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U.S. OPEN MEDIA DAY
CHRISTINA LANCE: Good morning. Thank you for joining us here today. My name is Christina Lance and I'm very happy to welcome you to Media Day for the 2014 U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open championships. I would like to take a moment here to introduce our speakers. We'll begin here on my right, I have Mr. Dan Burton, USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee.
Then we have Bob Dedman, owner and CEO of Pinehurst and honorary chairman of these championships.
To my immediate right we have Mr. Tom O'Toole, president of the USGA.
To my left Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA.
And then we have Vicki Goetze‑Ackerman, two‑time USGA champion and the player president of the LPGA.
And finally we have Ben Kimball, championship director of the U.S. Women's Open.
At this time, I would like to introduce Mr. Tom O'Toole Jr., president of the USGA.
THOMAS O'TOOLE JR.: Good morning. Welcome to our return to Pinehurst for the first time since 2005, for the 2014 United States Open and the United States Women's Open Media Day.
That's exciting as we embark on what will be historic back-to-back U.S. Opens in just a few short weeks.
But, ladies and gentlemen, what is this really about? If you cut to the chase, today is about a fabulous celebration of women's golf. To think that we could come here to this wonderful resort and host what is clearly the most coveted title in women's professional golf, the U.S. Women’s Open Championship, on the heels of conducting a United States Open Championship.
That is the specialness of this opportunity. There are few places that would allow us to present these championships back to back and we'll talk a little bit about our appreciation of that later, but let's see just exactly what we're going to be in store for in just a few short weeks in June.
I think you can sense from those videos that capture again the prospects of the history that will be made here in a few weeks, to think that these U.S. Open Championships will be conducted back to back. That's the very fiber of what today is about and we would normally assemble here at this time for a men's U.S. Open Media Day. To think that golf and women's golf and the USGA's involved to the point where we could assemble here for both, let's capture this special opportunity.
The USGA certainly salutes both of our 2013 champions, Justin Rose with his two-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson and Jason Day. And Inbee Park, as she won her second United States Women's Open Championship and her third consecutive major, as you heard from the video, with an 8‑under par victory.
Neither of our worthy champions could be here today, in light of their very busy schedules. They send their regards, and we look forward to their special title defenses here in back-to-back weeks in June.
Before we get to our championship responsibilities, I know many of you saw or were here for some of my remarks at the USGA Annual Meeting here at the Pinehurst Hotel in February. Much of what we focused on was our initiative and priority of making the game more accessible, and many of you may have seen two weeks ago Sunday what happened at the Augusta National Golf Club as we unveiled the inaugural Drive, Chip & Putt Championship and 88 boys and girls came here to vie for that opportunity. If we could have written a script, what actually happened at Augusta National – and I think anybody who saw it on Golf Channel or were there to personally observe would concur – that it was beyond any reasonable expectation of what that script might generate.
That's just a little bit about what we're trying to do with some of our other initiatives, besides the very important championship responsibilities and why we convene today. We want to thank our partners at the Masters Tournament Foundation and the Augusta National Golf Club, The PGA of America, and Golf Channel for telling that story so fabulously.
Ladies and gentlemen, the USGA and our partners will continue to focus on that initiative, which enhances this discussion about accessibility that we had just a few months ago right here at Pinehurst.
In fact, just so you know, our entry numbers for 2015 already approach the total number that we had in 2014. That, ladies and gentlemen, is an exciting prospect.
Before I close, please indulge me with a number of thank yous. As I said earlier, we recognize those at the Pinehurst Resort. But we have said at these forums many times, that for the USGA to undertake these championship endeavors, we need committed and dedicated partners. Of course, for many, many years – accentuated in 1999 when we first brought the U.S. Open Championship here – we have had that committed, dedicated partner in the Pinehurst Resort.
Before we get to the people at Pinehurst, we want to thank of course the residents and the officials of not only the Village of Pinehurst, but Moore County, and also the state of North Carolina. We know from when we first came here in 1999, this is a regional effort. It's not an effort by just a small group, but a group that's rallied around the whole region of the country that's produced and generated these great U.S. Open Championships.
We also want to thank the over 6,000 volunteers who will volunteer for these two weeks. You think about that number, it's pretty moving. How about this fact: 75 percent of those people will volunteer for both championships. That may be in and of itself even more compelling and moving.
Of course, our USGA committee volunteers who will serve as Rules officials and on scoring and other committees that are so vital – and again, many of those people will take not only one week away from their families and businesses and their own interests, but a second week aas they volunteer for the U.S. Women's Open as well.
Of course, without our committed partners at our state and regional golf associations, led by Jack Nantz and Michael Dann from the Carolinas Golf Association, the USGA simply couldn't do it without that partnership. A special thanks to them.
I see here in the front row, Bill Coore of the Coore Crenshaw Design Firm and the work that many of you will witness today if you haven’t done so already, what Bill and Ben, with Mike's involvement, generating the restoration here was something special. So I know I speak for everybody at the USGA, Bill, to you and Ben, thank you for that.
Of course, also here, not very far from the front row, is the owner and operator of the site of three U.S. Women's Open Championships, that's Peggy Kirk Bell. And Peggy, thank you for joining us today and for all that you've done for the United States Golf Association.
Finally, I leave with our partners here at the Pinehurst Resort. Our president and general chairman up here in the second row, Don Padgett, has been a wonderful partner since he came to the resort and is also a big proponent of the United States Golf Association. Don, thank you for that.
