The Final Series.¬† But for financial reasons mainly, they weren't able to contract with us to reach an agreement with us.
The Hong Kong Open, we are very hopeful that it will continue next year, but it will not be in the 2013 season.¬† It will be in one of the early events in the 2014 season in December of 2013.
As it stands at the moment we are out of contract with World Sport Group for the event in Singapore.¬† I'm not expecting that to be on the schedule.
Q.¬† Have you tried to work out a system that there will definitely be something to play for in The Race to Dubai here?
KEITH WATERS:¬† We can't guarantee that and we actually don't want to, because we feel it's there on an individual if he actually plays incredibly well and much better than everybody else, he has the right to win The Race earlier in the season.
But obviously the last three preceding events are very high prize funds, and if somebody is focussed on winning the Race, he can obviously play all three and pick up a bonus.
But it's possible that we come here again in a year's time, someone has already won The Race.¬† But we believe that to be correct.¬† That's what sport is about, and we don't want to contrive the points to such a degree that it all comes down to the last nine holes.¬†
Q.¬† It's a noticeably a very global schedule.¬† Are you relaxed about the prospect of losing a European identity because the tournaments will be played obviously in so many different areas now?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† If I defined relaxed, we are certainly not complacent.¬† We want to keep the game strong in Europe.¬† You can see the efforts we put on the structure of the game in each one of those countries to bring new talent through.
We are facing a very unique feature of the European economy, the battle to keep tournaments in Britain.¬† We have quite a lot of British tournaments; we also haven't got many in England.
But it's been a big challenge this year in Spain.¬† We kept The Italian Open going, and that country is not strong at the moment.
As I said in the opening remarks, we are redoubling our efforts at that end of the season to keep those tournaments going.¬† We are looking at various amalgamations and we are concentrating on that; while at the top end, we are really going where the economy dictates we have to go.
Q.¬† Just to follow up on the end‑of‑season tournaments, the points in terms of winning won't change your rankings, is it just more money and a smaller field; is that pretty much it?
KEITH WATERS:¬† That's correct.¬† Basically every Euro is a point.¬† The only real change is that if a player plays in all three events, he will get a 20per cent bonus of the points he's earned over those three weeks.¬† But if the player plays in two, he will receive no bonus, no additional points.
Q.¬† Are you hopeful by having this lucrative cluster of events at the back end of the season, and of course in conjunction with reducing the amount of events that you have to play on The European Tour in order to keep a card, that you will actually lure over some new names who like Luke and Rory who will be playing on both tours and trying to win the Orders of Merit on both sides of the pond?¬†
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Well, the feature you have now to win both the PGA TOUR Money List and our own, is that eight of those tournaments count for both Money Lists.¬† So it's not inconceivable that the same thing will happen.
We are relaxed on Rory winning The Race to Dubai before this week because he's played so stupendously well in some of the big tournaments, and he's got one major under his belt to boot.
These events that come at the end of the season, the uplift if you play all three on the bonus points, and the liberation on the bonus pool, as well, should ensure we come into the final event.
We have been heartened by this week, despite the fact The Race has been won before we started, we have had record attendance this year at Jumeirah Golf Estates.¬† There's a big following of people that come to Dubai just to watch the tournament and enjoy Dubai at the same time.¬† We feel we are contributing to the awareness of Dubai around the world and helping to keep it on the map.
And if we can, with those three tournaments so largely‑‑ you can change your position in these three events at the end.¬† We did examine a FedEx Series proposal and whether we imitated the PGA TOUR, but I think our system is cleaner.
The world's No. 1 player is winning The Race to Dubai, and surely that's the way it should be.
Q.¬† We have been given to understand that a few tournaments on the schedule this year were financially supported by The European Tour.¬† Is that going to be a case in 2013, as well, and can you just give us an idea of some of the events that you really had to support to keep it alive?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† Well, there's quite a few tournaments that we actually, if you like, own or promote ourselves, and so those are always either financially supported‑‑ but it's risk and reward.¬† Sometimes we lose money and sometimes we invest money and sometimes we win.
If we take Hong Kong, which I had a lot of questions on before, we are the promotor of the Hong Kong Open.¬† And if you go back to May time when we didn't have a sponsor, we were looking at quite a significantly hole in our profit and loss account.¬† In the end, UBS came back in and we got support, and we are roughly I think breaking even on the tournament, without looking at it.
