George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour and Joe Steranka, Chief Executive of the PGA of America give a joint press conference. (Getty Images)
Friday Press Conference
George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, Joe Steranka, Chief Executive of The PGA of American, John Paramor, Chief Referee, and Kerry Haigh, of the PGA of America, give a joint press conference following Friday's inclement weather.
1 October 2010
An Interview With:
GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much for your attendance, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you again for your patience today in what has been a long, difficult day for many people here at Celtic Manor.
But I think it's fair to say that some of the logistical elements are about to be explained to you for the remainder of the 2010 Ryder Cup, and I'll first of all introduce the top table here. On my immediate right, we have Joe Steranka, who is the Chief Executive Officer of The PGA of America. Next to Joe is George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour. On George's right, we have Kerry Haigh, who is the Managing Director, Championships and Business Development for The PGA of America and on the far right is John Paramor, Chief Referee of The European Tour, and George is going to open the conference with a few words. George.
GEORGE O'GRADY: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this conference and thank you for your support of the 38th Ryder Cup Matches so far, and your patience today in these very adverse weather conditions.
I think you've been given a copy of the alteration to the playing schedule, which we have agreed and announced to the captains and the teams. We felt we must do everything we can to finish The Ryder Cup on Sunday, the chosen day, while maintaining the integrity of The Match.
If you look at what we are doing now, we are still playing for 28 points. Both captains have fully agreed that after the four fourball matches which are playing now, the second session will be extended to six foursomes matches, and then we anticipate that starting mid morning tomorrow. We will then get straight into the foursomes, six, and then restart the fourballs, the third session.
The third session will comprise two foursomes and four fourballs. That means by the time they are completed, sometime on Sunday morning, we will have played for 16 points, eight of which are foursomes, eight of which are fourballs. Then we'll have time to schedule the singles on Sunday afternoon and finish, as planned on schedule.
This all depends on the sky and whether the rain comes back again. We don't have a good forecast for Sunday, but they are not always accurate, and if that happens, we will roll into Monday, keeping the singles sacrosanct, whatever happens.
Q. Just further explanation on that, George, if the singles were due to start at 11 something on Sunday, what time do you hope they will start now? And are they going all off the first tee?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We are going to actually end up on the same times if we don't have anymore weather delays.
We have agreed with the captains that we will be starting the sessions, I think a bit tighter than we normally would have done, so the gaps are being completed and The Match Officials have the precise times.
Q. As a follow up, on the ticket situation, what would it have taken under the terms and conditions for spectators to have a refund?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We have agreed on our terms and conditions, you've got to get through nine holes. One match has got to play nine holes, which we'll be comfortably in excess of tonight.
(**Agreed on our terms and conditions that there is no refund if a ball is struck.)
Q. I'm assuming the draw for the singles matches will not take place Saturday night.
GEORGE O'GRADY: No, I don't think so.
KERRY HAIGH: Yes, that is correct.
Q. If it runs on and on and does rain on Sunday and we get to Monday, what would be the cutoff point on Monday? How will it end in that eventuality?
GEORGE O'GRADY: If the modern day weather forecasting is pretty accurate; and we don't have a good forecast for Sunday morning and we have a good forecast for Monday. And so far, our forecasters have been pretty much dead on this week, with it being a valley, it's quite hard; it's localised. But our cutoff point I think is 6.40 Monday evening, and if we are not finished by then, I believe any match unfinished on the golf course is considered a halve.
JOHN PARAMOR: Correct.
KERRY HAIGH: Correct.
Q. Can you weigh in for us on the issue with the rain suits and how that occurred, how it was allowed to happen? And secondly, was it also true that the players bags have gotten soaked and their clubs were soaked this morning?
JOE STERANKA: Any time you're going to deal with weather like this, it's going to test the extreme performances of the uniforms and equipment and everything.
Yeah, we would have liked the rainwear to have performed better, and we have filled in accordingly and don't expect that that will be an issue going forward.
Q. What about the bags?
JOE STERANKA: Many bags will have moisture that comes from the bottom up with an extreme weather condition, so players are taking some steps to insulate the bottom of those bags.
Q. The European players said they had no problem with bags; is it just the American bags that was the problem?
JOE STERANKA: The only thing that we made a provision for to make sure that we had a backup for the players was rain gear. So I really can't comment on the bags.
Q. What time will play restart on Sunday morning?
JOE STERANKA: Well, we'll resume play tomorrow at 8.00, finish this session, and then go through that order of play that you have outlined, resume again Sunday, weather permitting, at 8.00, and hopefully finish again Sunday night.
Q. Given the problems this has caused and how fortunate you were at The K Club, and the fact that Gleneagles is scheduled for even later, isn't it time to look at the whole timing issue of The Ryder Cup and try to find something earlier in the year?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Ideally, I think we have to have the best week when the players are available. Whereas it's quite easy for us to move our weeks quite simply, this is difficult with the scheduling in the United States, and it's a constant discussion with The PGA of America, the PGA TOUR and their schedules and where the players are. Everything is reviewed, all the time, and is negotiated.