Way in the back of the room in his usual stay-out-of-the-way role, Tom Pashley, Pinehurst’s executive vice president. Tom, thank you for what you've done in our relationship.
Then finally, the man who Christine introduced earlier, the man who joined a vision with his father to restore the Pinehurst Resort to the wonderful venue that the Tufts family created and some of the vision that they have perpetuated here, the CEO of DFI, Inc., the owner of the Pinehurst Resort, and really, my great friend and a great friend of the USGA, I would like to bring him to the podium, ladies and gentlemen, Bob Dedman.
BOB DEDMAN: Thank you, Tom. Well, it is truly a beautiful day at Pinehurst. We're glad you are here to see the changes that have been made and the restoration of the golf course. We're very fortunate to have an incredible community behind our nation's championships. Tom mentioned the over 6,500 volunteers we'll have for both weeks and the effort of the state of North Carolina as well and certainly the Village of Pinehurst. So it takes a lot of people to host our nation's championship and we're incredibly thankful for their involvement and the time and energy they're putting into it as well.
I would like to touch on the restoration of the golf course, because this course will present itself significantly differently than we did before.
After the 2008 U.S. Amateur, Don and I were talking with Mike and others about how Pinehurst has been a very special place for a very long time, but we felt like we have become too much like everybody else. We felt it was time to really try to help restore the character we think that Donald Ross intended and certainly that Mother Nature had intended.
At the same time, we wanted to position Pinehurst to be able to host our nation's greatest championships for the next 100 years. So it was a pretty big task starting out.
So there are really three design criteria from our standpoint. We wanted to make it more authentic. I think we lost a little bit of that specialness. We looked too much like everybody else in the game of golf. It was wall-to-wall green. It was really monochromatic out there. I think it had become really part of the homogenization of the game of golf.
We lost the uniqueness of being this beautiful, 30-mile-wide, 80 miles long, sandhills of North Carolina. We wanted to restore that and restore some of the character of the course.
We also felt like because of the change and the evolution of the course and the roughs, the way they had been grown, we lost some of the strategy off the tee.
So by going back to the early broken turf, the broken ground that Ross intended and, I think, really through the wisdom of Ben and Bill and Mike's involvement, I think we really are able to capture the strategy of the holes from off the tee, to be on the right side of the fairways, based on where the holes are on the greens as well.
So, first, it was to become more authentic. Secondly, be more strategic. And the third was really – and I think this is really about the future of golf – is to be more sustainable, certainly ecologically.
They removed over 40 acres of turf, over 700 sprinkler heads. We spend a lot less on chemicals now. It is tough to maintain these courses to look in their natural state, but that's good for golf. So it's more sustainable ecologically, but also economically.
I think that when you see the course and the changes the way it presents itself now, it is truly dramatic the way it frames the holes. I can't thank Ben and Bill enough and Mike for the work that they have put into this.
There's a saying in golf that golf doesn't build character, it reveals character. They have revealed the character of this great course, Donald Ross's masterpiece.
So, again, thank you all for being here and thank you to the USGA for having the confidence in Pinehurst to once again host our nation's championships. It's an honor and a privilege. Thank you.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Thank you very much. At this point we're going to hear from Dan Burton.
DAN BURTON: Good morning. I'm Dan Burton, vice president and Championship Committee chairman.
I am very excited to represent the USGA as we begin another venture with Pinehurst, which has always provided a magnificent venue for golf and a partnership that makes us great friends and collaborators. We are fortunate to work together again.
As we approach the U.S. Open, we are happy to report that demand for tickets remain strong.
We have sold out of our two-week series ticket packages and there is a limited number of daily and weekly gallery tickets available for purchase at usopen.com.
Merchandise sales have been very strong with an overwhelming demand for our joint logo merchandise.
Demand for corporate hospitality from the local market has been outstanding and I am happy to report that all tents and clubhouse options are sold out and there is only a handful of weekly and daily tables still available.
Spectator logistics and operations are well on track and we will provide additional details as we get closer.
Today the USGA launched usopen.com and uswomensopen.com, a unified digital platform with comprehensive coverage of the men's and women's championships.
The site will provide fans with fun and entertaining content with a best-in-class user experience.
In addition to our HD video feed and enhanced leader board functionality, this year we have updated our "Know Before You Go" website function that provides up-to-date information, including weather updates, traffic advisories and parking information, an essential element in today's digital landscape and a reflection of what users want.
This year we are adding a series of "Beyond the Gates" initiatives, designed to celebrate golf fans' connection to the game and expand the experience of going to the U.S. Open.
Our, "Open for All" activities will consist of three elements that will engage North Carolina residents, fans in attendance, and those at home.
This year, we are introducing, "The U.S. Open: Drive to Pinehurst," a captivating video series in partnership with Lexus, to build excitement and awareness leading up to this year's U.S. Opens.
The series consists of three episodes, each of which features and follows a golfer at a different stage in their journey to the U.S. Open, as represented by the championship trophy.
Segments will be filmed in Pinehurst, Raleigh and Greensboro, and will begin to appear on usopen.com in late May and run through early June.
In 2014, the USGA will begin a tradition by hosting its annual Bob Jones Award ceremony on‑site at the U.S. Open.