But we promote The Irish Open; The Scottish Open, which we invested quite a lot of money in this year but we have a three‑year deal to go forward.
We looked at other ones which we partner, and as I say, we are going to focus at the bottom end, as well, the lower‑money events to give people more opportunity to come through, and we are going to devote more resources to building up our Challenge Tour so that we continue to encourage new talent throughout the world.
Q.¬† Was there any consideration to move Wentworth in the schedule?¬† There's been a few whispers that because of America and the Memorial gaining such strength that it could be.
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† We have always looked at it every year on which is the right date for our Flagship Event.¬† The BMW PGA Championship is our Flagship Event at the Headquarters of The European Tour.¬†
We are concerned when any European Tour Member doesn't play, and that's usually the stresses of international travel.¬† Combined with our broadcasters, it's hard to find the perfect date now.
We are entering in January a new six‑year agreement with SKY Sports who have been a tremendous supporter of The European Tour.¬† That tournament and The Scottish Open are losing their live BBC coverage on the weekend, but they are having BBC highlights coverage or delayed coverage, as we call it, BBC are going to show an hour's highlights at 6 o'clock at night for those two events.
It works for the broadcasters at those times.¬† We have talked to the various players this week and we have talked to their managers, and at the moment, we can't find a better date, so we are going to stay where we are.
Q.¬† Probably for Keith, is the bonus pool figure fixed?
KEITH WATERS:¬† No, we are in discussions with various parties about the bonus pool.¬† We would like to increase it again, but we have not been able to make any announcement at this stage.
Q.¬† It's not going to decrease?
KEITH WATERS:¬† We are not anticipating a decrease, no.¬† I think it's what it was last year, as we sit here, but we are in discussions right now about this.
Q.¬† One of the areas of concern this year was that the PGA TOUR has got so much wrapped up and has taken so many good European players, they have three WGCs and for all of August, most of September, they have got these huge events.¬† What are the chances of at least one of the WGCs coming to Europe in the middle our summer and bringing some of the top European players back to Europe at that time?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think in the immediate future it's reasonably unlikely.¬† As I have said before, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and a lot of the money being raised there is through the American networks; whereas America has had its financial problems, they market their way out of their problems.
We have been discussing with the worldwide marketing director of Cadillac, who I think are part of their economic meltdown; well, they are sponsoring an $8 million dollar golf tournament as a way of telling the world how good Cadillac is.¬† That's different to closing up shop.
At that time of the year, when the FedEx series was first announced, people reckon the whole European Tour might have to shut down.¬† Well, the tournaments we have against the FedEx series may not have the same high prize money, but they are excellent events:¬† The OMEGA European Masters, KLM Open, Johnnie Walker in Gleneagles, and we have moved Austria around to different places.
It's unrealistic to expect a World Golf Championship just to come to Europe at that time, unless we sit there with a big sponsor and we bring it.¬† At the moment, that's not in the immediate future.
Q.¬† But the WGCs are run by a federation of the golf tours in the world; it just seems that when they are all being played and most are being played in America, it just comes across as a PGA TOUR event.
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think that's a viewpoint you could take.
The HSBC Champions has become a World Golf Championships event, and that event I think was discovered by the all the other tours.¬† It was the tournament of champions for every other tour bar the PGA TOUR, and it's now a World Golf Championships and that changes.
I think if we wanted to, it's been suggested to us on other ones, not so much against the FedEx, but other times of the year; the World Golf Championships and THE PLAYERS Championship, as well, their schedule does make it extremely competitive.
Q.¬† Just a quick clarification on Dubai specifically.¬† There has been talk over the last few years that although everyone loves Earth, Fire could be a longer term possibility.¬† Is it definitely Earth for next season?¬† And also has 2015 been decided, Earth, too?¬† Or could you experiment with the other course here at Jumeirah Golf Estates?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think we experiment and go on the other course, it's in very good condition.
We have been very pleased with the Earth Course this week.¬† It's been in superb condition and it's got better every year and the greens are immaculate for the week.
I don't think we have taken decisions, have we?
KEITH WATERS:¬† No, we are contract the through 2014 to stay here.¬† We have reviewed and discussed both courses, but I think we genuinely feel the Earth is the right place to play the tournament.¬† It's not just the course and the conditions, but to do with the amphitheatre and the finish and the logistics, etc.
