June 16, 2010
BETH MURRISON: Good morning. Thank you for joining us this morning at the USGA Press Conference at the 2010 U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach. We're very glad to have you here this morning. I'd like to introduce the three gentlemen on the dais. The President of the USGA, Jim Hyler, Tom O'Toole, Junior, Secretary of the USGA and Chairman of the Championship Committee, and at the far end, David Fay, Executive Director of the USGA. I'd like to introduce Jim Hyler to say a few words.
JIM HYLER: Thank you, Beth, and ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Let me welcome all of you to our annual U.S. Open press conference. We're glad you're here. We look forward to sharing some exciting things with you about this week and about future USGA events.
It is a real pleasure for us, the USGA Executive Committee and staff to be back once again in this magnificent place, this magnificent setting.
We've actually started our championship season last weekend with the Curtis Cup matches in Massachusetts, where the U.S. Team was victorious over the GB&I team, 12 and a half over 7 and a half. But this week kicks off our annual championship season, where over the next four months we will conduct 13 national championships and we will have professional champions, amateur champions, men and women that all are to be congratulated and admired for their ability.
Certainly our most visible champion will be the champion of the 110th U.S. Open that will be crowned this week here at Pebble Beach.
This will be our 5th Open at Pebble Beach. When you think back about the previous four Opens, you're familiar with the great champions that have been crowned here. You go back to Nicklaus, Watson, Kite, Woods, certainly an impressive list of champions and I'm sure this week we will have an equally deserving champion.
But this will actually be the 6th Major Championship at Pebble Beach, with the 1977 PGA Championship contested here, and also we'd like to recognize Lanny Wadkins for his victory in that Major Championship here at that time.
In returning to Pebble Beach the USGA is once again adding to our recent history of hosting our national championship on courses that are public, accessible to the public. From Pinehurst in '99 to Bethpage, to Torrey Pines, and to Pebble Beach this year's championship marks the third year in a row where we will be at a public golf course. And the 7th time in 12 years that the U.S. Open will be played on a course that is open to the public.
We think it's an appropriate reflection of our commitment to public golf and when you think about that over half the rounds each year are played on public golf courses, it makes sense to bring our championship to these courses.
Let me share a few words about the environment, if I may. As the national governing body for golf in this country we recognize the importance of working to integrate environmental considerations into all aspects of our activities, including our championships. This year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach will offer a window into some of these efforts.
As the championship week gets under way you will see evidence of a commitment by a number of parties involved to conduct this multi-faceted event in an environmentally-friendly manner. From an active effort to encourage the use of public transportation, to an aggressive onsite recycling program, to guidelines for vendors to use to minimize waste, our shared objective is to continue to build a healthy relationship between the game and the environment.
In this respect the Pebble Beach Company is a wonderful partner for us, for they have been actively pursuing sustainable policies for many years. And two things that specifically I'd like to comment on regarding what goes on here at Pebble Beach.
In 1994 the Pebble Beach Company started a water reclamation project. And this is a very aggressive program that recycles waste water that's used to irrigate all of the golf courses in the Del Monte Forest, this has been going on for 15, 16 years. And over that time this project has saved some three and a half billion gallons of potable water during that period of time.
The second thing to mention about Pebble Beach's commitment to the environment is that all of their golf courses are certified Audubon cooperative sanctuaries, this is certification by Audubon International.
Pebble incorporates environmental efforts in all aspects of their operations and they have vigorously expanded all of those efforts both on the golf course and at the resort as a whole. Not all courses can achieve exactly what they do, but they are an industry leader and we support the efforts that Pebble Beach has made to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices on their property for many years.
But to be clear, you will not see a golf course this week that's brown. Our goal is to provide firm and fast conditions for the championship using careful irrigation management. It's important to remember here at Pebble Beach that the grass is primarily poa annua and perennial ryegrass. And if that grass were to get brown it would be dead. And we certainly do not want that to happen. You'll hear more about the firm and fast course from Tom O'Toole in a few minutes.
But in working closely with superintendent Chris Dalhamer and his team we have developed a water management plan that is judicious, using recycled water that I just mentioned for course irrigation, relying on carefully regulated hand watering, and utilizing sustainable maintenance practices.