The ceremony will be an opportunity to celebrate the legacy, passion for golf, sportsmanship and philanthropy shown by 2014 Jones Award winner, the late Payne Stewart.
Spectators who have tickets for Tuesday, June 10, will be able to view the ceremony live at 5 p.m. from the lawn area near the Pinehurst clubhouse.
The award ceremony will also be streamed live in its entirety in the Members Clubhouse on usga.org.
Building on our off‑site activation in Philadelphia's Center City District last year, we are unveiling two weeks of special events at Tufts Park in the center of the Village of Pinehurst.
"The U.S. Open Experience" will feature live musical performances, round-table discussions, golf films, local cuisine and interactive golf experiences designed to showcase the game and the host region.
Running from June 10 through the end of the Women's Open, the events are free and open to the public and will begin at the conclusion of daily practice or championship play.
Highlights of the U.S. Open experience include:
A screening of a new USGA film paying tribute to Payne Stewart, entitled, "The 1999 U.S. Open: One Moment in Time".
Performances by the 82nd Airborne All‑American Chorus and the Carolina Philharmonic.
Family night and kids' skills challenge.
The USGA is committed to providing an exceptional experience to our patrons and leave memories that will last a lifetime.
Thank you to the Village and Pinehurst Resort for being great partners in helping us expand our audience and put together a world‑class championship. I'll introduce Mike Davis to talk about course setup.
MIKE DAVIS: Good morning, everybody. Great turnout here. Thanks to everybody for coming. I'm sure that you came here to hear us and not to play Pinehurst No. 2.
But it really is a great day at Pinehurst. As I said to somebody this morning, you are answering the phones honestly now, because it really is a beautiful day at Pinehurst.
As Dan said, I want to talk a little bit about Pinehurst No. 2 and a little bit about the restoration of it, the golf course setup, and then I'm going to turn it over to Ben Kimball to my left, who does the golf course setup for the Women's Open and he'll talk a little bit about the specifics of that week.
He's also going to talk about how we're going to integrate the two weeks, because as we view this, it's really as President O'Toole said, it's a celebration of golf for the two weeks. It's bringing the world's best men, the world's best women, here to Pinehurst, for a great two weeks.
Then after Ben, to my left, Vicki Goetze‑Ackerman – I always think of you as Vicki Goetze, but can I remember when I started at the USGA, Vicki was our Women’s Amateur champion and then played on the Curtis Cup Team in 1990. I was just saying to her before, I said, you know, I saw that article on you on the USGA website, you looked like a little girl. And she said, “I was. I was 16 years old.”
But if you haven't seen it, you should see it, and, Vicki, it's great to have you here and all the support of the LPGA.
In terms of restoration, now Bob talked about it already, but what's happened out here, I had the luxury, the privilege to see a fair number of restorations over the years, certainly a lot of renovations. And I honestly have never seen one as good as what's happened here.
With Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, what they did, thanks to the huge commitment from Bob, from you and Don Padgett and others here at Pinehurst, was to really take it back to the roots of Donald Ross, to really take the unique aspects of the sandhills of North Carolina and just the attention to detail.
If you haven't seen it yet, go out and look at some of the bunk rendering, look at some of the wonderful features that have been brought back. It's always been a wonderful iconic golf course, it's always certainly been a wonderful championship test, but what it is right now is it's all those things plus more. It's just made Pinehurst No. 2, it's hard to believe you could make it better, but it's made it better and it's made it a good bit better.
It's certainly more aesthetically pleasing, but I think from a shot-value standpoint, it's going to give the best players in the world some shots that they simply haven't had to make in past U.S. Opens. So it's exciting.
To that point, I got the real privilege to work closely with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw through this process; they couldn't be two nicer guys. They have a great team here and the work you see – and in fact, you're also doing a little work at Shinnecock Hills, where we will have the U.S. Open in 2018. So, Bill, on behalf of all of us, thank you for what you did. You made the place look great.
In terms of U.S. Open tests, I think one of the things I would like to say is that it's interesting how, over the years, how, how things get branded. One of the things that everybody says, people talk about it, is the U.S. Open being the hardest test in golf. There's certainly some truth to that, relative to other events during the year. The same thing is said about the Women's Open, the same thing is really said about all USGA national championships for the given group of players.
But we, internally, when we talk about what we want it to be, you never hear us talk about wanting it to be the hardest test. That's not – it ends up almost being a byproduct. What we really want our national championship to be is an incredibly challenging test where it challenges every aspect of the game, shotmaking skills, your course-management skills, your ability to handle the pressure at certain times of the championship. We do it on some of this country's very best golf courses.
So that's really what our championships are about is holding a challenging championship on some of the great courses in the country.
So obviously the scores and the difficulty end up being a little bit of a by‑product, but there's no one at the USGA that even talks about that we want even par to win. First of all, we're not that good to actually dial it in there, because Mother Nature has far more to do with it than we do.
But it ends up being that when we go to these great venues, first of all, they're challenging right off the bat. You're going to see that, even though it's not prepped for U.S. Open condition right now, Pinehurst No. 2 is a challenging test of golf. But it's a great test of golf too. I really do think when it's all said and done that's what makes the championship so special.
In terms of the test here, it really starts with the putting greens and really the putting greens surrounds. When you look at, when you think about Pinehurst No. 2 and those wonderful iconic Donald Ross green complexes, they play so much smaller than they actually at least appear on paper.
