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R & A Officials Review Open Championship
On Monday following the British Open at Royal St. George's, the Royal & Ancient's Jim McArthur and Peter Dawson held a "Monday Quarterback" session in which they responded to questions from the media about the recently completed major.
Chief among the topics was whether the R&A will ever select Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland to host the tournament. That question is logical because three Ulstermen - Graeme McDowell (2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach), Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open at Congressional) and Darren Clarke (the 2011 Claret Jug winner) - have won three of the past six major championships and two of the three this year.
McArthur and Dawson also touched on a variety of subjects, as noted in the following transcript.
MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us for the R & A's post-championship press conference. I know that you're very familiar with both Jim McArthur and Peter Dawson, so I'll hand it over to Jim to say a few words on how the week has gone.
JIM McARTHUR: Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for turning up this morning so early. Nice to see you all year. We've had a very busy but very enjoyable week here at Royal St. George's for the Open Championship. We have a great winner, I think; I hope you'll agree with that, Darren Clarke. Obviously probably never anticipated he'd win a major, and a tremendous performance yesterday in the wind, played some great golf. I'd also like to say that I think the course this week was in tremendous condition, and I noticed this morning that Graham Royden and some of his green-keeping staff have joined us, and I'd like to say thanks for the fantastic job that you and your guys did this week. I think you turned the course out in tremendous condition. We had one or two difficult weather conditions from time to time, but I think all in all it was a great week, and thanks very much indeed. And thanks again to Royal St. George's for hosting the championship. It was a true championship test, and again, I think that proved out with the champion we had this week. So thanks very much.
Q. For either of you, what does Portrush need that it doesn't currently have to get an Open?
PETER DAWSON: I think we're all very aware of the fact that three winners from Northern Ireland puts -- increases the interest level in this, and we have said we'll take a closer look at Portrush. What it doesn't have, I don't know yet, until we've had another look at it, to be honest. But I have agreed to have a look. The usual mixture of a great course and plenty of infrastructure combined with a prospect of commercial success is what's needed. No doubt about the golf course at Portrush, although there might be one or two things one would do, but the other two are what we have to look at. I don't want to start a hair running on this, other than we are going to take a look.
JIM McARTHUR: You will of course realize we are going there for the Senior Amateur in a couple weeks time, so we will be there.
Q. Is this when the study will be?
JIM McARTHUR: No, it will be taken on later.
Q. Peter, can you say emphatically that the political situation and the trouble, et cetera, in Northern Ireland are no longer an issue?
PETER DAWSON: No, I can't say that emphatically. Things seem to be getting an awful lot better but I have been reading of some difficulty in the papers lately. I have no idea how exaggerated or otherwise those are. It'll be one of the things we take into account, although I don't think it's right at the forefront of our mind.
Q. Peter, if we overlook Darren's lack of athleticism, in terms of promoting all that the game stands for, he's probably foremost in that. It must please you that someone of that standing and who promotes respect for the game and players has won the Claret Jug?
PETER DAWSON: Yeah, absolutely. I have to admit, Darren wasn't on my list of likely winners at the start of the week, and I don't think he was on anyone's probably, although he had been playing some very good golf recently. And as it became increasingly possible that he was going to win, I got the increasing feeling that this was a champion we really wanted to have, given his history in the game and everything he's done for golf, and he's just the right stature, isn't he, to be Open champion. We couldn't be more delighted.
Q. Peter, will you reexamine the readmissions policy? Quite a few fans complained they were forced off by the wet weather and would love to have dried out and gone back again but were unable to.
PETER DAWSON: It's a matter our Championship Committee keeps under review and with traffic flows going two ways, it would be extremely difficult to do. But it's a matter we keep under review. That's all I can say.
Q. Peter, given the current recession and economic situation, are you pleased with the attendances this week?
PETER DAWSON: Very. We got up just about 180,000, which is very close to last time here. We had a very bad day's weather, obviously, on Saturday, and that cut the crowd back. So we're very pleased, very pleased with the number indeed.