Let me talk a moment about special exemptions. As most of you know this year Vijay Singh and Tom Watson have accepted special exemption exemptions. And this marks the first time since 2005 that we have extended the offer of a special exemption for our Open.
In Vijay's case, as most of you know, we had originally declined a special exemption. As he fell from top-50 in the World Ranking, just as his exemptions category closed, and because of this we felt we needed to review his situation and we did. What we recognize is that he had been playing through injuries which cause caused him to drop in the World Rankings, in fact quite quickly. Typically exemptions go to the past U.S. Open Champions, but in looking at Vijay's record and considering in 2005 we extended a professional exemption to Nick Price, who was a winner of three major championships, we felt at the end of the day that Vijay Singh should have a special exemption because of his record at the Majors and we extended that invitation, and of course, he is here.
Tom Watson, of course, won the 1982 U.S. Open here at Pebble Beach. Tom has competed in 30 U.S. Opens. He was runner up in '83 and '87, and 11 times placed in the top-10 in the U.S. Open. With his addition to the field this week he will become the only player to play in all five U.S. Opens here at Pebble Beach. We certainly would like to congratulate Tom and recognize his terrific record at the Open and also his recent success. And obviously last year at the Open Championship at Turnberry, Tom had an incredible performance, an inspirational performance, and was eight feet away from gaining a five-year exemption into the U.S. Open. So we felt because of his performance there that he should be extended a special exemption to the U.S. Open. And of course he is here.
I would like to recognize the many U.S. Open volunteers that help us conduct our national championships, serve on USGA committees, conduct state and local championships, and help develop the next generation of golfers. More than 1,400 volunteer members assist us annually in these very important roles.
Here at Pebble Beach we will have almost 7,000 volunteers, representing all 50 states and 16 different countries. Combined, they will donate more than 140,000 hours of their time to help us conduct this championship. To each of them I offer my sincere pressures to help make the U.S. Open what it is, golf's most dramatic championship.
Finally, I'd like to take a moment to express our gratitude to our partners and good friends at Pebble Beach. It goes without saying that Pebble Beach is a truly special place, a magnificent golf course, and a spectacular setting, with an exemplary group of individuals supporting this operation in the years and months leading up to that U.S. Open.
We have benefitted greatly from their knowledge, their expertise, and their education. And in particular I'd like to recognize Bill Perocchi, the CEO of the Pebble Beach Company, R.J. Harper, the General Chairman of the 2010 U.S. Open Championship. And Steve Aitchison, the vice-chairman, and I don't see Steve here, he's out working, making sure everything is running smoothly. And we really thank all the staff and the team at Pebble Beach for their professionalism and their passion to helping us put on this great championship.
So now I'd like to turn the program over to Tom O'Toole, the chairman of our championship committee.
TOM O'TOOLE: Thank you, Jim. On behalf of our Championship Committee, many of whom are here in the room with us this afternoon, most importantly our championship staff led by Mike Davis, our Senior Director of Rules and Competitions, we appreciate you spending time with us to talk a little bit about the golf course preparation and setup for this, our 110th United States Open Championship.
Before I begin my remarks regarding the golf course and 110th U.S. Open, I'd like to commence with not one, but two special announcements pertaining to our future United States Open sites.
First, we're pleased to announce that the 2017 United States Open Championship will be conducted at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin. Many of you know Erin Hills is a special place, a public golf course, predominantly fine fescue grasses, although bentgrass putting greens, the course is very open and natural and has much topographical movement.
Andy Ziegler, the Erin Hills owner, who is here today, has contributed significant resources recently to not only the golf course, but the infrastructure preparation and contemplation of these championships.
In addition, Jim Hyler and Mike Davis, on behalf of the USGA has had protracted meetings, interaction, and exchange with Mr. Ziegler and the USGA is confident that Andy is committed to making Erin Hills a world class golf facility, the type of facility the USGA will be proud to conduct our National Open Championship.
Erin Hills has already created a reputation in the golf community, as many of you know, as we conducted the 2008 Women's Amateur Public Links championship, a championship that was awarded for the first time to a facility that had not yet opened, and of course we contemplate to conduct the 2011 United States Amateur Championship at Erin Hills next August.
So Andy Ziegler, Andy, we say thank you. Thank you for making this announcement possible. Andy is here today with his Erin Hills team, Jim Reinhart and Rich Tock and I know all will be available for any questions that you may have regarding the Erin Hills selection.
Secondly, we are pleased to announce the decision that was accelerated over this past weekend that the United States Golf Association has accepted an invitation to conduct, one, the 2018 United States Amateur Championship; and, two, the 2019 United States Open Championship here at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
The parties have executed a letter of intent. So this announcement, of course, conditioned on the formalization of a final and formal contract, but we're confident that that contract will be executed soon.
So as we embark on our 5th United States Open Championship at Pebble Beach, as Jim Hyler said, to have the chance to announce that we're coming back here in 2019 for our 6th United States Open at Pebble Beach is a magical moment.
Many of you know the 2019 will be Pebble Beach's 100th anniversary, as so evidenced in their logo. As Bill Perocchi said this weekend in our discussions in reviewing the subject of this thought to come back here, you celebrated our 100th U.S. Open here at Pebble Beach, come celebrate our 100th anniversary with us.
Many of you are aware that there has been discussions over the last several years about a United States Women's Open Championship at Pebble Beach. Those discussions are not tabled. They're only delayed because they have the chance to come back here and again conduct our 6th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach in conjunction with Pebble Beach's 100th anniversary, the USGA and the Pebble Beach Companies has decided to move that decision beyond and past 2019.
So on behalf of the USGA we express our sincere gratitude to all the Pebble Beach owners, but most importantly to the CEO, Bill Perocchi, for making this exciting announcement a reality. Bill, thank you very much.
As Jim Hyler indicated we do embark on another exciting season for the United States Golf Association. And while we kicked off with the Curtis Cup matches that Jim referenced, our first national championship begins tomorrow.
After that in early July our Women's Open Championship returns to the favored Oakmont Country Club, which was last conducted there in 1992.
To highlight some of our other championship season, we will conduct three championships in the State of North Carolina, the Amateur Public Links Championship will be conducted at Bryan Park Golf Club in Greensboro, the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship at the Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst, and the Women's Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Another point of note, the State of Washington will host two of our championships, Sahalee Country Club in Seattle will host the U.S. Senior Open Championship July 29 to August 1st, and Chambers Bay Golf Club in Tacoma, Washington, will host the United States Amateur Championship August 23 and 29. And as many of you know, Chambers Bay is the site of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship and consistent with President Hyler's remarks, another public venue in which we will host our national championship.
To view that schedule you can always go on our website at usga.org or to obtain entries to any of those championships at that same website, usga.org.
Early in 2010 it's been a banner year for the USGA from an entry standpoint. Already we collected 9,052 entries for this U.S. Open Championship. That was only 34 short of the record set in 2009 of 9,086 championship entries.
The U.S. Women's Open Championship, again, which will be conducted at Oakmont Country Club, received a record number of entries here in this year of 2010, 1,296 entries, the most ever for a United States Women's Open Championship.
Finally, as it relates to the admission of juniors, the policy that we put into place many years ago at the U.S. Open Championship, juniors 12 and under will be free of admission when accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. And juniors from the age of 13 to 17 will be admitted for reduced rates, $15 for practice today and earlier in the week, as well, and $35 for all championship rounds. The USGA is pleased to give young families an opportunity to view the U.S. Open Championship together.
As Jim Hyler mentioned, we want to share with you a little bit about the U.S. Open golf course setup philosophy. As many of you know, that in 2004 the then Chairman of the Championship Committee, Walter Driver, implemented a written U.S. Open course setup philosophy, which, by the way, can be found on usopen.com, which set forth 14 criterias.
While I won't go through these criteria with you, suffice it to say that the philosophy is that the U.S. Open Championship will be the most rigorous, the most difficult, yet fair, test of championship golf. The examination will test both the players' physical capabilities, including all shot making, but also test a player's mental capabilities and tenacity. In conclusion, we want well executed shots rewarded, poorly executed shots penalized.