I was flying down here looking at the yardage book and the green depths range from 27 yards to 40 yards. First green, interestingly enough, being 40 yards in depth, is the biggest.
You start to think, well, most of them are in that range of 32 to 37 paces, which really aren't that very big, that's relative to other courses, fairly small.
But then you start to think about how small they really play. When they get firmer, it's tougher to hold a ball on the green. When they get faster, all of a sudden some of those slopes, whether it's a false front, a false back, a false side, they shrink the green.
So you'll see it today where you may have a ball hold on the side of a green, because of the current green speeds. But, trust me, seven weeks from now, the balls will not hold there.
So I think that's one of the very unique things about Pinehurst No. 2 is, part of the challenge is, can I get my ball up on these greens. If I don't hit these greens, how to I get myself up there. What's so neat about it is it gives players options. They can bump it, pitch it, and we have seen that in championships that have been played here in the past.
In terms of changes from 2005 to 2014, it’s really four categories. Obviously there's the sandy wire grass areas. Which means, for the first time ever, we are not having long rough grass for a U.S. Open or for that matter for a Women's Open. That's a first, considering the fact that we have been playing U.S. Opens for 120 years.
So what they're going to encounter is sometimes they're going to be on sandy hardpan. Sometimes they're going to be on soft, foot printed loose sand. Sometimes they're going to be up against or underneath wire grass. Sometimes some of the vegetation, the natural vegetation that's just come up in these areas, sometimes it will be on pine needles or up against a pine cone. But it's going to give these players who miss a fairway just a different type of challenge. I think that all things being equal, will it be easier? Probably a little bit easier, but there is an element, I guess there's, I suppose, an element of luck involved, if you get on hard pan, which for a good player is kind of green light. Or do you get up against a clump of wire grass. You could have two balls 6 inches apart and one can go for the green and one can't. That's kind of the nature of the game we play. It wasn't meant to be equal all the time or necessarily fair.
Another change from the last two Opens is this is absolutely a wider Open than we're used to. That's not a bad thing. One of the great things about moving these championships around is that you get different types of courses. We should celebrate that, celebrate the great architecture – and here what's so neat is there's only two mow heights out there. It's the height they cut the fairways and the height they cut the greens. We never encountered something like that for a U.S. Open. It's, from a golf course maintenance standpoint, it's really a wonderful thing, saying you got two mow heights and that's it. Same heights for tee as fairways as closely mown surrounds and then you got the putting greens as I mentioned.
The extra width, it's interesting, because if we look back to '99 and 2005, where we may have had a fairway let's say at 27 yards, well that generally speaking was a very consistent 27 yards. Even if there was a dogleg to it.
This time around through the great work of Bill and Ben, you're getting different widths at different lengths off the tee. So that right there, in and of itself, is going to give the players on many holes options.
You take the first hole, right off the bat, the player's got an option. Do I want to take a driver, 3‑wood and try to chase it way down so I got a wedge or sand wedge into a much narrower fairway; or do I want to lay back and almost assuredly hit the fairway. Well, they're going to encounter that time and time again where it's not automatic. You may see three players in a group all use different clubs because they have a different strategy. So that's certainly a neat thing.
As Bob Dedman mentioned, one of the things I suppose by having narrow U.S. Open fairways like they traditionally do, it's more of a test, can I hit the fairway.
Well this time around there's going to be a fair amount of holes are the same, I think I can hit this fairway, and I actually want to hit it down the right side, it's a better angle.
The second hole's a perfect example. The hole location's left on No. 2, you want to hit it down the right side. When the hole location's on the right, you want to hit it down the left side. So you're going to see some of those, some of the players, particularly the ones that are pretty savvy and trying to read the course and read its architecture, do that.
Another thing that's different this year, we have, on more than half the holes, we have added new teeing grounds. We have done that not just to add extra distance, although we did add extra distance, if you compare scorecards, this go-round for the men's Open to last go-round, it's about 300 yards, 350 yards longer. But we won't play that whole length at any given time.
What this really does is, No. 1, on some of the holes it's putting some architectural features maybe back into play that we think should be in play. But also it's giving us flexibility from day‑to‑day-to-day on how we set the golf course up.
We also built some forward tees. There's some days where we might try to play a hole, say a drivable par‑4 for the men. We want to do the exact same thing for the women.
Then the last thing that's different from last go-round is the fourth and fifth holes. We have essentially just flipped the pars on those. So 4 used to be a par 5. Now it's a par 4.
5 used to be a par 4 and it's now a par 5.
Why did we do it? To be honest, in looking at it, it just felt like those holes, from an architectural standpoint, played better.
The fourth hole, it got the original angle of the Donald Ross tee back. The fourth hole also is one of the more generous greens in terms of receives a shot coming in. The bunker is in play better.
On the fifth hole we changed that to a short risk/reward par 5, which, by the way, Donald Ross designed it as a par 5 years ago, it was played that way in the PGA Championship back in the '30s. We just felt like No. 5 was not only the hardest green on the course, it is by far the toughest green on the course. And it just felt right, when you missed the green, it can be extremely penal. We just felt that that – it also brought the drive-zone features in on the fifth hole a little bit more.
So that's why we made the change, but as Don Padgett has rightly said here, those two holes are going to end up playing a combined par 9 no matter what we call the par, we just think architecturally it's a little bit better.
