• The European Tour announces The Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates – the world’s richest golf tournament with a US$10,000,000 prize fund
• New “Race to Dubai” offers additional US$10,000,000 annual Bonus Pool
• The European Tour International Headquarters to be built at Jumeirah Golf Estates, Dubai
• A global property company will extend golf into emerging markets
Leisurecorp is behind some of the world’s leading golf courses
Alan Rogers (Group Chief Executive of Leisurecorp): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here and joining us for this momentous occasion. We‘re delighted to have so many of you here, and particularly welcome those of you who are paying their first visit to the Emirate.
I thank you on behalf of Dubai World and our Chairman, His Excellency, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, who unfortunately can‘t be here today because he’s travelling, but he sends his best regards to you all.
I‘m sure you all agree that Dubai is one of most exciting places on the planet today. This makes me immensely proud to be here as a representative of Dubai World, which in no small part is responsible for making Dubai what it is, and its success. Dubai world manages a portfolio of businesses, and is owned by the government of Dubai. Our companies have been responsible for some of the most amazing successes and stories and projects in Dubai, like Nakheel’s iconic development of the Palm and the World Developments.
The portfolio also includes DP World, the third largest port owner and operator, and covers segments as diverse as drydocks, free zones, private equity, leisure and financial services.
Leisurecorp is part of the Dubai World family. The visionary company of Leisurecorp is behind some of the world’s leading golf courses and residential developments including, of course, Jumeirah Golf Estates here in Dubai, and has a growing portfolio representing the best in leisure globally.
I know that most of you here today are passionate about golf, and I want you to know that Leisurecorp shares your passion. And, whether here in Dubai or around the world, Leisurecorp works to ensure that the best interests of the game and the players are at the heart of everything that we do. I believe today’s announcement is a testament to that passion, and to the vision and ambition of Dubai.
The Moderator: Please welcome George O‘Grady, European Tour Chief Executive, and David Spencer, Chief Executive of Leisurecorp.
David Spencer: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Dubai. Welcome to, in my opinion the most vibrant city in the world. Here we are at the Burj Al Arab. Of course it’s apt to be here as several years ago we announced the great vision of His Highness and our Chairman of Jumeirah Golf Estates. Here we are a couple of years later about to take a snapshot into the future of the world of professional golf and a few other exciting announcements.
There’s been ever increasing press speculation about this announcement, and you know, we‘ve actually welcomed that press. With all press speculation, some of it was right, some of it was pretty accurate, but none of it told the full story.
Today I‘m going to first of all pass to George O‘Grady to go through some points. We‘ve got an interactive presentation back and forth for you. I‘d also like to welcome and say good afternoon, good morning and good evening to everyone watching on our live press Webcast across the world.
But George, over to you first to begin this afternoon’s proceeding.
A five year partnership – but this is only half the story
George O‘Grady: Thank you, David, and if I could also welcome everyone here today, and all our friends and families in the world of golf, media correspondents and the rest of the world. Thank you for joining us on television and by Webcast this morning.
This is a very strong partnership we are starting today with Leisurecorp and with the Kingdom of Dubai. The actual details we say today only tell half the story. I think for our ambition, to unite The European Tour, to unite it on the global stage, I personally don‘t think we could have found a better partner, and what you see here today is the beginning.
I think this really, if we look at the slides here, explains really what we‘re announcing today, a five year partnership to start with. We‘re going to create a new climax to the season, the Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, a new season long competition, I guess you call it the Order of Merit as it used to be, is now going to be called The Race to Dubai; a new international headquarters for The European Tour which we are particularly excited about.
Everything this group do, Jumeirah Golf Estates, is done in well, five star would be almost insulting; it’s better than that. The building they have for us, I think the Centre of Excellence is what we are calling it with the academy and the fitness centre; everything that the modern day professional golfer looks for in a training academy; support by Leisurecorp for a great number of our events on The European Tour to give confidence to those promoters and sponsors who are with us.
They are going to fund our European Tour’s physio (truck), which already I think is seen as an example of how the professional athlete can be looked after.
And probably, perhaps one of our most exciting endeavours is the new property company which will be a joint initiative looking at developing new tournament venues to really take us into this century. David.