Q.¬† The series finale looks exciting, the last three events leading to the DP World Tour Championship, and they are all limited‑field events.¬† What has been the kind of feedback from the players who are, say, on the fringe from 60 to 120 on The Race to Dubai?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think it's a fact of life that if you are the next man into the tournament, you're not keen on it; and if you're the last man in, you're very keen.
Although they are limited‑field tournaments, limited‑field events, they are maximum daylight fields.¬† The BMW tournament, the new tournament in Shanghai, I think we are more than 78 this year off one tee, but we were lucky with the weather.
The HSBC Champions when in Shanghai is played 78, we'll be lucky to get through; we have gone into Monday one year.
We are playing maximum fields where we can.¬† We do acknowledge that we have to keep giving as much opportunity as we can to the Membership and we are fighting the early part of the season.
But we have to reflect the economy, as well.¬† We can't run the Tour totally from the bottom up.¬† We have got to run it from the top down, and that's what we are doing and we are competing with every other sport in the world.
I think one of the great attractions of this thing is, one, bringing Turkey into it; and two bringing the BMW Masters in Shanghai.¬† Now if any single company has the right to have, you call it a limited‑field event, we call it maximum daylight field, it's BMW.¬† Their support of our Flagship Event, their support in Germany and for many years The Italian Open which they continued last year, all 156‑man fields.
So we will be building a long, arduous, you could say,¬† circuit to get into these final events; and the final events will be on the system that the rest of the world seems to understand.¬† The playoff series is a very American concept, where I share Rory McIlroy's view:¬† He won two of the tournaments.¬† He played well.¬† He didn't play his standard in the last event; his standard being winning, and he's an also‑ran in a sense in the field.¬† Like I can remember who won it, but not everybody in the world can immediately remember who is the FedEx champion on a given year.
But everybody in the whole world knows that the No. 1 player in the world is Rory McIlroy, and he's our champion.
Q.¬† I would just like to ask the panel what exactly is the reasoning behind the fact that this tournament is supposedly for the Top 60, but there's been obviously four withdrawals this week and it seems a bit harsh on committed pros from 61 down that they are not permitted entry into this finale, especially when you consider Ross Fisher's reasons for his non‑attendance this week.¬† It seems a bit harsh that it's only 56.¬† Surely there is an argument that it should be 60 and reserves perhaps should be incorporated.
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think you've got to accept that there's a reason behind things and things evolve.¬† We are disappointed there's only 56 here.¬† We are disappointed to have a negative that Ernie Els is not playing, because he has the not done his 13 tournaments to support The European Tour.¬† He is The Open Champion, and he's always done more than his minimum number; he's been a great supporter of The European Tour.¬† He usually averages about 16 or 17 tournaments, and he wanted to play here.
Now, injury:¬† Retief Goosen and Thomas Bj√∂rn, and the last minute, Shane Lowry, those are difficult situations to deal with.
I'm actually personally disappointed that we didn't open up with the defending champion, and he has not played well enough to play here, Alvaro Quiros; he's an exciting supreme talent, only a year ago who won this event.
The conditions raised are the players who finish No.1 to 60 are in The Race to Dubai, and they know it.¬† So if you can do and be injured, I'm afraid that's it.¬† We can't run it totally out of sympathy.¬† It's a challenge; you know what you have got to do, and if you don't make it, I'm afraid it's tough, but that's life.¬†
Q.¬† On a different subject, if the R&A changes the current use of long putters, does the Tour have to go along with that?
GEORGE O'GRADY:¬† I think speaking personally on behalf of the Tour, one of our great facets that we are connected to the game that every amateur can play as well; it's one subject that you could take a view, we could go separately.
I would urge the Tour to follow the rules as laid down by the governing bodies.¬† We are a very strong lobbyist, our views being sought all the time.¬† There's been a lot of discussion throughout the year with the USGA and the R&A and the PGA TOUR.¬† I think the rules‑making bodies have to do what they think is right for the game, and the view of our leading members and our players must be listened to.
But I haven't heard one of our members want to break away at the moment.¬† They want to be connected to the game.¬† And the decision is not taken yet.
SCOTT CROCKETT:¬† George, Keith, thank you very much for your attendance today.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports