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July 9, 2014

Dan Burton Jeff Hall Thomas O'Toole, Jr.


MIKE TROSTEL: Good morning, everyone. I'm Mike Trostel. It's pleasure to welcome you to the U.S. Senior Open conducted at Oak Tree National Golf Club. This is the 21st USGA Championship played in the State of Oklahoma and the second to be conducted at this Pete Dye designed golf course. It's my honor to introduce our panelists. Beginning on my left. Tom O'Toole, Jr., President of the USGA. To his left, Dan Burton, USGA Championship Committee Chairman and to his far left, Jeff Hall, Managing Director of Rules and Competitions for the USGA. Tom, I think you have the honors.

TOM O'TOOLE, JR.: Thank you, Mike. Good morning everybody and welcome to the press conference for the 35th playing of the United States Senior Open Championship. We are proud to bring this championship to Oklahoma for the first time in its history and we again foster the relationship with Oak Tree National that we've enjoyed at the USGA dating back to the 1986 United States Amateur Championship. You know, it's an interesting journey that we go on during the championship season and we often are reminded about what happened in that room in New York City in December of 1894 but one of those things that did happen was that the USGA would conduct National Championships and really that's been the core or the fiber of what we've been about since that time over almost 120 years later. To conduct that championship schedule we need great clubs that are, of course, committed and dedicated to our mission and the championship test that you're going to hear about today from Dan and Jeff what we're trying to achieve to identify these great players. From time to time we have partnerships that elevate themselves and excel over others and certainly we've had that partnership here with the Oak Tree National Golf Club. I know that I speak for the entire USGA Executive Committee and staff to thank this group for this effort they've put into that championship, the time that Jeff has spent here evolving into the preparation for this week and even some travels I made here and, gentlemen, we just simply could not have done it without you and I think it bears time to mention and extend special thanks, of course, to Ed Evans, the General Chairman of the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship and owner here at Oak Tree National, Edward Dobson, one of the owners with Mr. Evans at Oak Tree National, Jack Talley, the Vice-General Chair of the championship and, of course, the president and CEO of Oak Tree National, Tom Jones. Gentlemen, I know that I speak for everybody at the USGA we're so grateful that, one, you issued the invitation and, more importantly, the warm hospitality we've received. We're also appreciative of that warm hospitality that golf fans in this region will experience over the next week. So, again, from everybody at the USGA, thank you for your commitment and dedication not only to the U.S. Senior Championship golf but to the USGA. The other important point I think I'd like to make this morning and I know this group is a learned one, ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest production in Senior Championship golf. It's uncontroverted what goes on weekly on the Champions Tour doesn't have the elements or the operations that goes into this championship which begs the question why you need a great partner. We also are grateful and appreciative of the over 2,000 volunteers that have been garnered from the Edmond and Oklahoma City region to make this championship possible. Without them and, again, a dedicated partnership, we just couldn't pull these championships off, 2,000 volunteers, and it shows you the extent that what's produced this week and we have a special appreciation and thanks to them. The U.S. Senior Open began in 1980 to encourage and facilitate championship caliber play for players 55 years and older. Most of you, energized by the popularity, one year later the eligibility was lowered to age 50. One of the things we certainly cherish within the USGA is the stature that the U.S. Open or Open Championship enjoys and we're appreciative of clubs like Oak Tree National that have led this journey. As you can see from the talent, the pedigree, we're in for a great treat. It's a celebration of USGA Championship golf. Listen to the lineup. In the field here this week are five United States Open Champions, six United States Amateur Champions, two United States Junior Amateur Champions and 10 United States Senior Open Champions. Wow, that's some complexion of USGA championship golf. What that tells us, golf is a lifetime sport. We can all applaud the talent and the commitment these players have made to this wonderful game. Finally, we appreciate the warm welcome we've received here in Edmond which, of course, has been led by Mayor Charles Lamb. And you know, ladies and gentlemen, we look forward to four days of stellar championship golf. Again, thank you for being here, for covering this important championship of the USGA and let me turn the microphone over to the Chairman of our Championship Committee, Dan Burton.

