June 18, 2014
THOMAS J. O'TOOLE, JR.: Good morning. Welcome to the 69th playing of the United States Women's Open Championship and its press conference. Of course, the championship to be conducted here at the Pinehurst resort on Donald Ross's historic course No. 2. I'm Tom O'Toole, Junior, the President of the United States Golf Association, and we are energized by the arrival of the competitors, as we move into week two here at Pinehurst and saw the interaction of both the best female and best male players in the world, of course, in this unprecedented back-to-back championships. I think one of the most compelling things that I saw was Sunday afternoon, as Mike Davis and I walked with Martin Kaymer and Rickie Fowler, was the number of the great women's players in the world inside the ropes enjoying the experience in the final round of the Men's Open as they prepared to play here tomorrow. We are honored to have more than 650 credentialed media here on the grounds, many of which have covered in back-to-back weeks. We are especially pleased to host our Women's Open championship for the first time on, again, the historic grounds of course No. 2. It's the 8th overall championship to be contested here, which includes the 1962 and 2008 U.S. Amateurs, the 1989 U.S. Women's Amateur, the 1994 U.S. Senior Open, and of course the 1999, the 2005 and last week's 2014 U.S. Opens. Pinehurst is the only course, underscore only, to host all five Major USGA championships. We're also celebrating Pinehurst's legacy for women's golf and women's competitive golf, a tradition that dates back to the inaugural North and South Women's Amateur in 1903 and of course continues to today. Before I introduce those on the dais, of course, want to recognize Dot Paluck, the chairman of the U.S. Women's Committee, and all that the Women's Committee does, not only for the championship, but for women's golf throughout our country. Here joining us on the dais and back from what we had presented last week is, of course, our executive director, Mike Davis, our championship chair, Dan Burton, and then we introduce, in his first role here since being at Pinehurst, Ben Kimball, the director of the U.S. Women's Open championship, all of which you will hear from today. Without further adieu, it is my honor to introduce the championship chair of the USGA Championship Committee, Dan Burton.
DAN BURTON: Thank, you Tom. Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the 2014 United States Women's Open. There's been a lot said and written over the past several months about the condition of the golf course coming into today, so let me start by addressing that question. The golf course is in absolutely magnificent condition. The greens are rolling probably as good as any championship, both this week and last week, that we've had for many, many years. The green surrounds where there will be a lot of chipping are absolutely pristine. And the fairways are in excellent shape, as well. We're happy to say and answer that question as we get ready to start the championship. Today, the USGA welcomes 156 of the world's best female golfers to the 69th U.S. Women's Open, representing 26 countries. All will compete for the Harton S. Semple Trophy and our U.S. Women's Open gold medal. We also announced today that they will compete for a four million dollar purse. An increase over the 2.5 million that was awarded in 2013. Among those in the field are 11 U.S. Women's Open champions, including defending champion, Inbee Park. In the same spirit in which our championship was founded, we also celebrate the 25 amateurs in the U.S. Women's Open field this year. Led by Emma Talley, our 2013 U.S. Women's Open champion and member of the victorious 2014 Curtis Cup team. Her Curtis Cup teammate Ally McDonald is also here at Pinehurst. This is a return for Ally who won the 2013 North/South Championship right here on Pinehurst No. 2. Three of the top five women amateurs, including number one ranked Minjee Lee are part of a very strong field. And we are eager to see the rest of the story unfold. In anticipation of our first back-to-back U.S. Open championships, we have enjoyed record entries for this year's Women's Open. With 1,702 applications, breaking the mark of 1,420 set last year. This included entries from our four international qualifying sites, People's Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and England. Beginning in 2015, we will increase the number of exemptions from the current Rolex World Golf Rankings from the current 25 to the top 50 points leaders. As is our normal practice, we will continue to review the exemption process to insure a competitive field. As we announced last month, the USGA will also alter its championship schedule. We are pleased that beginning in 2018 at Shoal Creek, our U.S. Women's Open will precede the U.S. Open Championship to begin practice rounds on Memorial Day and conclude the first Sunday in June. Making this permanent change allows us to elevate the visibility of the Women's Open and provide optimum agronomic and playing conditions on a much broader variety of golf courses around the country. We believe this will make our best championship in women's golf even better. We'd like to thank the Pinehurst Resort and Country Club for allowing us to make history this week and allowing us to conduct our U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open championship in executive weeks. We appreciate the support of Pinehurst and CEO and owner, Bob Dedman, general chairman of the U.S. Open championship and Pinehurst president, Don Padgett, incoming president, Tom Pashley, and a special thanks to golf course grounds superintendent, Bob Farren, who are with us today. We are also honored by the presence of done policy I can, Tim Flaherty, the senior director of the U.S. Women's Open championship, and Reg Jones, the senior director of U.S. Open championships, who have all played an instrumental role in the success of our back-to-back events. Let me close by adding my gratitude to the staff of the USGA, led by Tim Flaherty and Reg Jones, for a very smooth transition to the U.S. Open championship week. Their teams have created what we hope to be and expect to be an excellent spectator experience. Thank you for joining us, enjoy the championship and now Ben Kimball, our director of U.S. Women's Open championship will discuss course setup.