Q. Is it too late to change the date for Gleneagles where we are going to anticipate surely similar problems?
JOE STERANKA: If I can maybe add a comment, we have spoken to the PGA Tour, as recently as this morning, I spoke to Tim Finchem about a number of things, which include the schedule for Ryder Cup.
We are earlier in 2012 when we play at Medinah. The 2012 season is the last season in the current television agreement for the US PGA TOUR, and the PGA Tour has pledged to work with us on dates in their new television agreement that can give us, again, as George says, the best week that all of the players would be available for Ryder Cup.
And we know that is preferably earlier than it is this year when we are playing in October.
Q. Just one more follow up. There seems to be widespread perception that the PGA TOUR have been almost bloody minded with this, with the timing of the FedEx; but are you saying that isn't the case at all?
JOE STERANKA: No, there is very active communication between The European Tour, The PGA of America and the U.S. Tour.
Q. By your calculations, what is the reformatting save in terms of time?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I think it saves one clear session, apart from the extra two matches, which I think will sit us in at about 45 minutes, 50 minutes of extra playing time.
So compared to a whole session of, one, the playing time and two, the organisational time, I think we put it at about five hours, four to five hours.
Q. We are talking a little bit about the date, as to what week it is and whatnot, but is there a consideration when you see something like that, and also what happened four years ago at The K Club, that maybe this area of the world is not the place to hold a Ryder Cup at this time when you look at the next possible venues of Spain or France or Germany?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, I think we all know the weather can change all the time. In fact, some Japanese visitors came to Muirfield for The Open Championship once, and they thought it was a great championship and why didn't we play it in the summer; that was July.
We do look at it. The last time we played at The Belfry, the weather was perfect for all four days, hardly a cloud in the sky. We are becoming unlucky; we went to Spain and we were told it never rains in Spain in September. And I think we lost the first morning it was played there virtually and it kept on raining the rest of the week.
This is a localised thing. Golf tournaments have lost days of rain before. We play The Wales Open here, and we have lost a day's play, as well, which is just unlucky. It's happened in other tournaments before.
Q. If I can follow up about the rain suits, I understand you said you would like them to work in extreme conditions. The Europeans from what we can tell are not having any problems with the rain gear. Theoretically, you have your choice of any company to provide your rain gear, if you're coming to a rainy venue, wouldn't it make sense to somehow test the rain gear and make sure it can stand up to these type of conditions so you don't have to run to the merchandise tent?
JOE STERANKA: All of the companies that produce this rain gear meet the technical specifications that you would want to have for extreme conditions.
They do more testing than we could ever do on our own, and we look at the specifications and take them for what they are. And the fact of the matter is, they didn't perform as well as they needed to.
Now, there are a number of players that were quite comfortable with the rain gear, but not everybody was, and you know, we have got to represent all 12 players and 12 caddies, as well.
Just a point on the scheduling. It's as much a function of daylight and so every week that we can get earlier, we pick up more daylight. And as this week again points out, that's a premium. We like the intensity of three days of competition for The Ryder Cup that sets that apart, and so every day that we can move earlier in the schedule allows us a little more daylight to manage things like this.
Q. Can I ask, a lot of problems that we encountered today were speculated by people in the buildup who spoke about the location and the weather around here. Do you have absolutely no regrets about choosing this place as the venue at this time of year?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, I've just been talking to Peter Dawson, who is the Chief Executive of the R&A, and it's not exactly ideal this particular week in Scotland. It's not good in the Midlands, because I think a depression has come over a large part of the country.
Yes, after we go to Gleneagles in four years' time, we are in the middle of talking to bidding nations from Europe. But we won't be immune to it raining there, as well, on the week. It does rain here. We have been here in the buildup. We have had some beautiful days in that time in the last couple of weeks. We have also had some horrendous ones. That's the climate.
Q. And can I just ask, if it does go into Monday, what are the plans for the spectators to get tickets?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Any Sunday ticket is accepted on Monday. I think that's the only way you can do it reasonably I think and fairly.
The reason I think both sides are determined to give it every chance of finishing on Sunday, and I'd compliment the captains on taking this ground breaking step, you might say, because we feel for people who have invested their money and their time.
We know that if they have to come back on Monday and take a day off work and all that goes with it, they will do so if we have to, but we feel it's our obligation to do everything we can while maintaining the integrity of The Match to finish on Sunday.
Q. One thing on the scheduling of Monday, marshalling and police and all of these issues, are you confident you can turn those around quickly; two years ago at Valhalla, we were playing on the 16th of September I think, and next time in the U.S. we are playing earlier in the year. Why are we always playing later in the tougher climate in Europe? It seems slightly odd, the FedEx has been there.
JOE STERANKA: 2008 was early in the formulation of the FedEx series and THE TOUR Championship, the conclusion of that followed The Ryder Cup that year.