The Race to Dubai
David Spencer: Okay. So you can see the speculation, there’s a lot more to it.
But let’s talk about what is the Race to Dubai. At the end of 2008, The European Tour Order of Merit will be named The Race to Dubai, and that’s a very apt name. The top 60 players over the season who qualify on The European Tour Race to Dubai will be coming here to Dubai to hit the first balls on November 19th, 2009 to play in the first Dubai World Championship, and to play in the first Race to Dubai.
You can see the prize fund here at the world championship, players numbered 1 to 60, a $10 million prize purse, the largest in world golf; $1.66 million for the winner and a five year exemption. So that gives you some of the background of the Dubai World Championship, and we‘ll move onto our next slide which describes the Race to Dubai.
It’s a new season long competition, as we mentioned. The No. 1 player will receive US$2,000,000 and then the top 15 players will split another US$10,000,000 in the Race to Dubai.
The winner of The Race to Dubai will receive a ten year exemption to the Tour, so it’s an amazingly exciting competition, and will all culminate on November 19th for its first year, the first of many, many years to come at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
International headquarters for European Tour
George O‘Grady: I guess this is our bit, the international headquarters. A purpose built facility; as we state, it includes the Centre of Excellence I referred to.
Already quite a number of European Tour players have homes in Dubai because it gives them the centre from where they can travel. It gives them perfect conditions in the winter. The golf course I think is going to be we‘ll come on to that in a minute in how it’s being developed. It’s really a central venue, not just for the players, our sponsors, our promoters, our TV companies, and possibly our course design company as we go into the future.
I think it’s everything a growing tour and a global business I was asked at the Volvo Masters about the state of the Volvo, as it was, Order of Merit and now it’s just the Order of Merit. I think the Volvo Tour, which was 20 years ago, united Europe in a geographical basis. I think this Race to Dubai now unites us on a global basis.
A global property company
David Spencer: When we first started talking with The European Tour, you know, hosting an event is one thing. Creating The Race to Dubai is another thing. But we really wanted to try and capitalise on the synergies that we have as a company and that we could use with The European Tour and create something very, very special. You‘ll see the name Jumeirah Golf Estates; you‘ll see the name Dubai World Championship and you‘ll see the name Race to Dubai throughout a host of European Tour events.
This is about a partnership. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with The European Tour, next year, even before The Race begins, showing why people should come to Dubai, why they should extend their hand of friendship to them and welcome them down here to the Dubai World Championship beginning in 2009.
Of course, the players are a key part of this, and one of the first relationship structures that we put together was the sponsorship of the physio truck for the players. We want to do a lot of this for the players. We want Jumeirah Golf Estates and the international headquarters of The European Tour to be a welcoming experience for the players, and that was driving our ambition here. It wasn‘t just all about, “let’s make the world’s biggest golf tournament” – we have a lot more than that.
And most excitingly for us, and perhaps the pedigree of Leisurecorp is the creation of a global property company together with The European Tour to extend golf into emerging markets and keep capitalising on the excitement of golf, particularly in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We see it as just a burgeoning industry in this region.
And for us, George, and for the whole team at Dubai World and all of the people of Dubai, we couldn‘t have picked a more perfect partner than The European Tour.
Total commitment to excellence
George O‘Grady: I think this question gets asked to me on a basis; well, I think when you see the commitment of this group to the growth of the game of golf and the countries welcomed to the golfing visitor and what we do in a business sense, it becomes fairly obvious. It’s not just geographical links and it’s not just the climate; it’s the total commitment to excellence that we are looking for in all aspects of the business.
The relationship they have with us the surrounding partners in this area; we have tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and they are very supportive of this venture. We have spoken to a lot of different partners on The European Tour and told them what we are doing, and they are excited by the business potential, a lot of the existing partners and promoters have, and there’s so many more things.
I think 1989 when I first came to Dubai, the first Dubai Desert Classic, and, you know, I think it was a two story hotel that you could, if the courtesy car didn‘t come, walk to across sort of a dusty road, and there was no building. Now, from the Leisurecorp’s magnificent offices on the 38th floor just opposite the Emirates, it’s surrounded by housing and looked like a 13 lane highway as you peer down on the Hard Rock Cafe; and you realise just what vibrancy, just what vision has been brought to this country. And we certainly as The European Tour want to share in it, and we have got a really strong partner. We‘re very happy.