BEN KIMBALL: Thank you, Dan. Good morning, everyone. Let me first say how grateful we are to have friends like Bob Farren and Kevin Robinson and the entire grounds staff here at Pinehurst. Their cooperation, expertise, and dedication to making sure that these two championships succeed has been phenomenal. We couldn't have done it without their support. They're some of the best in the business and, gentlemen, you and your team have been phenomenal. So thank you for everything that you've done to this point. The Pinehurst No. 2 course will set up to a maximum yardage of 6,649 yards, to a par of 70 for the U.S. Women's Open championship. I think it's important to note that we did not utilize the maximum yardage on the card for any single round for the U.S. Open championship last week and we don't intend to at the U.S. Women's Open this week, either. Holes like No. 4, 11, 16, 17, 18, are just a few to name that will play shorter than the card reads on most days. From its inception, we have intended this course to be set up in a similar fashion for both championship weeks. We are confident that we have gotten this right on paper, but due to the architectural nature of Pinehurst No. 2, we're not going to be perfect in every area, on every shot. However, Pinehurst No. 2 provides some great flexibility within their teeing grounds, which allow us to make some adjustments as we go along through the championship week and the competition, if need be. In regards to some specifics in adjusting from the U.S. Open to the U.S. Women's Open and setup, a few items to note. As far as green speeds, we intend to keep the green speeds exactly the same that we saw for the men as we do the women. The last report that I received, we're in the middle to upper 12's, which is very consistent with what we saw at U.S. Open week. So no change there. As far as hole locations, part of the test of golf is we wanted to see how the women do at the same hole locations that the men are playing to. I think you'll see most of the hole locations on the golf course will be a pace or two paces apart and they're balanced beautifully around the golf course to provide that appropriate test. Green firmness. One thing that, through research, it's easy to identify that the women do not hit the golf ball as high or have the ability to spin it as much as the men. So green firmness is many the biggest change you'll see from week one to week two. After the U.S. Open completed, there were three, four-minute cycles of water put on every single putting green here at Pinehurst No. 2. 12 minutes total on every single putting green. In order to put us in a better position to control firmness for the course of the week. And we feel confident with that plan. We intend to put down water on all putting green surfaces on a nightly basis. That way, we can manage firmness properly throughout the course of the week. As I mentioned, total yardage is about, a little, roughly more than 900 yards shorter than the men played in the previous week. We feel that is a very good number, in order for us to identify who our national champion is going to be. But let me reiterate Mr. Burton's comments: The golf course is in phenomenal shape. It's happy, it's healthy, it's ready to go. We're certainly looking forward to a great week and crowning our national champion. It has always been our intent to create a fair and challenging setup, specifically designed for the women's competitive game and I feel that we've done that. We will continue to carefully monitor weather conditions, what appears to be a hot and muggy couple of days for all of us here at Pinehurst, to make sure that we insure optimum championship conditions and we look forward to a very exciting Women's Open championship. Without further adieu, it is my honor to introduce USGA executive director, Mike Davis, to share his thoughts on the back-to-back championships and the careful transition from last week to this week.