A little bit on the golf course setup. The scorecard for the men is going to read 7,562 yards. As I said, I can't imagine us ever playing it that long on a given day, but that's the tips on all the holes.
That's roughly 900 yards longer than what the women will play. Ben Kimball is going to go into a little bit more detail on that one.
The intent to the back-to-back Opens, when we did this, when this concept really was born and it really was born by my predecessor, David Fay, it was an idea really that as Tom mentioned, to bring the best men in, the best women in and have them play on the same golf course, in this case, on a great golf course, and to set it up the same way.
So the way we will do the setup is that to the extent possible we want these two weeks to play exactly the same, given the slightly differing ability of the men versus the women.
So you're going see the setup of the greens with the same speed Week 1 as Week 2. They're going to be roughly 11½ to 12 on the Stimpmeter.
You're going to see us use roughly the same hole locations. So, you can't use the exact hole locations, for obvious reasons, but I can almost tell you this right now, we will be in the so‑called Payne Stewart location, in round four, both for the men and for the women.
So I suppose that if I was a female playing in the Women's Open, I would be watching very, very closely that first week. Because they're going to get an idea of where a hole location is going to be and how setup is going to be. But that again gets back to some of the intent of having this back to back.
Same grass sites. Same bunker preparation, same preparation of the sandy wire grass areas. The only two differences, and they're relative, is No. 1, we will be playing the women from tees forward where the men play and the second difference is that assuming we are having a cooperative weather week, both weeks, we will have the greens slightly softer. Same speed, but slightly softer for the second week.
But the idea is there that if the men are hitting a wedge in and it's kind of a bounce, stop… that's what we'll want for the women.
If the women are hitting a 6‑iron in and it's a bounce, bounce, stop... that's what we want for the men.
So this all sounds wonderful on paper, I can assure you we have spent a lot of time thinking about this. Will we get it perfect? I can guarantee we will not get this thing perfect. I can promise you.
But the idea is we're going to try to have them play the same golf course. And, again, we could have one week very dry and breezy, the next week still, humid, soft. They're going to play differently. But the idea is same golf course, same setup.
On the bunkers, we get a lot of questions about this. You'll see when you're out there, if you haven't already, what Bill and Ben did with this restoration is just spectacular – how they took these sandy wire grass areas, they almost integrated these areas and planted the bunkers in.
What you'll see out there is a couple things that you wouldn't have seen a few years ago. Number one, because they do literally blend one into the other, so it's an area that's through the green going into a bunker.
There's some question of, well, how do you know when you're in a bunker or not? Well, first of all, we're going to have an official with every group like we do for every Open and that are really going to help with that, if there's a question. But most of the time when you get to what truly is a bunker, which is a kind of a carved out depression, the ball's going to roll down to the bottom.
But where there's any question, there will be hopefully enough definition that the player along with the official can determine that.
Something else I should note on these bunkers is that you're going to see that right now they're just being maintained in the bottoms. We are going to do that for the U.S. Open.
This is a great statement for golf in that the second-most expensive thing in a budget for a golf course is the bunker maintenance. But think about that, it's a hazard. And golf courses are spending huge sums of money, just beyond the putting greens, on maintaining bunkers.
This is a better way to maintain bunkers, it's cheaper, so they just basically tamp down the outside. You'll see some vegetation growing. It gets the ball to the bottom. But this idea of spending hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars on an annual basis to maintain something that's supposed to be a hazard and to have every single lie consistent, it's not something that's good, it's not something that's sustainable for the game, and we would applaud Pinehurst for doing this and are certainly going to do it for the two weeks of the open.
Closing here, we have gotten a lot of questions on why we're playing the Women's Open second. Simply put, we feel the agronomists, the superintendents, feel we have the best chance of getting the putting greens right having the men play first and the women play second. That's the reason.
For that, as I mentioned before, if Mother Nature's cooperative, we will have more moisture in the ground in the putting greens the second week than the first week and they feel the agronomists feel like going from a real dry situation to a semi-dry situation, if you will, is just better. So that is the reason.
We have also had some questions of, certainly Vicki, we heard it from the players, what about divots. In fact, I mentioned at the LPGA players meeting a few weeks ago I said, well, divots are just part of the game. I think half the players scowled at me and half of them laughed. So I'm not sure.
VICKI GOETZE‑ACKERMAN: You didn't lie. That's good.
MIKE DAVIS: But in that vein what I would tell you is that, if you think about it, if we want the women hitting roughly the same clubs into greens as the men, their drive zones are going to be a little closer to the greens to begin with. So we don't think divots ‑‑ well we really don't think divots are going to be part of the story.
Will we get some comments? Will there be some players in divots? Of course there will be. There will be some men in them. But that shouldn't hopefully be a part of the story.
With respect to greens for the men and women, what we are concerned about is if we get some hot, humid weather, both weeks, doesn't matter whether we're having championships or not, that, at that point in the year, the ground staff, particularly with bentgrass greens, is going to have to be mindful of keeping the greens healthy.
To that vein, we're going to try, not only Week 1, but Week 2, to say, the only people we want on the putting greens are the players and caddies. Along with the grounds staff maintaining it or people setting the golf course up.
So don't expect, like you typically do practice rounds in U.S. Opens and Women's Opens, to see the swing coach, the psychiatrist, the dietician, the fitness, I mean all the team that's part of that. We're not going to have 15 people up with each group on each green trying to keep them healthy.