An example of some of those key criteria would be, for example, the risk/reward philosophy. So for -- by way of example, the 6th hole at Pebble Beach here, the player would have the ability to risk a drive down near the hill to play a shorter shot to the par-5, small, 6th putting green; while having the risk of an errant shot to find its way into Stillwater Cove.
Another concept that this group is well versed with and Jim Hyler and Mike Davis implemented at Winged Foot in 2006 is the concept of graduated rough. And of course that concept being more difficult rough on the short holes, less difficult and less penal rough on the long holes.
As it relates to the specific setup here at Pebble Beach, let me open by saying that this golf course is substantially different than it was greeted by the Tour when they conduct the AT&T championship here in February. Historically the golf course is wet here because of the weather at the Monterey Peninsula that time of year, they conduct it over three golf courses, and they have a number of amateurs in the field.
We're met with different conditions here in the Monterey Peninsula here in June, and that's why the golf course set up is different than the media or any golfing fan views Pebble Beach during the AT&T.
Without going through each hole-by-hole, many of you have reviewed the golf course and inspected it. Let me focus in on the differences between the conduct and setup in 2000, the last U.S. Open we conducted at Pebble Beach, and what you will see for the 2010 version.
Predominantly, as most of you know, the fairway contours have been brought to the coastal holes. It's brought the ocean back into play. In addition, those fairways have been mowed right into many of the fairway bunkers, which again creates the situation to have the ball, on firm and fast fairways, if not directed in the right way, to move their way into the bunkers, which, as the USGA views, should be hazards.
In addition, because of those firm and fast conditions, the fairway approaches have been widened significantly. The exception of holes 12, 14, 16, and 17, virtually every hole a player could play his ball by bouncing it on to the putting green through these widened fairway approaches. Again, to create greater playability and fairness to the player, in light of the conditions that Mike Davis and the championship staff had presented.
We do have graduated rough as we indicated earlier, but note most importantly that Chris Dalhamer and the Pebble Beach superintendent staff is mowing that rough from the tees to the putting greens.
For two reasons, number one, we want the player to have the opportunity to have those balls to be playable. It also gives and creates the possibility or creates the interest that some of those balls, when played out of that rough, mowed that way, could possibly create a flier effect.
Part of what we expect the examination of the player to be is to judge how he expects that ball to react when played from that rough mowed in that direction.
In addition, there are three new teeing grounds of substance at Pebble Beach for the 2010 Open. Those are holes 9, 10, and 13. Suffice it to say that the new teeing grounds at holes 9 and 10 restore the driving zones that the architect and earlier U.S. Opens prior to 2000's contemplated those holes to be played.
The fairway bunkers are brought back into play. As many of you know, holes 9 and 10 this time of the year play in a predominant downwind status. So our view is that those new teeing grounds merely restore what the original architect, Mr. Neville, had in mind when playing to those very small, tight par-4 putting greens along those coastal holes.
In addition, hole 13, a new teeing ground was built. The contemplated idea there was that the cross bunker, which has not been in play here for many years here at Pebble Beach, is now once again in play. Particularly, again, if we get the prevailing wind, which on hole 13 the player would be playing into that wind.
Let me conclude and talk a little bit about the golf course in its state today as we stand here on Wednesday. In the Mike Davis era, the contemplated philosophy is to set the golf course up for the players practice in the same exact conditions that they would expect to experience during the championship rounds.
I can only tell you that Mike could not be anymore delighted to where the golf course is today as we embark on round 1 tomorrow. It is exactly where we have contemplated it over these many months of preparation.
Understand that when you play seaside golf and ask for firm and fast conditions, there are certain criteria that play into whether or not a golf course could approach, as many said from this podium, to be created over the top or for us to have the opportunity to lose the golf course.
I can tell you that last night there was water that was placed on the golf course on the fairways and the putting greens. When we were out for setup this morning additional water was placed on both the putting greens and the fairways and the approaches. In an effort to keep that stated setup that we achieved yesterday that Mike has worked tirelessly to obtain over the last months and maintain it through the championship.