We think it fits better to have that series, the Playoffs conclude prior to The Ryder Cup, as they did this year, and leave The Ryder Cup as the culmination of the season for many of us.
That's the schedule we'll be following in 2012. It will mean that we will be one week later there in Medinah in 2012 than we were in 2008.
But we think we can still manage with the daylight that time of year at the venues that have been chosen.
Q. About the marshaling point?
GEORGE O'GRADY: The marshals have been already, if you like, predicting it. The police have been tremendously helpful down here, the local authorities, as well. We think we'll handle that quite easily.
Q. On that point, who covers the cost of an extra day's play if it goes into Monday, and do you have insurance for this kind of thing? And secondly, is it not very harsh on the people who have toughed it out today that they don't get a second bite?
GEORGE O'GRADY: Well, it's just impossible really to do that. We have already put a statement out, I think that you've got in your press packs, that we are taking grounds; we have advised everybody who has got their tickets today to keep them, and we will make announcements on RyderCup.com on some form of recompense. It will be by way of ticketing of other European Tour events or The Wales Open next year, and we will just look at how badly people are affected.
We will now play until dark tonight and the spectators have been tremendously loyal and long suffering, and the American Team and The European Team were very good at signing autographs, giving gifts away to people who were there. We feel for them.
So there's been tremendous support. The support on the first tee today was electric in the pretty grim very supporting on both sides. We like to see people enjoy their day and get full value, and you can't it's luck of the draw.
We take carry the cost as Ryder Cup Europe. We have all realistic insurance policies in place. We learned a lot when The Match was postponed about insurance (2001).
Q. About safeguarding the sanctity of the singles, if the weather is bad on Sunday and you can't start singles until, say, four o'clock, does that mean you will start singles then, or will you hold all 12 over until Monday?
GEORGE O'GRADY: That is something which we can look at at the time. I think there's a balance, whatever; we would like to get them all going in one go, but I think we haven't quite got to that point, yet, because we know the last of the third session of fourballs will be on the course they will come off the course at the close of play on Saturday night. They will have to finish and there will be time on Sunday morning to make that decision.
Q. Can you tell us whether there was any consideration given to scrapping one session altogether, or if there was consideration given to the fact if there were fewer matches, the captains might be tempted to top load the order to chase early points in case the singles had not finished?
GEORGE O'GRADY: We considered a lot of different things, and obviously the easy one if you like is just to scrap one session. But we wanted to maintain the 28 points.
The unique flavour of The Ryder Cup, of this particular format, is the four players, top players, have to sit out each session, and it won't surprise you to know that nobody likes sitting out. They all want to play all the time.
So we felt this was a way to keep the 28 points, keep it on track; yes, lose that little bit of four people sitting it out, and the fact that not one player wanted to sit out, they all took this without huge convincing. We spoke to the captains, and they wanted to speak to their own teams and vice captains, and they were pretty good. They can see it is a slight change of the schedule, but we preserve 28 points. We have got a chance to get it in.
If we do get really bad weather on Sunday, we are probably going to lose half the day. We will have to finish the fourballs then and the singles will be ready for Monday. But we have got options now to definitely get in by Monday night. But we are doing our level best to look after the public, look after everybody, and get it finished on Sunday if we can.
Q. And then top loading consideration?
GEORGE O'GRADY: I don't think that came into the fact is these two captains, very, very evenly matched teams. If we had to drop a session, you drop foursomes and fourballs, but we are not bright enough to work out which side that favours, or not. It was a question more to the administrators if the foursomes play quicker than fourballs, but this way it will be eight series of foursomes and eight series of fourballs and then the singles.
And so combined up here with our Match Referees and ourselves representing the boards of The PGA of America and Ryder Cup Europe, we all felt this was the absolutely fairest way to bring in what looks like is becoming just a great match.
GORDON SIMPSON: Thank you very much for your attendance and back to the golf. Thank you again.
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The Celtic Manor Resort also issued the following statement:-
The Celtic Manor Resort is as disappointed as all spectators, patrons and official sponsors at today’s suspension of play, caused by extreme weather conditions. 36.6mm of rain fell between approximately 5.30 pm on Thursday and 3.30 pm today (Friday). The average monthly rainfall for September/October is 91mm, so the equivalent of more than 40 percent of the average monthly rainfall fell in less than 24 hours.
It was only through the dedication of 110 greenkeepers working from 5.00am that two hours of play was possible in the morning to commence The 2010 Ryder Cup, when the spectators created an electric atmosphere on the first tee despite the adverse weather.
More than £1 million was spent on drainage during construction of The Twenty Ten Course, but there comes a point following persistent, heavy rainfall when the ground becomes saturated.
The fact that play was able to resume at 5.00pm, within approximately two hours of the rain ceasing, is testament to both the high quality of the course drainage and the continued hard work of the greenkeeping team led by Jim McKenzie, Director of Golf Courses.