Leisurecorp’s wings are spreading – investments in golf
David Spencer: Leisurecorp is the company behind Jumeirah Golf Estates. We are a wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai World. We are here to deliver the vision of the world’s greatest leader, in my opinion, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and our Chairman, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem. We work hard, we work with passion and we always want to work on new and unique projects, like this announcement today.
But our wings are spreading in Dubai. We also own Pearl Valley Golf Estates down in the cape region in South Africa, and I hope to welcome all of you there when you‘re covering next month’s South African Open. It’s a fantastic place and we have lots of other unique and exciting golf property related and development projects that we‘ll be announcing over the next six months.
We have investments in the golf industry. We‘re great supporters of the golf industry. We have an investment in Troon Golf, the world’s leading golf management company; if you like, the Burj Al Arab of golf management, Troon Golf, and we have another investment in GPS Industries, the world’s leading GPS golf related technology.
So it’s not just all about Jumeirah Golf Estates. It’s all about delivering a vision, creating a brand and incubating that brand in a great city like the city of Dubai.
Now, we‘re just going to sit back and relax and we‘re going to show what you Jumeirah Golf Estates is all about, and then we‘ll be available to answer any questions you have.
(Break in transmission)
The darling of Dubai property development
David Spencer (continues): The first two golf courses that are under construction are the world’s first two ecosignature golf courses by Greg Norman, Fire and Earth. We start building the Water Course by Vijay Singh next year and late next year we break ground on the Wind Course, the first Triple Crown of golf by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia.
To answer your question, Jumeirah Golf Estates, and we sort of consider ourselves as the darling of Dubai when it comes to property development at the moment, and we‘ve been very quietly going about our business at Jumeirah Golf Estates. We‘re building houses currently; The European Tour, our signature designers and our entire team, the golf courses are basically nearly finished.
The shaping is finished at Fire and Earth, and we are actually laying grass at the moment and we had a part of The European Tour here today who will be doing a site visit later today to look at the staging areas for the tournament, which golf course it’s going to be on, it will be on Fire and Earth.
And we‘ll be good and ready, and I can assure you, we have the lead of looking at things like the Dubai Desert Classic. And compliments to Golf in DUBAI and the team of Dubai Golf in the way they have delivered that golf course and that tournament every year. We have a very high benchmark to hit, but we‘ll lay down that challenge. We think we can reach that standard and maybe even raise the bar a new notches higher.
Q. Will it be a composite course?
David Spencer: It’s unlikely it will be a composite course. I know reading Seven Days, which I do every morning of course, I saw some speculation of which courses it was going to be on. It’s unlikely that it will be a composite course and we‘ll make the announcement of which course it will be on together with our partners at The European Tour, probably at the Dubai Desert Classic, which we‘re also one of the major sponsors. I would point out because we always want to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of our partners here and in Dubai, as well.
Q. From the U.K., George, one question about the headquarters, can you just explain a little more of what will be based at the headquarters, and does that mean that everything will be moved from Wentworth?
George O‘Grady: No. This will be the international headquarters of The European Tour. We‘ll be staying at Wentworth for the foreseeable future, and it will still be the home to the Tour’s flagship event, which is the BMW PGA Championship.
But this is the season ending championship. We‘ll start building an office; I think we see it being finished in time for the Dubai World Championship in 2009. I think it will grow. We have TV interests; we have a course design interests; we have so much of our international business that now is around the world; this is just the natural hub. It will have all the potential for us to be as big as we want to be.
Q. I want to know what happens to the Volvo Masters and your relationship with Volvo. And I‘m sure you must have spoken to all of the players, the leading players during Hong Kong, what have been their reactions to the new tournament?
George O‘Grady: Firstly Volvo are very much in the picture and aware of it. Volvo have known for the last five years we wish to source an additional bonus pool, sponsor, if you like, to unite and pull together the full European Tour, and we haven‘t been successful in that. We have had a lot of interest. The condition of all of the people in Europe was they do the bonus pool as long as they had the season ending championship. We couldn‘t have that because that was Volvo‘s.