I can tell you that all hands are on deck on this process. It's a difficult process when you deal with weather that you're trying to predict and of course the winds on the Monterey Peninsula, that we realize that a golf course like this could have the proclivity to get away from us. But I can tell you that it is a 24/7 exercise right now. And this golf course will not get away from us. I know that Chris Dalhamer, the golf course superintendent, R.J. Harper, the Executive Vice-President of Golf Course Operations, has been in the midst of these discussions, and Pebble Beach agrees with us that this golf course is where we've wanted it, contemplated leading up for this championship, and we will continue to do everything we can to maintain it. And if that means that we need to put water on this golf course, like we did last night, that's exactly what it means.
I can leave with this remark by saying that the golf course, again through Mike Davis's effort, is ready for championship golf tomorrow. We couldn't be anymore excited or prepared leading into Thursday's round 1.
Before I leave it's always important that we recognize those that have tirelessly put effort into this, the 110th U.S. Open.
First of all, I've made many references to Mike Davis, our Senior Director of Rules and Competition, but everyone in this room is well versed that he's the man that leads the charge on this golf course setup and has created the interest and the creativity that you've seen in U.S. Open setups since 2006. So on behalf of the Executive Committee and the staff of the USGA, a special thank for Mike and all these done to continue to make the U.S. Open the most exciting Major Championship in golf.
Assisting Mike, of course, is Pat Gross who leads our agronomy staff in this region of the country, has made many tireless trips to Pebble Beach over the last several years. Pat has done a wonderful job to lead many of our green section staff who are here to assist Chris and Mike again in this contemplated set up.
Reg Jones is our Managing Director of U.S. Open Operations and Reg oversees everything outside the ropes. Of course, for those of you have been out there and seen what a wonderful presentation that Pebble Beach and Reg has presented to all of those who are viewing practice in today's final practice round before tomorrow's round 1.
Frank Bussey, of course, our Director of Field Operations, Leighton Schwob, our Manager of Field Operations and Kevin Kristof, our Assistant Championship Manager.
This doesn't happen by accident, ladies and gentlemen, these are great, committed people who have been here for months and again tireless preparation to present the best U.S. Open Championship possible.
And the Pebble Beach crew and team, this company that we've had this wonderful relationship with and continue to do so led by R.J. Harper, who this week is the General Chairman of the U.S. Open, and of course Chris Dalhamer, the golf course superintendent, I know that Jim Hyler and all on the USGA Executive Committee and staff join you in thanking you for all your tireless efforts again to present the best possible Open and once again, job well done.
We're excited to be back at Pebble Beach for our most significant championship. Pebble Beach is clearly one of the most treasured spots in all of golf. And once again in 2010 we look forward to a memorable and historic U.S. Open. Thank you very much. I think Beth will come back here and will be glad to entertain questions.
BETH MURRISON: We will open it up to questions at this time.
Q. I wanted to ask in what ways the setup of the course this year compared to 2000 is a response to the added length that the players are hitting the ball now?
TOM O'TOOLE: Well, I think, other than the length of the holes that I mentioned, Pebble Beach's defense here is their wonderful small putting greens and of course the weather that you can get on the Monterey Peninsula.
Those teeing grounds, again, were built to really bring the golf course back into the condition or the angles that the architect contemplated. It wasn't really in response to the technology.
Pebble Beach is a special place. We didn't add any length because we thought that was needed because of technology. We wanted it because of the architectural allowances of those holes.
Q. Given the affection that you and everyone else has for Pebble Beach, just curious if you've given any consideration over the years to coming here more frequently, sort of like The R&A does with The Old Course?
JIM HYLER: Well, we have a lot of great courses in this country that we want to visit, East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, two years we'll be right up the road at Olympic Club.
So I think if you look at sort of the rotation, here, 2010, 2019, that's a nice gap to come back here and still give us a chance to host our national championship on these other great courses.
Q. Just wondering why you guys chose to make the announcement today instead of waiting until after the championship. Can you talk about what sells you on this place and why you're so convinced this is such a great Open Championship venue?
TOM O'TOOLE: Well, certainly the magic of Pebble Beach and its treasured history, and all the memorable U.S. Opens that we've had here. And to be able to come here with this captive group and make this announcement right now, as we are on the eve of our 5th U.S. Open here, we felt was magical.