DAN BURTON: Thank you Tom. On behalf of Jeff and I, and the entire championship team, I can tell you we're really thrilled to bring the United States Senior Open here to Edmond. It's been a great week already and we're excited about what's to come. We're also thrilled to see Oklahoman Scott Verplank in the field this week to compete on his home course. As you all know, he just turned 50 and won the 1984 United States Amateur Championship here 4-3 over Sam Randolph, the last United States Golf Association Championship conducted here. Likewise, honored to have Kenny Perry, our defending champion from his great performance last year in Omaha here this week to compete as well. We're also very excited to continue our participation for amateur golf and welcome 17 amateur players into the field the professionals this week will compete for a prize of 3.5 million. We are pleased with that increase over last year. We're also pleased with the condition of the golf course and its ability to provide a fair and comprehensive examination of the player's skills. I have to say it's been a great week working with their team led by Steve Kimmel, Director of Golf, Jon Sandell, Head Golf Professional, Jeff Ewing, the Championship Director and, of course, Josh Cook the golf course superintendent who we spent quite a bit of time with already. They've done a great job. The golf course is absolutely magnificent. The greens, up until the storm this morning, were just about perfect. Got a little rain but they'll be fine and everything is just ready to go. Very happy with ticket sales this week in this golf-rich community. We expect through the week to have 120,000 spectators to enjoy this 2014 Championship. We're honored to see so many men and women in uniform for yesterday's Military Appreciation Day and we welcome today juniors and their families, a generation of golfers enjoy this game together, as Tom said, a game of lifetime. We hope to have an active crowd today at the Junior Clinic scheduled for 2:00 at the practice range featuring three OSU alumni, Scott Verplank, of course the 1984 United States Amateur Champion, Brandon Weeden of the Dallas Cowboys, and former Thunder and NBA standout, Desmond Mason to give the juniors a thrilling examination today of their skills. Encouraging juniors to enjoy the game is a key focus of the United States Golf Satisfaction and to make the game more accessible and welcoming to all. Given normal summer temperatures in Oklahoma, we will allow spectators to bring sealed water, bottles into the champion and sell bottled water on-site as 2 for 4 in hopes of everyone will stay hydrated and enjoy this week's play. Our USGA staff and our U.S. Senior Open Championship team is well prepared inside and outside the ropes to conduct an excellent championship from which all Oklahomans can be proud. We would especially like to recognize Tim Flaherty, our Senior Director of the United States Senior Open Championship who is with us today. Thank you for joining us. Enjoy the championship. And Jeff Hall will now discuss the course set-up.

JEFF HALL: I'm going to stay put if that's all right. On behalf of the staff of the USGA, welcome and thank you for being here. As has been said by Tom and Dan, we just are delighted to be here back at Oak Tree. It's been a great five years of preparation working with Josh and his crew. It seemed like it was years off and here we are on the eve of the 35th U.S. Senior Open Championship. We're very excited about it. We're really excited about adding to the championship pedigree of Oak Tree. It's one heck of a test of golf outside the walls of this Media Center and the folks who played in the 84 U.S. Amateur saw it, the '88 PGA Championship experienced it and the 2006 Senior PGA Championship. We're going to add to that legacy this week. A fantastic field and test of golf. Nobody will pretend their way to the U.S. Senior Open Championship on Sunday. As we all know, Pete Dye is the architect here. 1975 the golf course was designed and opened. Trip Davis did some work in 2008 and 2009 which included some bunker renovation and fairway renovation and a bit of minor putting green restoration. Our golf course measures 7,219 yards, par 71. That is the maximum amount of yardage we would ever play the golf course. Very, very unlikely we would ever play the golf course that long. But it gives us tremendous flexibility with our set-up. Very unique blend of holes here, some that are quite long, some that are quite short. Somewhere you're clearly going to play driver and others where you're going to be more conscious of your positioning off the tee. So, it really adds to the comprehensive examination that we're trying to provide. We've got flexibility with the set-up from a teeing ground perspective. While you'll see some holes that will vary in yardage from 40 to 50 yards from one day to the next. Some par-5s, some par-3s will even have that degree of variation. So we think that, again, it will require the players to react to the set-up that day and think their way around the golf course. Of course, it's a very visually intimidating course. Mr. Dye is known for that and I suspect that those -- it's pretty unusual I guess to have five members playing in the Senior Open but we have that this year and certainly a unique aspect of Oak Tree and the experience this year but they will perhaps have a little easier time with some of that visual intimidation. In general, very small putting greens here at Oak Tree. On average about 4800 square feet. Our putting green speed we're targeting about 12 feet on the stimp meter. Perhaps a little setback today with .91 inches of rain that fell this morning but we'll learn more about that when we have our 2:30 meeting with the superintendent and agronomist to find out exactly how it's impacted our speed and how we can prepare for tomorrow. We'll also learn more about our weather forecasts for tomorrow. I guess there's a chance we could experience what we did this morning but boy, I sure hope that's a minimal chance. We certainly shoot for a firm and fast golf course. We're going to be impacted by today's rain achieving that. Mother Nature will hopefully assist us with drying it out with the Oklahoma wind and the sunshine that we'll get over the rest of the week. But we'll see how we progress in that area. Clearly the golf course was designed with the prevailing south, southwest wind. We're prepared for that. I mentioned great flexibility in our set-up and we'll be able to adapt our set-up depending on how active Mother Nature wants to be over the course of the next four days. Average fairway width, relatively generous, 28 to 34 yards on average and for a golf course that's going to play in the 71 to 7200-yard range, I'd say that's pretty typical for a USGA set-up. We didn't have to make many changes. We made just a couple of very, very minor changes in fairway widths. As you know, over the course of the last 8 years we have been using graduated rough. We're able to do that when we have our cool season grasses but that is not the case here at Oak Tree. With the bermuda rough, we will have really just one strand of rough that we are maintaining along the fairways at 2 1/2 inches. We will have our intermediate rough at an inch and a quarter but our primary rough that the players will play from after tee shots will be 2 1/2 inches and it is our aim to cut that rough inside the ropes every evening depending on the weather. Around the greens, that rough height will be slightly higher. We're currently maintaining that rough at 2 3/4 inches. Should we have a playoff this week, we would have a 3 hole aggregate playoff. We would utilize holes 16, 17 and 18 and if the -- the players were still tied, we would then play on a hole by hole basis but we would go straight to the 10th tee and play 10 and 18 until we have a resolution to the championship. But, again, on behalf of the staff, on behalf of Josh Cook and his team here, we're delighted you're here to cover the 35th U.S. Senior Open. We're looking forward to a fantastic four day examination of excellent golf here at Oak Tree National.