Volvo next year will be the season ending championship, it will be the 21st Volvo Masters and they are well aware of that and they then will be leaving our last European based tournament. They are making their mind up about whether they prefer that position or choose a completely different date.
As regards our membership, everyone I‘ve spoken to myself I wasn‘t in Hong Kong, I was obviously at the Volvo Masters, and had officials in Shanghai at the HSBC tournament; we haven‘t had any negative remarks at all.
And before I get the second question, Ernie Els, I think he had it, absolutely a joking way, about the word he used and he certainly said he would be there. He personally loves golf in Dubai. The idea of having a season ending championship was his to me about three years ago. In fact, he thinks we should go further and have a swing of three tournaments down here as a playoff. Now maybe that’s a good idea in the future, but right now, this is the building block and this is the start.
What I think is very exciting is that The European Tour will start in this region. The Dubai Desert Classic is absolutely a favourite, favourite tournament on the Tour, for all the reasons we‘re talking about here. To have tournaments kicking off our season here in Abu Dhabi and Qatar; I think Dubai is special, because I think of the first Dubai Desert Classic was 1989, and I think we‘ve had 18 tournaments, because we had one year we couldn‘t play.
I think the golfing pedigree here is strong. This is rooted in golf. I know it’s business and I know the figures are very high as they are now but the tournament in Abu Dhabi was the last, or the two have been tremendous. Qatar has come on but Dubai at the moment has the golfing pedigree.
Q. Another question from the Webcast for David. David, can you expand on the plans for the real estate partnership, and does this mean you‘ll be building tournament venues around the world?
David Spencer: Well, I think, you know, if you look at, as I mentioned earlier the pedigree of Leisurecorp and what we stand for, I mean, we are a property development company that develops the scope of leisure amenities of the highest quality.
For us to expand globally, we needed to have a partner that could take us in the right direction. You know, initially when we were talking about this, we were looking at other property development companies, etc. But it sort of dawned on The European Tour and it dawned on us that our perfect partner for this would be The European Tour. We respect the game of golf, we love the game of golf. Everything we that we do in our golf division is founded in the traditions of the game.
So to be able to look at emerging markets, new markets, we couldn‘t have a better partner in our global property development company than The European Tour.
Q. George, two or three questions; I don‘t know if you want me to pause after each one. Relating to the Volvo Masters, was it the existing contract that prevented you from launching this next year? This is all very exciting, but it’s a long while to wait for it to start.
George O‘Grady: Well, I think one at a time in that sense.
We couldn‘t, one, because an agreement of this size doesn‘t just happen in five minutes. There’s been quite a lot of work to get all the different pieces of the jigsaw together, and there are more pieces that we can‘t reveal, if you like, today.
I think the golf courses will probably not be ready for the end of 2008; they might be, but we are going for seven star facilities, not good; good enough is not good enough in this agreement.
I thank the Volvo Board, I really perhaps in that, pay tribute to Volvo for what they have done for the Tour. They united golf especially in Europe, and they went to the best golf course on the continent of Europe at the time. And they completely understand, what I list the agreement for golf, and for The European Tour in particular, as exceptional, and we have their best wishes.
Q. And for the richest ever tournament, presumably you want the strongest possible field, yet limiting it to a European Tour event means, as things stand, you wouldn‘t have the top four players in the world. So are you addressing that in terms of changing membership qualification?
George O‘Grady: Well, I think what The European Tour should do is talk about its own membership. I don‘t think we make any grandiose claims of being responsible for anybody else in the world. I think when this goes into operation, and the depth of The Race to Dubai and the support we give to other tournaments, I think our commitment will come through even clearer.
At the moment, a player needs to only play 11 tournaments to be a member of The European Tour. And we have been in constant dialogue with the Tournament Committee and the players; and there’s mixed views, and I think that will probably be decided at our next players committee meeting scheduled for Abu Dhabi next January, and we‘ll see.
I think, you know, this isn‘t aimed at any specific player. This is at the moment the top 60 in our rankings. You‘ve got to be committed to The European Tour to be in it, and I think it‘s, at the moment, not a huge commitment and everybody’s on side we think.
Q. And just to add onto that, if it was part of the World Golf Championships structure, you would automatically have all of the top players; was that considered?