MIKE DAVIS: Good morning everybody. Let me, first of all, in some ways, piggyback on what Dan and Ben said. It has really been gratifying the last few days to run into several players, in fact a few last night. We had a past Women's Open champions dinner, which was just magical. We did the same thing last year at Merion for the men. But to hear comments along the lines of, "we have less divots out there than we have week to week," just knowing some of the comments that we had coming into this thing, was very gratifying. The greens are in beautiful condition. So we really feel like we're well positioned for a great championship this week. I thought I'd make a few more macro-level comments about the golf course setup and tying in the two weeks. And then we'll open it up for questions. Also, I do want to, just because we've had enough questions about the issue of a brown golf course, I want to make a few comments about that, if I could. As Ben said, it was our intent all along to really try to set this golf course up in a like manner. And I think that that started a few years ago when we were going through our minds, okay, how will we set it up for the men and the women and do we have the right teeing grounds out there, what kind of shots will they be playing off the tees into the greens. So the last -- or the seven days of the U.S. Open, so the three practice rounds, along with the four championship rounds, we collected over 50,000 data points. We did this through -- we actually paid the caddies a stipend. We asked the caddies to tell us, what did you play or hit off each teeing ground. What did your player hit into each green on their approach shot. Whether it was a par-3, approach shot on a par-4, or even par-5. And what was the distance of the approach shot. Then we had volunteers out on the course around the greens that were, starting on practice rounds, and we'd been doing it also yesterday and today -- I should say Monday, yesterday, and we'll do it the rest of the way this week, is we have volunteers out there keeping data for us saying, okay, did the person hit the green? Did they land short and bounce it on? Did they land on and did it bounce over? Did they land on and did it stop? How soon did it stop? This data has all been put in, really, to a computer, and we look at that data and really say, okay, this is the first hole. This is what they're hitting off. This is the range. This is what they're hitting into the green. This is how it's reacting. We take that and look with our firmness readings, our moisture readings, and it really give us a picture of, okay, here's how the men played week one. Now what we're really trying to do is make little adjustments by watching, how are the women playing so far on week two. It's been fascinating. One of the details is, we have a good bit of data on men in terms of how they hit it. Certainly everybody sees week to week, drive distances and so on, but we were more interested in approaches. And one of the things that's been interesting through this data so far is that we're finding that, on average, there's about a 25 yard difference in terms of approach shots -- the clubs they hit, from men to women. So just to give you an example, last week, seven days of data, the average 5-iron went 203 yards for the men. This week the average 5-iron is going 175 yards. For a 7-iron last week it went 180 yards. This week it's going 156 yards. The women seem this week to be getting to a hybrid -- they're using more hybrids than, say last week was used for 4-irons. So while we've seen really a line that roughly that 25 yards stays put, once you get up to a 3 or 4-iron you're seeing more women using hybrids and that 25 yard distance is shrinking a little bit. In other words, the women are hitting their 4 hybrid a little bit further than the men hit their 4 hybrid, relatively speaking. Probably gave you way more data than you want, but for us this is a wonderful way to really sit and say, okay, this is how it played last week, let's see if we can make it as close as possible to this week, knowing we can't control winds and, you know, the fairways could be softer or firmer this week, depending on what kind of weather we get. But that's really the research we've gone through. There are some holes we, simply put, will not be able to get it to play the same. So what we're trying to do is balance that over 18 holes. Right off the bat the first hole, if you've looked at it, there's a pinch point that was put in architect ally by Coore Crenshaw. Certainly last week the vast majority of the men laid back to that, to the wide part of it and played 9-irons, wedges in. We think the same thing, based on the first two days we saw, will happen this week. But that being said, that's going to put roughly two more clubs. Instead of 9-iron, wedges, it's probably going to be 8 and 7-irons in. So we will try to make that up somewhere else where it makes sense architecturally. So that's the process. We're excited about it. The other element, beyond just the distance issue, is, really, Ben alluded to it, it's the firmness of the greens. We prepped this golf course so the greens are the same speed. The bunkers are prepared the same, fairways same height, so on and so forth. So it's really just trying to get balls to