Q. Golfers from Ireland now have won six of the last 17 majors, they've won three of the last five Opens. Wearing your hat from the R & A perspective of the international organizing body for golf, I'm wondering, do you guys have any idea where this is coming from? And have you had a chance to look at the coaching setup in Ireland? And is there anything that you can put your finger on that is producing all of these champions at the moment?
PETER DAWSON: No, I think these things go in cycles, and Ireland clearly has had some very, very talented players recently. I think if you examine them, they've all come through slightly different routes probably to get to where they are, so you can't put your finger on one particular method. But each of them have talent and application, and those are the essential ingredients. I'd be exaggerating if I said I saw something in the Irish coaching system that was causing it. I simply don't know.
Q. Just back to Portrush briefly, I appreciate it's a European Tour matter really, not for you guys, but would you in principle support the idea of, say, the Irish Open in Portrush next year as a kind of a test run?
PETER DAWSON: Well, I think you've put your finger on the answer. That is a European Tour matter, and I certainly wouldn't want to put pressure on that situation by saying anything about it. It's a matter for the Tour.
Q. Could you talk about the health of the game in general from your standpoint and just maybe look ahead a little bit to what needs to happen.
PETER DAWSON: Well, we've got a mixed story there, really. In countries where golf is a long-established sport like the United States and here, golf is having some difficulty, slight difficulty, in maintaining its market share of people's leisure hours, and I don't think that's particularly because golf is becoming less popular of itself, I just think it's that people's choices are much wider and people have more choices to what to do. In countries where golf is a relatively new game, it's growing very fast, Eastern Europe, Asia, parts of South America is where the growth of the game currently is. And I think golf getting into the Olympics has actually accelerated that process, especially in Eastern Europe and the Far East.
What golf has to do to keep its market share or gain it back in established countries is difficult to pinpoint. It's a combination, isn't it, of the time it takes, the cost of the game and so on. But essentially the game remains very popular, and when you get people like Rory, Darren and so on winning tournaments and the added interest that brings, that can only help. But it's a matter of keeping going at the grass-roots programs there but also having the stars pulling from the top aspirationally, and it's a very long process. But we clearly do need to do something about pace of play and cost as part of the mix, I'm sure.
Q. I just wonder if it says anything about Sandwich that the last two winners here have been ranked 396 and 111.
PETER DAWSON: The previous one may be first. No, I don't think that says anything about Sandwich. I think in Darren's case, he's a guy who can control his golf ball in a wind, and boy, did it show.
Q. I know one thing you've always been proud of is the fact people can turn up on the gate on the day and pay, but do you have any worries on that score going to one of your most popular venues next year and with this increased interest in British and Irish golf?
PETER DAWSON: Well, we do pride ourselves that people can come and pay at the gate. The percentage of people doing so has fallen quite considerably. I think that's much to do with increased use of the internet for booking tickets and also some of the discount offers for early purchases that we used this year. The numbers actually coming to pay at the gates was single number thousands. It used to be a 50/50 split. So advance ticket sales are a much better indicator today of potential crowd size than they used to be. Yeah, Lytham will be busy. It's a tight venue. But we've accommodated big crowds there in the past and look forward to doing so again.
Q. This is probably one for Jim. The cut this year eliminated players only eight shots off the lead. Is that something you'll be looking at in the future?
JIM McARTHUR: Well, I think that the ten-shot rule disappeared somewhere back 1995 because we had a particular difficulty that year at St. Andrews where we had a lot more players getting through, nearly 100, I think, getting through, and it was difficult to get them around in time with all the arrangements. I don't think there's any proposal at the moment to have another look at that just now. I think we're quite kind of happy where we are just now.
PETER DAWSON: As soon as we have an eight-shot rule someone will say we need a nine-shot rule depending on that year's results. Eight behind isn't very many in this weather, but you have to have a rule somewhere.
MODERATOR: Thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen.
PETER DAWSON: Thank you all. Thanks for your support this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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