George O‘Grady: Well, I think we needed to do something The European Tour needed you‘ve known, you personally have been at many of the press conferences we‘ve had. We‘ve had to redefine, if we can, the European schedule. It’s not straightforward. We do we have to answer the wishes of the golfing world.
You know, it is very tough. We do co sanction in Australia and New Zealand, and we are finding it harder to deliver the numbers of players we should have going there; but it’s helping to keep those countries on the world map, and we‘ve welcomed so many great players from all of these countries.
The only criterion for being a member of The European Tour is ability. You‘ve got to finish at the top level, and then you‘re welcome to come. We‘ve always welcomed Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, any of the leading American players, and I think our members do that.
Now, whether they choose to join The European Tour this is not about us setting ourselves up as outside the framework of golf. But we‘ve had to just refocus The European Tour and, you know, I‘ve said before, we admire, I personally admire the PGA Tour, I admire what they have done. Their golfing conditions are tremendous. But we have such good opportunities around the world, and now that we‘ve really brought a great partner on board, I think we‘re on our way.
Q. George, just a question about the Desert Swing which we have at the moment. Dubai is obviously a part of that three legged swing. Are you committed to keeping that and having two tournaments in Dubai?
George O‘Grady: For years, we‘ve had many events in Britain; we‘ve had more than one, and you could say if you‘ve got an Open Championship, why should you have any others?
When we first came to Dubai in 1989, yes, we got a few spectators on Saturday and Sunday. Now, the game has grown and taking up the spectators are tremendous, it’s tremendous all four days but really good on the last day. There’s easily room for two tournaments in Dubai.
The Dubai Desert Classic is an absolute favourite tournament on The European Tour. The ideal would be to have the Dubai Desert Classic really kicking off the season or towards the beginning of the season and this Dubai World Championship finishing it. It’s a heady cocktail.
Q. Question for David. I wanted more detail about the emerging markets you spoke about moving into.
David Spencer: The emerging markets, we are taking a close look at the moment are in southern Europe. We‘ve had a good, close look certainly not so much emerging, but we‘ve had a good close look in Portugal, Greece, Croatia, and we also look to where our demographic of buyers comes from in Dubai.
I think we are still very interested to extend their interests in Africa. We have a flagship property down in the Cape and I really do encourage you all to see this facility. It is an incredible facility, and we proudly host The European Tour’s South African Open there co sanctioned with the Sunshine Tour.
We‘ll look wherever our partner wants us to look. I mean, there’s no market, really at this stage too small and no market too big. We want to look at Morocco and we want to look through Europe and extend the game of golf and underpin the game of golf throughout Europe.
Q. Can you just give us a provisional schedule for 2009, when will it start and end?
George O‘Grady: We see ourselves largely on the calendar a year, so we‘d start early in January and run all the way through to November, and then special events that are linked with the Tour would come in after that, whether that’s the World Cup or the World Golf Championships or other events we have.
There’s still work to do because if we do consolidate, people may be disappointed if we can‘t get it fixed the way we want it. At this time of the year, The European Tour players are hugely in demand. I think everyone is aware of the scheduling conflict between the Volvo Masters and the Barclays Singapore Open. We accept our share of the blame in that for having those dates together. Both parties are trying to do the best for themselves; perfectly natural thing to do to put the Barclays Singapore Open in that week; while we were extended because of a very strong agreement with the Portuguese government, and an agreement I personally have with the President of Portugal to find room for his tournament.
I think now we see last week, with the finish in Hong Kong yesterday, European Tour players winning in Japan, others coming in third and fifth; you know, it seems that the Singapore Open was a great tournament. It’s an Asian Tour event but there’s an awful lot of European Tour players in there as well, along with Phil Mickelson and we have to be aware of the fact that our leading players now, they are charismatic, they are talented and they are in demand and so the day may be where we have two co sanctioned events or two events on in the same week so that we can travel.
You know, we are responding, also, to the ability of our leading players and their willingness and their preparedness to travel.
Q. Did you look anywhere else for your headquarters for the international European Tour? I would have thought that Portugal or Spain or Valderrama or somewhere like that would have loved to have had this here, or was this an approach from Dubai?