react when they're coming in, in a like manner. Again, if it rains on us, it will be harder to do that. And then to the second issue I mentioned, really has to do with, we've had a fair amount of questions about, okay, we see this brown golf course on TV, what does it mean? And I think, just to clarify our position on it, is that, number one, we could not be more pleased with how it's playing. That's the key is how is it playing. And we think it's playing beautifully. The architects, Coore/Crenshaw, could not be happier. In terms of the aesthetic thing, we would readily admit that some people like green, some people like a tinge of brown. It's like art work. What I like, Ben Kimball may not like. But the point is we have a very healthy golf course. It's playing the way we want it to play. And I guess that we see the messaging not so much is, brown is good, what we're trying to say is less water on golf courses in general is a good thing. It's a good thing for the environment. It's a good thing because balls bounce further for the recreational player. You can bounce balls into greens. For the good player there's an extra challenge because they've got to think about what happens when the ball lands. Where is it going to bounce, where is it going to roll. And I think, as we've talked about -- and by the way, this group, thank you for your support on this, a lot of you have written some wonderful articles about sustainability. But moving forward, it's not just a cost issue with water. And, believe me, costs have just risen way beyond other areas of cost in terms of inflation. And it's gotten to the point it has put some golf courses out of business in this country. The other thing, it's just access to water. Even if you have enough money to pay for it, there's some places being told you can't get as much. So our focus is really less water, firm conditions. The brown part, you have to understand, that we're on a sand base golf course here. You're with Bermuda. It's essentially -- those areas you see brown are essentially dormant. It's like fine fescue would go dormant at one of the British Open courses. Some golf courses the grass can't turn brown or if it turns brown it dies. But it doesn't mean that you can't have those grasses, like some blue grasses, some -- certainly ryegrass, some other grasses, like bent and poa annua, if it gets real dry it doesn't necessarily turn brown, it gets a tint of tan or maybe a purplish color. But the point is, we're trying to get it drier. And the other message is to really focus on the middle of the golf course, the periphery, if you will, just less maintenance. Less water means less mowing, less fertilization and all the rest. So that really is our message here. We're happy with the look. But for those who don't like the brown look, listen, it's playing exactly the way we want it to play, and we could not be more pleased. The grounds staff under Bob Farren and Kevin Robinson could not have done a better job. We're very healthy. So with that, let me turn it back over to Beth and open it up for questions.
Q. How many fewer grandstands, concessions?
BEN KIMBALL: I didn't catch all that.
Q. If you could talk about the reduction for the Women's Open, in terms of infrastructure, number of grandstands, capacity, however it's measured.
MIKE DAVIS: We're going to have Reg Jones, who's managed both weeks. Maybe everybody can hear you, or give Reg a mic.
REG JONES: We've reduced grandstands on 17 and 18. In the total, it's about 3,600 grandstands from 21,600 to just under 18,000 grandstands that we'll have here. On 18, specifically, we reduced from about 4,077 down to about 1,560.
REG JONES: We've got about six concessions, some of our supplemental locations that we closed. But that's not out of the normal. We typically, even during practice rounds on the men's Open, don't open all of our locations.
Q. I don't know if this question has been asked. I'm curious, obviously setting up the infrastructure here for two weeks instead of doing it for one week at two separate places has some economic benefits. Can you put a figure on that? How much efficiency is there that you guys are getting out of this?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, good question. We've certainly been asked that so far. It's a little hard to give you an exact answer right now, because we essentially took what is normally two budgets and we put them together. So, for instance, a lot of the ticket sales were tied together. The corporate sales were tied together. We have a grandstand vendor come in, for example, it's one vendor. And while I guess we did do some reduction for this week, it really is one budget. When we look at it internally, in terms of, okay, if they were two separate things and you put them together, we believe we're really just about even. And it was, I think early on there were some -- I can remember talking to David Fay about this, years ago, there was a mindset that, hey, there may be some economics of scale, which absolutely in some areas we would have them. But in other areas, you may actually see some additional costs. So we think, at the end of the day, when we've run our final numbers we will, if you combine the two, we'll be about where we would have been if they were two separate championships.