The last thing I will mention before I turn it over to Ben Kimball, Bob Dedman mentioned something that I hope we can get virtually everybody in the room to focus in on, write some articles, broadcast on it, and that's the sustainability of the game, particularly from an environmental cost standpoint.
What was done here with the restoration, in some ways was a byproduct of them wanting to get back to Donald Ross and its origins, but what this has done is they're using less resources to maintain Pinehurst No. 2 than they used to use.
They now do not overseed it, which costs money, uses a lot of water, fertilizer, and so on. So in the winter it goes dormant. It's a wonderful surface to play from.
There also is, as Bob said, they're using 40 or 50 percent of the amount of water they used to use. They're not cutting as much. They don't have to cut the grass in the roughs anymore. So it's just a much more natural environment.
And all of us who care about the game, we talk about the time it takes, the dwindling participation levels from junior golfers, we talk about the cost of the game. At the USGA we would say the biggest threat, the biggest threat to the game long‑term is water.
When you think, whether it's 20 years from now, whether it's right now in certain parts of the country or a hundred years from now, water is going to be the thing that ultimately is going to affect the game the most.
I think that this is a great, great story of what Pinehurst has done to say, there's a way that we don't have to go, we don't have to irrigate 150 acres anymore. We can cut that down. And this is a story, we can get drier, firmer fairways and we hope that this kind of shows the golf world that this can be done other places too.
So in closing let me just say, Bob, to you and your whole Pinehurst group, thank you for everything you've done, the commitment, not only for these two weeks, but what they do for amateur golf and really just the story of Pinehurst is great.
Bob to you and to Kevin Robinson who do such a great job maintaining here, thanks for your partnership.
Peggy, Tom O'Toole already mentioned you, but you are a true living legend and we loved having the Women's Open Championship over at Pine Needles and that's just great to see you here today.
With that let me turn it over to Ben Kimball.
BEN KIMBALL: Good morning. I would first like to introduce Dot Paluck, chairman of the USGA Women's Committee.
We are proud to be able to spotlight the U.S. Women's Open as the most comprehensive test of golf, and arguably the best competitive event in the game, the week after the same golf course provides a similar test for the best male players in the world.
In fact, we think we might have the strongest field in the history of the U.S. Women's Open after conducting international qualifying in China, England, Japan, and Korea for the first time in May.
We expect that some of the Women's Open competitors will arrive in Pinehurst area during U.S. Open week. They will be welcomed on the ground and we will provide practice opportunities for them on other Pinehurst golf courses during the U.S. Open weekend.
Both on Saturday and Sunday of U.S. Open weekend, the No. 7 Course and its practice areas will be available and on Sunday the practice facilities at No. 2 will be open for access in the afternoon of that day.
A dedicated Women's Open locker room will also be available for players registering over the U.S. Open weekend. However, a portion of that locker room being used for the U.S. Open players will be needed in order to meet the full field of the Women's Open's needs.
The U.S. Open player hospitality facility will also be available to the U.S. Women's Open players beginning on Sunday after player registration.
And players and guests will be offered tickets for USGA hospitality even prior to Sunday.
Lastly, if we have a playoff for the U.S. Open, it will be on Monday at noon local time. Practice rounds for the U.S. Women's Open will begin at 6:45 a.m. off of the first tee. Practice times will be slated in an appropriate time window to accommodate any grounds maintenance, the U.S. Open playoff, and then will resume after the playoff has started.
A Monday playoff will set up the possibility of the men's and women's competitors hitting balls side by side, which will only add to the excitement of this event. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens come this June.
Now, we're going to hear from two‑time USGA champion, and president of the LPGA player directors, Vicki Goetze‑Ackerman.
VICKI GOETZE‑ACKERMAN: As president of the LPGA Players Association it is a pleasure and honor to be here today with the leaders of Pinehurst Resort & Country Club and the USGA as we approach the unprecedented two Opens in June.
From the LPGA players’ perspective, we can already see how this Women's Open is the most talked about and anticipated Women's Open yet.
The increase in awareness and exposure for the event and women golf are significant positives for the LPGA Tour, as well as the game of golf.
The U.S. Open is one of our five major championships. It holds true to everyone's heart on the LPGA Tour and is a highlight of our season, something the players very much look forward to, the challenges of the golf course, as well as the facilities we go to and experiences that they cherish.
We feel that bringing the women's and the men's games together is not only innovative and open-minded, but a great opportunity to showcase the best of the best in the game of golf for both genders.
Personally, I think this is the coolest thing ever. When I heard about the two Opens coming to Pinehurst I was super excited. Then it hit me that I probably wouldn't be playing golf at that point on tour. But being part of the LPGA as the president enables me to still be a part of those two weeks and is the next-best thing to not teeing it up.
To watch the men and the women go onto the iconic Pinehurst No. 2 and see on those fairways the same challenges that I did back in 1989, will be a thrill for me and something that I'm going to bring my husband and son to experience as well.
Since my victory, 25 years ago, that was pointed out to me by a reporter. Wow. A little while ago. The restoration has been done by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and although I've not had an opportunity to play Pinehurst No. 2, I am very positive that it will endure the test of time and that it will be a great test for all the golfers coming forward. Anyone who has won on Pinehurst No. 2 can attest to the treachery that that course contains. So it will be a treat for all of us to watch the two Opens.