George O‘Grady: Well, we have had a regional headquarters at San Roque next door to Valderrama for many years, and we have a southern office of The European Tour in Barcelona or just outside Barcelona. But really, Europe is so well connected that you can Wentworth, golf is still driven, if you like, out of the United Kingdom to an extent.
I think when you then look at the rest of the season, rest of the year, you‘ve just got to watch what your players have been doing. Probably if I can‘t add them up, count the number of members already who have bought homes in Dubai, not just this development and elsewhere. Because in the winter months when they want to regroup and train and practise and fix their own ailments, this is where they are coming.
Now, we have looked at all of the countries down here, but do you need somebody who shares the vision, who shares the vibrancy, if you like, to push it forward. I think this is so refreshing this is a bit like 20 years ago when we announced the Volvo Tour. The Volvo Board then, and we had the president of the Volvo Car Corporation came to Valderrama for the tournament a couple of weeks ago.
Now, in those days, Valderrama was a golf course with no building around it at all. I thought about the success of that event, we didn‘t have a television company then. We had to rely on a local TV company making the pictures and now we own our own television company and they are the biggest producer of golf programming in the world; and the wonderful thing about this announcement is all our TV partners are really excited about this starting with the GOLF CHANNEL in the United States, and it’s coming in at not the perfect time for them with the time switch; Sky are absolutely enthused by this one, and we want to see where we are going to go in the future.
We reckon in the last 20 years, there’s other things we could have done to have done better; as I say before, you only learn in history on where you‘re going to go in the future. Now we‘re going to learn on the last 20 years and this partner gives us the things we want to do. We don‘t want to be going back to venues that don‘t portray the game, the professional game, the tournament game, in a really spectacular manner that excites children to take up this sport. We want the junior golf programme – our record stands in very fair comparison throughout Europe and the countries we go to, this is actually driving it.
But the biggest strength we can have in professional tournament golf is exciting; that children want to take up the sport. And Nick Faldo, can‘t be a greater example than him, who funnily enough has phoned up this morning and sent his best wishes which is a pleasure, but it’s well chronicled: he watched the Masters and said, “How do I do that,” and started playing, and there must be others which I‘m sure everyone knows.
Q. What happens to the current December tournaments on The European Tour?
George O‘Grady: They are all being worked out on the last answer. We know where they are and we know when players can play. They might have to go against special events they might go in different parts of the year. We have a year to sort that out. It’s under discussion.
Q. You mentioned that Leisurecorp has further announcements over the next six months. Can you give any details of what sort of targets that you‘re looking at?
David Spencer: Well, we like press conferences too much so we‘ll make those announcements at press conferences. We play our cards fairly close to our chest. We‘re close to closing a couple of very exciting deals, but at the moment, this is the deal uppermost in our mind, and we want to work with our partner and get our partner’s input and our partner’s approval as to which projects we look at next.
But there’s enough there to keep inviting you back to the Burj Al Arab regularly.
Q. David, very enthusiastic about the creation of tournament venues, is it on the basis of the TPC model on the PGA Tour or what is the kind of model? Will it be owned by you and European Tour or what will be the modeling?
David Spencer: Well, I think that the TPC model obviously has been very successful. But like everything in Dubai, you know, we think we can put a different spin on it, add to it, change some of the quality components of it. Sure, we‘d like to go head on with the TPC with some of our tournament venues.
And of course, you know, we‘re very, very privileged I would point out at this time to have worked very closely with the ‘Pablo Picasso’ of modern golf course design in Pete Dye. And Pete Dye has taught us at Leisurecorp, and also very importantly our designers that we‘re working with, a lot of things that we‘re going to take into the future.
So, you know, we have a huge debt of gratitude to Pete Dye and how he’s taught us to create our developments. They are quite unique. If you look at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, we have no single corridor golf; minimum double corridor golf; and staging areas, so we can have large crowds, large events, etc. It’s been very, very well thought through.
I think we‘ll change the face of golf residential development.
Q. Does this mean that it’s time with this move to Dubai for The European Tour to change its name to the global tour?
George O‘Grady: Well, I‘ve answered this as well before. We can‘t at the moment see any reason to change from European Tour. That’s what we‘re doing. Our partner here knows perfectly well with co sanctioned events we play around the world, they seem to think there’s a huge, or a significant brand value in European Tour, what it stands for. We get the same reaction when we go to China; we get the same reaction, we intend to go to Korea, and other parts of the world.