Q. Mike, this unprecedented playing of men and women back-to-back weeks, what's your hope in how it will be remembered?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, first of all, the hope was that we would really, in a lot of ways, celebrate truly the best male and female players coming to one of the great golf courses in this country. That was -- and I think that we saw enough intrigue when we -- when we took, for example, the U.S. Women's Open to Oakmont, there was a real buzz to that in 2010. There were a lot of us, and I know David Fay was one of those, we need to do that more often. And I can remember in 2010 going into it beforehand, I've said this before, there was a certain thought that, how are the women going to handle that golf course? Because that truly is one of the hardest U.S. Open sites we play for men. And they handled it beautifully. And we really did try to set it up in almost every respect in a like manner. The 9th hole for them was a par-5 versus say par-4 for the men, because there was a turnpike there that we couldn't get any more distance. But I think that had a lot to do with us doing this to say, let's try it back-to-back. David Fay came up with the idea because he had gone to the U.S. Open tennis. And you had that wonderful celebration or two weeks. Now there, you've got the men and the women playing together, so if you're a fan going to that thing, you're seeing both men and women on the same day. We couldn't -- thankfully he didn't ask us to do that (laughter). I don't know how we would have figured that one out. But it really was about a celebration of women's golf. And then Dan, who chairs Championship and the whole group will say, we'll assess this when we're done. There's no way this could be done on an annual basis. At least, if we would do it, we'd have to start going to different venues, that we'd lose some of our most favored venues, probably. But I think we'll look at it and say, how did it go? And, one day, should we do it again.
Q. Mike, you had mentioned all the data points that you collected from last week and so forth, I was wondering if you guys could give us an example of how those data points were used to translate into a particular hole this week that made you really change how you set it up from the men to the women, if there was one hole like that.
BEN KIMBALL: Good question. You know, actually spent a lot of time reviewing a lot of the data yesterday, as we continue to work our way towards Thursday. And one of the holes that Mike and I spent a lot of time talking about today was hole No. 15 and how that was going to play for the women. And if we go back and look at the data, the men -- the average was in between a 5 and 7-iron for the men for the U.S. Open. And we're seeing right now that the women are averaging in between a 5 and a 7-iron on 15 from where we've been putting the tee markers on a daily basis. That tells us that, on paper, we thought it was right, and in reality, on the golf course, it is actually correct. So it allows us to kind of dial in some of these holes that were a little troublesome. Because 15 can be, certainly, a difficult hole. If it gets very, very firm, it would be very difficult for the women to hold that one. We wanted to make sure that we had the appropriate club in their hand for that hole. There are some other long par-4s out there that we're seeing that we need to move the tees up just a little bit. The tee signs are at the maximum yardage that the hole would actually play on. And like I said earlier, we don't envision playing any of these holes all the way back, all the time. And now that we have collected this data, it's fantastic, because we can see exactly, do we need to scoot the tee markers up five to seven paces, do we need to move it up 10 to 15. It really allows us to kind of dial things in. And it's been great that we've been able to collect this data. It's certainly something that's going to help us set up our championships in a better manner moving forward. And it certainly makes my job a lot easier.
MIKE DAVIS: The only thing I'll add to that is that it wasn't as if week one was all mapped out exactly how we wanted to do it. We make so many audibles, when we see a wind forecast or how firm it is, or how a hole location is playing, we may move tee markers back, we may move them up, and it could be significant. So I think that you go into it with a game plan for the week, you make changes, and now we're sitting back saying, let's look at what we did week one, and how could we translate that into week two, knowing that we may get some weather conditions, and that's okay.
Q. The distance gap on this Tour between the longest hitters and the shortest hitters, always creates some setup challenges. Will you be able to have a drivable par-4, will you be able to have gettable par-5s in two?
BEN KIMBALL: The answer to your question, yes. We've got that as part of our strategy for the U.S. Women's Open's certainly. I think you're going to see a very consistent setup approach as you saw with the U.S. Open. So if the best female players in the world were paying attention, they would maybe get a little preview of what they could see this week. But we want to showcase women's golf and we want to show the world that they are the very best. And we want to put them on the same stage, have the same shots, the same amount of pressure that the men had in the previous weeks. So some drivable par-4s are part of the strategy. Some, get home in two par-5s, are part of the strategy. And it will certainly be out there for the taking.
Q. A quick question about your favorite subject. As you look, and I'm sure you're curious, as all of us are, how the course is going to play. How do you measure how the course plays without looking at the winning score or score?