MIKE TROSTEL: All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. We're now going to open it up for questions. Please raise your hand. We'll have a mike reason phone run over to you and you can ask your question.

Q. Jeff, all the players here at Oak Tree say that the course is in great shape. Who would you attribute that to? The USGA, they give kudos to and then obviously the Oak Tree staff. Any particular names, groups?
JEFF HALL: Josh Cook and his team have been fantastic in their approach and attention to detail. We have an agronomist. Brian Whitlark is our lead agronomist here this week that has helped. I'm not an agronomist. I'm not a turf expert. Brian and our agronomist understand what we're looking for and help translate into the proper terminology for Josh as the superintendent. Also, I think special thanks to Ed for providing the resources available, making those resources available for Josh to do the job that he's been able to do. The golf course is magnificent. I really don't believe this rain that we had this morning will impact the overall condition of the golf course. It will impact a little bit of the playability. It's an outdoor game, going to be a little bit softer but, again, the pristine nature of the preparation is really going to just not be impacted at all by the rain we had this morning.

Q. Jeff, I should know this but how is the yardage for that particular day if the hole is moved 40, 50 yards, the pin positions, is there any communication of that to the players or do they discover that when they get out on the course or what's available for them?
JEFF HALL: We will not communicate that information directly to the players. We will provide a summary to the Media Center and to television. However, the information, the set-up that we will produce is clearly covered in each player's yardage book. So the information is there. They'll have to react to where the tee markers are on that given date and the hole locations. The yardage books are quite detailed and just looking and watching these guys play practice rounds, where they throw those little disks to putt to, it's as if they got the information I've got in my pocket.

DAN BURTON: Of course they get hole location sheet first thing in the morning available to all players.

JEFF HALL: We have a memorandum that we distribute to the caddies and the players at registration and we do have a paragraph that we put in there letting them know we will use varying teeing grounds and encourage them to play practice rounds from some different teeing grounds, and in a couple of cases where we're really trying to get that message through we have actually put two sets of tee markers out during the practice days. We try to give them a clue but they're still going to have to react that morning or that afternoon.

Q. What is the course of action in the event there will be similar rain like there was this morning?
JEFF HALL: Well, this morning, probably the rain was less of a concern. It was the lightning that created the problem. We have an on-site meteorologist monitoring -- we contract with a company called Thorguard. Jake Swick is our on-site meteorologist. He keeps us posted on what's going on. I was getting updates at 4 this morning and was out here shortly thereafter to see where we were and until we got an all clear we didn't let the ground staff or anybody get out on the golf course. This is not new for us. We monitor this and clearly paramount issue is safety for the players, spectators and those who are working this week. But, today, delayed started times until 9:45. Practice day, it's a little bit more relaxed in that regard but we're not going to make a move out on the golf course until it's safe to do so.

Q. You've been talking five, six weeks ago Media Day, again today, firm and fast. I mean elaborate a little bit on that and whether the rain is going to affect it. Everyone thinks the wind and sun will get you where you want to be.
JEFF HALL: Our philosophy for Championships, whether the it's the Mid-Am, the Senior Open, firm and fast. We want players to have to think about what the golf ball will do when it gets on the ground. It just won't stop there. I suspect it's going to stop about where they play it on to the putting greens. We do think the firmness will come back to us. The golf course was certainly drying down very nicely. So there was a little room for the water to go and some to get away. But, firm and fast is -- again, we want them to have to think about what the golf ball is going to do when it gets on the ground. Is the ball on the angle they're playing from the tee, is there an opportunity it could roll through the fairway? Playing to the greens, try to keep the ball, manage the ball under the hole, those types of things. Firm and fast is what we're after and we don't -- again, I don't think -- we'll find out with the data when we review it here in a few hours. We think the speed of the putting greens will be very minimally, if at all, impacted by the rain. But certainly the firmness will be. But it's an outdoor game. We can't control that. We can't get too worked up about it. It's our job to set-up the golf course accordingly. We'll do that and the players will play.

Q. Jeff, you guys like to have a driveable par 4 in a lot of these U.S. Open Championships, one you'll move up and is it different from day-to-day or one particular hole that you'll try to do that with?
JEFF HALL: We are certainly looking at one, yes. Again, as I said, the players are going to have to react what is presented to them. I can assure you that the information is right there for them.

MIKE TROSTEL: Do we have any other questions for the gentlemen up-front? All right. Thank you very much. That concludes our USGA Press Conference. Thank you for attending and enjoy the championship

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