None of the business partners that we have tell us that they want the name European Tour to change. And so before we change our name, I‘d need really good reasons why. And global tour doesn‘t really do for me, and I‘m certainly not going to the other word you‘re going to come up with.
Q. If I could just get clarification on the position of the Volvo Masters, do you envisage it as being an elite 60 man field, or a regular tournament with 156 players or what’s your position?
George O‘Grady: I think it will always be elite, but may not be exactly the same at 60. I think we are changing that now and they are making their mind up after next year.
I think we need tournaments on this run in to this championship to give as many players as possible the chance to fight their way into the top 60.
I think they know this is a question of movement, and Valderrama specifically is very keen in their new president to move forward. And Volvo are looking at a lot of different alternatives. It’s still under discussion.
Q. How does the split of the other US$10 million work amongst the rest of The European Tour events during The Race to Dubai?
George O‘Grady: I think you misunderstand. The prize off and on for the Dubai World Championship is US$10 million split between the 60. The Race to Dubai bonus pool is US$10 million split between the top 15 and it’s official money. So, that can all change the eventual winner at the end.
So on the Sunday night, the winner, if he won both, could be winning US$3,666,000. The extra money is a separate fund that we‘ll use together to, one, market the name Race to Dubai; and two, to strengthen tournaments where we think they need to be strengthened, which is going to go with our marketing needs, you could say. So that’s a completely separate fund.
Q. Could you now see a case where The Ryder Cup could be held in Dubai or outside Europe?
George O‘Grady: In the immediate future, I don‘t see it going to Dubai. I think if you talk in the future, I think it’s possible. As you know, our next two venues are signed up with Celtic Manor and Gleneagles, and we certainly said we intend to go to the continent of Europe for 2018. I wouldn‘t rule it out, but I really don‘t any there’s anyway The Ryder Cup would come here in 2018, no.
Q. Was your aim to create the best tournament outside of the majors, and do you think you‘ve done that?
George O‘Grady: Well, no one is quite to grand as to say you can create anything until you‘ve done it. And I do a bit – there’s a bit of marketing hype on “the world’s most exciting golf tournament.” I think there are some fairly hard bitten journalists here and we‘re reasonably hard bitten ourselves, but I think one would allow that.
I think if I use that phrase, “the aim” to make it the most exciting golf championship at the end of the season. We know the majors are the majors. No one on this side of the table takes anything away from the history and the tradition and the structure of the world of golf. But this is just a really exciting finish which will be the end of The European Tour season, the Race to Dubai, so in that sense it promises to be. But it’s got to do it first.
I mean, talking to Greg Norman last week and, in fact, as recently as Saturday, I mean, it’s hard to get him off the phone on all his plans for the last four holes and what he thinks he’s putting into this golf course to make it exciting.
Now he was a flamboyant – is a flamboyant professional. He wants these holes to be really spectacular from a player’s point of view. But also, really good to watch from a spectator’s point of view, and also designed so the TV camera brings out the drama and the excitement that we need.
I think personally, I watched a fair bit on television of the finish of the HSBC Champions event, a most dramatic – it brought the drama to life on a good golf course when the world’s No. 2 is, you know, struggling with his game. He’s played really well, and then suddenly the ball is not going exactly where he wants it to go and somehow he grinds it out and wins while others are coming through. That is the drama, and what professional golf should do as an example, every golfer shares; Ross Fisher, well known, the relationship down here, another one, you know, that came from picking out the practice range balls at Wentworth years ago to nearly winning in Shanghai having won on Tour. Surely everyone’s on son or daughter will see that, and if he can, will badger their parents, ‘how do I get started?’
Now, you know we are trying to open doors to how people can gain access to golf, but you know, it’s that story that we want to tell. And so that’s what we‘re aiming for.
The Moderator: Thank you, George. Ladies and gentlemen, we‘re going to come to an end to the formal Q&A. Thanks to our hosts here David Spencer and George O‘Grady, and thank you ladies and gentlemen for joining us here. Thank you very much.
Acknowledgements to FastScripts by Renà©e S. Harris, ASAP Sports
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