MIKE DAVIS: I would say, for me, you certainly have to look at numbers on how it plays. So we'll look at a lot of numbers. To me, one of the things you'll look at is, what is the scoring average for the field. That, I think, would be one. Ron just asked about from the best of the field down to the -- what the spread is. I think you consider that. To me, part of it is the shots -- there's a quantitative part and there's qualitative, there's a subjective part. I think just watching how the course plays is going to be a big part of it. It's just watching shots being hit into greens, can they handle the thing. But when we go to look at numbers, to me, I would never look at that winning score as a metric. Because, think about this, last week, if Martin Kaymer had not been in the championship, what is it? 1-under would have tied. So Martin could have played better and he could have been 12-under. To me, he did kind of separate -- not kind of, he did separate himself from the field. So, I suppose you look at the winning score, but would also look at what are the top-10, 15 players doing it in terms of scoring. What's the whole field. What did it take to make the cut. How did each hole play in relation to par. We'll have to look at each hole individually. Because we've already said that we can't get all 18 holes to play exactly the same. So we're going to try, over the course of four days, to balance that out. I think that's it. And I think, at least Ben and I, along with Dan and the others involved with the setup here, we're really not sure what to expect. So we're, in some ways, as interested as probably others are.
Q. Prediction on winning score?
MIKE DAVIS: Prediction on winning score? Prediction on what the weather is going to be this week, other than hot. I don't know. I'm not good at that.
Q. Earlier in the week last week there was a lot of concern about how punitive the roughs would be. The first day it was .40 cost of rough, it ended up averaging .28, which is lower than -- so my question is -- at the end of the week, Martin Kaymer's caddie told Suzann Pettersen's caddie, just bomb a driver, it doesn't matter. So my question is how will the roughs performed, the scruffy, sandy areas.
MIKE DAVIS: Well, just for everybody's edification, what we're talking about is an analysis we do, or have done for years, on a cost of rough measurement. And so we would measure, say on a given hole, every player that hits the fairway, and from that point, I mean, what did they score on the hole? And it always comes out, if you hit the fairway, those players, you're going to score lower. Most U.S. Opens that cost of rough is somewhere .33 .4. Since we graduated the rough, that's even changed things a little bit. But what's been fascinating is, this week, when you miss the fairway here, that cost of rough is pretty close to what it was in 1999 and 2005. So the idea of bombing a driver, if you can do that, and keep it in the fairway, great idea. But if you're consistently hitting it in the sandy wire grass area, I mean, the data would show that that's not going to be a way to score great. But I think at the end of it, less club coming into these turtle back greens, that does mean something, there's no doubt about it. If you're hitting a wedge versus a 7-iron, your chance of keeping it up on these things is certainly better.
Q. The follow-up, in an effort to get the women to hit similar or the same clubs, you have to move them up and now -- many of the par-4s neck down in that area. So they're playing to a narrower fairway, if they're hitting a full driver. Are you concerned there's a little bit of an inequity that their target areas bring more bunkers and more kind of scruffy stuff into play the way the fairways neck off at that deeper point?
MIKE DAVIS: You know, another really good question. On some holes, you are exactly right. I think the second hole is a pretty good example, where it is really wide back, where, let's say, the middle to lower half of the field was hitting it for the men. But if you watched where the men actually drove it on No. 2, they were getting up into the thin part, at least the longer players that hit it. That's where the women are going to be hitting it. So, in the case of No. 2, absolutely, they're having to drive it, in a sense, a little bit straighter. Yet there's other holes out there, 16 would be a good example. Look where the players who hit driver for the men drove it. That truly was in the neck. Where we think the women will drive it, it actually widens out a little bit. So I think, if you really study it, Coore and Crenshaw did a fascinating and wonderful job of balancing it out well. They did -- listen, they did it also for the resort play, and very strategic about it. You make a good point, it's not going to be completely consistent week to week from last week to this week, but I think it will be -- it will, overall, be a good measure on the test, I think.
Q. You talked a little about the 2018 Women's Open moving to the first Sunday in June. I think, if I heard you, that that's to be a permanent change. Is that because to maybe more identify it with that date? A lot of people think of the U.S. Open as ending on Father's Day. The U.S. Women's Open's last several years has gone anywhere from May to July. Do you feel like the event is more strategic to have it on a certain date, that people relate it to, and does it help to have it lead into the Men's Open?