As I was coming back here in the weeks leading up there's been a lot of memories that have surfaced, things I didn't even know were back in my brain. But I can remember staying with my housing,the Burgesses and every morning Mrs. Burgess would go into, put her hand in her pocket and she would put her hand out and say, here's a pocket full of one‑putts for you.
I remember that I ate the same breakfast every single day. I was a little superstitious, I guess. I remember the bunker shot from the front bunker on No. 4 to the back hole location and getting up‑and‑down to win the hole and completely changing the dynamics of the match.
I can remember the putt on hole No. 15, the 33rd hole, sitting on front edge and my dad turning away, because he thought I left it short again, and it dropping in for me to win the championship.
And then finally, obviously, my dad caddieing for me and the smile on his face when he realized that we had won together.
Those memories I'll always cherish, I'm super-biased to Pinehurst, I know, but it's a fantastic venue and great to be here and part of it.
I don't know who will win the two championships, but whoever it is will definitely have unbelievable patience, will have great course management and a game plan before they approach the day. They will have figured out how to get out of the collection areas, because they will get in them. They will obviously have a hot putter and be able to handle the undulating greens out here.
The LPGA players very much look forward to June being a part of the historical event of the back-to-back Opens at Pinehurst No. 2. I know that Pinehurst and the USGA and the players will put on a fantastic show for all of us to watch and we'll remember for years to come.
In closing, I just want to thank Pinehurst No. 2 for taking on the two championships. I know that's a huge ordeal to undertake, but the women are very excited to come here and play their Open Championship and return to the area where we have been before at Pine Needles.
Thank you to the USGA for their efforts to make the LPGA and the women so welcome. The USGA has come to speak to our head directors at LPGA and to our player meetings and listened to our thoughts and concerns and ideas and it's been very much appreciated.
Finally, I would really like to thank all the media here today and everywhere for their coverage of golf. Your efforts have really moved the needle for the game of golf and its awareness and from a LPGA standpoint, we really appreciate the coverage that you've given us over the years and look forward to working with you in the future. So thank you very much for having me here today. It's been a pleasure and enjoy going out there and playing. Thank you.
CHRISTINA LANCE: Thank you, Vicki. Thank you to everyone for your time today. At this point we're going to open up the floor for questions. If you have a question, please raise your hand and just wait until we're able to get a microphone for you. Does anyone wish to break the ice?
Q. Mike and Ben, talking about the rebuild of the course, and both of your remarks, does the change in the course open up new pin positions and if so, are some of them more or less diabolical than others and I mean that in the best way.
MIKE DAVIS: The putting greens, the design of them really weren't changed. So the easy answer would be no, although the 15th green and the 17th green were modified by Bill and Ben and really modified in such a way that all they really did was take what used to be there.
So in the case of the 15th hole, you can now get really a right-side hole location where the green really is much closer to the bunker, which is the way it used to be.
On the 17th hole, they’ve got some hole locations behind the front right bunker, which had been so much sand built up over the years that they really had lost that hole location.
But other than that, really we're going to have the same green speeds and I won't say the same hole locations as the last two years, but nothing really has changed with the greens other than that.
Q. There's obviously collection areas out here that a lot of players are going to get in. Where are some concern spots for you where the women might have challenges that are the same as the men?
MIKE DAVIS: Good question. What's interesting about these closely mown areas is that I remember back in 1999, and Bob can confirm this, we had them at about a quarter of an inch, so about .250. And they were almost too tight, whereby most of the players were hitting putts when they missed the green.
We raised that just a little bit to around .300 as I recall in 2005. And just that little bit difference allowed players a little bit more of an option. It was a little harder to putt, because they had to hit it harder, but it gave you a little bit more cushion where you could make hit a bump shot or you could hit a pitch shot.
We saw very, very, very little divoting the last two Opens. Most of the players who do decide to pitch it are more just clipping it. They're not really playing a type of flop shot that creates a divot.
All in all I think what's so fascinating about these closely mowns is that you will see players continually ponder what type of shot they want to play. Which is one of the great things, should they hit a putt, a bump and run, a little hybrid shot, or do they want to hit a pitch or flop shot. And that's what's neat. It gives the players options.
Q. Two questions. Was any thought given to playing all areas with sand or wiregrass as one rule by whether through the green or a hazard. Second, there are lots of plants out there coming through the soil. 50, 60 plants, that they're watching and clipping. There are going to be some marginal areas. Are you going to have some complicated rulings, what advice or training will the Rules officials be given as to what happens when a ball is on one of those half areas, because it's going to happen, one way or the other.
MIKE DAVIS: Really good questions. We will play bunkers as bunkers. So they will be hazards. The other sandy wire grass areas that have other types of vegetation will just be through the green. So in those areas the player can ground his or her club, can remove loose impediments.
But what you're going to see by and large is that balls that start to get in those depressions of bunkers, because the sides are tamped down and they even will be more tamped down come the championships, they're just going to roll to the bottom in the raked areas. I think we're going to see that 99 percent of the time. But the times that maybe it does hang up and you're right on the edge, that's where we have got the official. I think that if we really do get into a place where you say, you could go either way, we're always going to side with saying it's in the hazard, don't ground your club.
So we never contemplated having everything through the green or everything a hazard. That's just not how the Rules of Golf operate.
Did I answer the other part? OK.