I think Pebble Beach Company, led by Mr. Perocchi, had the same feeling. If we didn't make this, we could have easily come back here in 2019. This is an exciting announcement for both us and Pebble Beach, we thought it was timely to do it now.
Q. Will you be moving up the tee on No. 4 at any time during the tournament?
TOM O'TOOLE: Well, as we've done since 2006 when Mike Davis took over and Mr. Hyler was the championship chair, we wouldn't disclose what we were going to do on particular teeing grounds, but suffice it to say that in the players memorandum they received at registration, they were told that we, of course, reserved the right to move teeing grounds around as we have in the past, based on things like weather that we will be confronted with, and golf course strategies.
Q. With regard to the special exemption you gave to Vijay, could you elaborate on the justification of that, in light of the fact that here's an elite player who had regained his health in time to go into sectional qualifying, which he was exempt into, you could look at injuries are suffered by a lot of players, and to put it in golf terms, is kind of the rub of the green; and finally, by reconsidering, after having rejected those requests, you kind of gave yourself a mulligan. Could you elaborate on that?
JIM HYLER: I don't look at it quite that way, Dave. We got the request, we declined it, but over I guess the Memorial Day weekend we really thought about it, we looked at Vijay's record, how far he had dropped in the top-50, out of the top-50; we knew he was injured, but was trying to continue to play through his injuries. We also considered the precedent of 2005 when we extended a special to Nick Price, a winner of three Majors. And looking at Vijay's overall record of three Majors in the last 12 years, we felt like he warranted a special. And that was really the details of the deliberation.
Q. Gentlemen, you have a pace of play policy at your other championship, but not at the U.S. Open. Do you see a day where a USGA pace of play policy will be brought to this tournament as well?
TOM O'TOOLE: Well, we have a pace of play policy in this tournament, we don't use the check point pace of play policy. We've continued to use that in our amateur championships, it served us well. It's not a pace of play policy that the Tour players use weekly. It would be incongruent for them to come here and have a pace of play policy so different than one that they experience weekly on Tour. If the PGA Tour may ever consider to implement something like that, I think we would consider to do the same.
Q. I guess I just wanted to make it clear, what made you guys so confident in giving Pebble Beach the 2019 U.S. Open without seeing how it would play this year?
TOM O'TOOLE: Again, I think the feeling is of our group, including Mike Davis, David Fay, and our Executive Committee, that Pebble Beach is a special place.
Now, we realize that much of this setup depends on what happens with the weather. So I didn't get into this in my remarks, but there could be optimum scoring this week. It's not going to really impact our decision whether we want to come back here.
We think that, again, if we get the right weather on the Monterey Peninsula, the small nature of these putting greens, this is one of our most treasured U.S. Open sites.
Q. Compared to 2000, again, are there specific ways that the course is more resistant to scoring, apart from the three new tees that are longer?
TOM O'TOOLE: Well, I think that the imagination of moving the coastal holes and fairways into those cliffs make this more risk/reward concept that again Mike Davis has implemented more in play.
But again much of the scoring here is going to be weather dependent. Wind is part of the defense that goes on here at Pebble Beach. So, again, you know, part of this U.S. Open course setup philosophy makes it very clear that we're not affixed on target score. We're trying to test the greatest players in the world this week.
If Mother Nature deals us a set of cards that doesn't quite challenge those players to shoot higher scores, well, that's just the way it's going to have to be.
Q. There are, I believe, a dozen players from Asia in the field this week, which I think is the most that's ever played in any one Major Championship. I'm curious, are you happy with the way that the sectional qualifying in Japan has gone since you implemented that? Are there any plans to go to other parts of that region or give more spots to players from that region?
JIM HYLER: They were very happy with what we've done in Japan. I guess we've done it now for four years -- six years. We're very pleased with being able to go to Japan and have a sectional qualifier there. We think that's responsible for a lot of these Asian players being in The Open.
We're very pleased with where we are now. We're always evaluating our sectional qualifying setup and system, but for right now we like it right where it is.
BETH MURRISON: Thanks very much for your time today. Gentlemen, thanks very much for being here.
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