DAN BURTON: I think on all those counts they all factored into, one, I think having a permanent date is a big advantage, for lots of reasons, for the players, for people who like to watch it. I think preceding the U.S. Open gives it the spotlight and sets up coming into The Open. Both events, both championships benefit from that. The overriding reason was, that week, if you look across the entire country, of all the ideal times we could play anywhere and have good agronomic conditions, have good results, that week would really be one of the premier weeks of the year. So we just felt like having a permanent time, giving it the spotlight of two weeks before the U.S. Open, being able to broaden the number of courses we could go to, all really were part of the decision to do it; and it is a permanent decision starting in '18. That is when the U.S. Women's Open will be.
Q. You talked about how there's sort of an interest and excitement when the women play traditional men's course for the first time like Oakmont and Pinehurst. Are there any courses that you could maybe say that you think could be in play? I believe the women are up to 2017. But after that, traditional men's courses that maybe might be open to having the U.S. Women's Open now?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, I personally believe any place we've ever held the U.S. Open would be a wonderful venue for the U.S. Women's Open. All those golf courses, in terms of the test of golf, would be superb. All of those markets in terms of the operations and the market would work. But ultimately we've been a very reactive -- have always been -- organization with respect to invitations that come in. So we get golf facilities, golf clubs that invite us for a junior event that have no interest in doing one of the Opens. So I think, for us, just waiting to see what comes in. But to Dan's point, one of our real strategic goals is to make this event -- for all of our events -- but we're really focused on the U.S. Women's Open's, to say, while we know that it's only 156 players, or for the 1,700 that try to qualify, what these players do is they inspire golf. They inspire the youth. And we think that it's really important to make this event, both nationally and internationally, as important and as good as we can possibly make it. And part of that is, the better the venue, generally speaking, the more special the event. And that's one of the luxuries we have with all of our national championships, is we only go to a place one time. It's not as if we're asking a club or a golf course to do it every year. So, because of that, as a by-product, we get some great invitations for our national championships.
Q. I'm just curious, realistically, how many other venues could pull this back-to-back thing off and have the course bounce back as well?
MIKE DAVIS: It's a good question. It's one we've talked about internally a lot. Interestingly enough, when you look back to when we got the invitation from Bob Dedman, Don Padgett, that was an invitation when neither one of these gentlemen were thinking about a restoration. And we thought it could work, because it was a Bermudagrass rough. And the difference -- when we had the U.S. Open here, I think it was right around three inches we had the rough. The women might need it two and a half inches. Because in both cases the ball sinks to the bottom of Bermudagrass, so you don't need that much length. We thought going from three inches to two and a half was very doable. But if you ask us to do this at say an Oakmont that has a mixture of blue grasses, rye grasses and poa annua out there, that are cool season grasses, I don't know how we would do that and not compromise one of the two weeks. But maybe if you were out on the West Coast where we know we're going to get dry conditions and maybe it's a coastal course where the wind comes in, you can have -- think about Pebble Beach, the last time we were there. The rough was not that high. It was just enough where you got grass between the ball and the club head. That probably could have worked. The women probably could have played that golf course, if we'd gotten the firmness of the greens right for them.
Q. Restoring this golf course to a less manicured appearance seems like a pretty bold thing. Is it more an environmental statement or more of a historical statement as far as the golf course is concerned?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, I would say it starts with the architecture. This is exactly what Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw wanted. This is what used to be here back in the 1930s and 1940s -- not exactly, but almost. When you look at those old photographs, this is what you saw. And when they had the single row irrigation, what happened is -- one of the reasons the sides are so brown now is it's been very dry the last five weeks here. If we had had a wet spring and early summer here, you wouldn't see that. And we would have a great U.S. Open. So it wasn't so much about the look of it. I think it's just allowing Mother Nature to have more control versus manipulating what the look and the playability is. But I think it's -- we think it's a great environmental statement. As I say, we can't do this everywhere. And no one should walk away here thinking that USGA is anti-green golf courses. We're not. We're absolutely not. But as I said before, we're focused on less water, more bouncy conditions and less focus on the periphery.
BETH MAJOR: Dan, Mike, Ben, thank you very much. And thanks to you all for being here today.
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