Q. Wanted to get clarification on hole locations, pin positions, and maybe Ben could chime in on this. You're not going to, obviously, use the same exact hole locations, but will the four men's hole locations and women's hole locations mirror each other for those four rounds in terms of areas?
BEN KIMBALL: Very good question. Certainly Mike and I, we want it to play the same from one week to the next and think that it's important that providing the same test from Week 1 to Week 2.
Certainly the challenging thing for me and trying to pick out hole locations, I almost have to wait and see what we're going to decide and use for the U.S. Open and then we'll have to adjust accordingly.
Keeping them in the same quadrants, absolutely. But as conditions change, as Mother Nature changes things on the putting surfaces, for us in U.S. Open week, Mike may have to make some slight manipulation to the hole locations he selects, which then in turn may cause me to have to make some adjustments on my own. But to answer your question, yeah, we want to give them the same look from Week 1 to Week 2.
Q. The playoff format obviously on Monday for the men's and women's that was changed from a 18‑hole playoff to I believe to three-hole aggregate after the 2007 Women’s Open. I understand that it's going to be 18 holes for the men, but down the road is there any consideration to deciding the championship on not 18 holes for the men in the future?
DAN BURTON: I think it's probably an unlikely thing. We continue to look at everything that we do in the championship arena and see if we're satisfied with it. I think there's a great deal of comfort in our position as it is now and that doesn't mean somewhere in the future it doesn't change. But I think we're very happy with where we are now and don't anticipate it changing.
Q. You guys mentioned it a little bit in thanking Pinehurst, why did you select Pinehurst to host this double?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, if you go back the concept of this is, as I mentioned some time this morning, David Fay, who was the executive director before me, it was really his idea. I really think he got the idea when he went to the U.S. Open tennis and said, we should try this in golf.
So we talked about it and the big challenge was trying to set up a golf course for both weeks that you didn't compromise one week or the other week. You wanted to set it up for a national championship. When the idea came up, we thought the one place it would probably work would be Pinehurst.
Interestingly enough, when this concept came up, this was before Bob Dedman and Don Padgett had decided they wanted to restore Pinehurst and remove 35 or 40 acres of rough grass.
But when you set up a U.S. Open or a Women's Open, in bermudagrass rough, it's usually only two and a half, two and three quarters at the most three inches in length because in bermudagrass the ball sinks to the bottom.
So generally there would have only been maybe a half an inch of difference between men and women for that week and we said, we can do that for the men's. Versus if we were trying at Oakmont or Shinnecock or Pebble Beach, the difference in the heights of rough would be to get it relatively the same it's just too much, that we didn't think we could do it.
So that's really why Pinehurst was chosen and I wasn't even part of the phone call when David Fay made that phone call, but he did a nice job selling the concept. And they went along with it.
Q. In the initial intent on bringing it to Pinehurst, were there early discussions about doing it again somewhere else?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, unless Dan Burton wants to take this, I believe that where we stand right now is we really want to see how it goes.
Listen, we went into this knowing that there were risks. But we went into it knowing that there was a lot more upside. As Tom O'Toole said, when you think about bringing ‑‑ it's really a two‑week celebration of the world's best men and women and there's just so much more upside.
Could we get a bad weather week, Week 1? Of course we could. Could Week 1 go into Week 2? Of course. Will there be more divots Week 2 if we didn't have it? Of course.
But we just think there's so much more upside, and as I've said, I think what really hit it for me personally is back in 2010, I was involved with setting up both the U.S. Open and the Women's Open then. I had done the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, and then three years later we had the Women's Open at Oakmont. I just remember hearing so many comments, questions, of, how are the women going to handle Oakmont.
And it was ‑‑ I always felt that those were really unfair questions, because it just showed almost a lack of appreciation of how good the women play the game.
I think that while that was three years difference, we really did try to set Oakmont up the same way. We had greens that were 14½, 15, for both weeks. The women handled it beautifully. Same fairway widths, same relative length on distance. It was great.
So I think given the fact that these are back to back, it's going to showcase I think just how good the females can play the game.
Q. What's the challenge of pushing the greens to the edge for the men's without going over the edge to where maybe it will impact the women.
MIKE DAVIS: Good question. I think that one of ‑‑ when we talk, when there's internal meetings with Pinehurst and the USGA, one of the focuses is let's make sure that the greens are really healthy and stay healthy for the whole two weeks.
So part of what stresses a green out is weather. So some of it we can't necessarily control. If we get two straight weeks of 95 degree weather and it's just oppressive, listen, it doesn't matter whether it's resort play, the greens are going to stress a little bit.
But we feel very, very good coming into this and the notion that these greens are going to be dead afterwards is simply not the case. We feel extremely comfortable, and you can speak to Bob about that, that we really have very little concerns about the health of the greens for a two-week period of time.
Q. Is either championship still seeking volunteers and are there tickets available for both still?
MIKE DAVIS: I am going to have to defer to Reg or Tim.
REG JONES: All our volunteer positions have been filled up for quite some time and actually start our training process and in early May. Our tickets are about 90 percent sold. We're anticipating on peak days for the men's Open we'll have between 50,000 and 55,000 people and the Women's Open about 20,000 to 25,000 on peak days. But we still have availability for gallery tickets on both championship days right now. We're sold out our Trophy Club tickets and our series packages for the men's Open.
CHRISTINA LANCE: All right. Well thank you very much for coming.