July 28, 2010
PETE KOWALSKI: And I want to thank you for attending our first U.S. Senior Open news conference about the USGA here at Sahalee for the 2010 U.S. Senior Open.
We have information about the golf course, which we thought you would find valuable and for that reason we thought we would have a news conference to address those questions at one time. And we've got some folks who can answer the questions that you might have. Before we begin the program I would like to ask you if you have cell phones to silence them.
The participants here on stage, first person on my left and your right is president of the United States golf association Mr. Jim Hyler from Raleigh, North Carolina. Directly next to him is the chairman of our USGA Championship Committee from St. Louis, Missouri, Mr. Thomas J. O'Toole, Jr. Both are members of the United States Golf Association Executive Committee and the next gentleman is our Managing Director from United States Golf association of Rules and Competitions, Mr. Jeff Hall.
We are going to have a program and once that presentation is complete we will have time for questions and answers as we did with Corey Pavin's interview. Please wait for the hand-held microphone to come to you and please address your question to one of our participants and they will come to the podium to address your questions. With no further ado I would like to present the United States Golf Association President, Mr. Jim Hyler.
JIM HYLER: Thank you, Pete, we're delighted to be here this morning and have a press conference to talk about the USGA and talk about Sahalee. It's certainly a great pleasure for all of us to be here in the state of Washington as we continue our 2010 championship season. A few weeks ago we crowned Graham McDowell as our 110th U.S. Open Championship down at Pebble Beach. And then a couple of weeks ago we celebrated the great accomplishments of Paula Creamer won the 65th Women's Open at historic Oakmont Country Club.
Over the course of 2010 we have also conducted five other amateur championships, including the 36th Curtis Cup, which was won by the United States. It's been an exciting and busy road that has led us here to Sahalee where we look forward to four great days of golf to contest the 31st Senior Open Championship.
This week's Senior Open is the 22nd USGA Championship to be conducted in the state of Washington. It's the first Senior Open to be held in Washington and the first Senior Open to be conducted in the Pacific Northwest since the 1982 Championship at the Portland Golf Club which was won by Miller Barber.
The USGA has a strong schedule of upcoming Championships here in Washington with our 2010 Amateur which will be just down the road at Chambers Bay in University Place in Washington and the Amateur will start August 23rd.
Also next year the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur will be held in Bremerton in July. And then we look forward to being back here in 2015 for the U.S. Open to be at Chambers Bay.
Let me just take a minute and speak about the issue of environmental sustainability. As a national governing body for golf in this country the USGA recognizes the importance of working to integrate environmental considerations into all aspects of our activities including our Championships. And this year's Senior Open at Sahalee is no exception. Throughout this week you will see evidence of a commitment by a number of parties involved to conduct the Senior Open Championship in an environmentally sustainable manner. From an active effort to encourage the use of public transportation to an aggressive on-site recycling program, to guidelines for vendors that minimize waste, our shared objective is to continue to build a healthy relationship between the game and the environment.
In this respect Sahalee is a great partner for us as they incorporate environmental considerations into many aspects of their ongoing operations. In addition to the things I just mentioned, we've worked very closely with superintendent Rich Taylor and his team to develop a course maintenance plan for the week that carefully manages resources, namely water, while enabling the type of specific fairway and greens conditions appropriate for our National Championship.
But speaking from a broader perspective the golf industry is evolving at a faster pace than ever before and there are a number of new technologies and new practices that have been developed over the last few years that will help courses be more responsible and more sustainable in the years ahead.
To encourage such efforts we have recently posted to our website a newly developed list of questions for golf facilities to consider regarding best management practices for sustainability. The goal is to help courses assess their own situation and develop appropriate action plans to improve.
We actually start with the basics, asking, for example, whether a facility has a written set of maintenance standards or a written environmental plan. The goal is not to tell golf facilities what to do, each one is unique and they have their own local issues to think about and consider.
What we want to do is to get the discussion going; start to raise the awareness at golf courses and clubs as we need long-term process of continual progress and improvement that ultimately will benefit the environment as well as the game.
I encourage you to learn more about the USGA's work in this broad topic of environmental sustainability, information on our support of turf grass research and our focus on water protection and on water and energy conservation and it can be found at our website, USGA.org.
Let me now just quickly turn our focus toward some special people. First I want to recognize all the many volunteers who are here this week donating their time to help us conduct this Championship. At Sahalee we have more than 2500 volunteers helping us. So our sincere thanks go out to each and every one of them for all that they do.
Let me also take a moment to express our gratitude to the leadership team here at Sahalee Country Club. This is a wonderful golf course and setting and they have a great group of individuals supporting Sahalee and supporting the Senior Open.
Specifically let me recognize Chris Falco, the General Chairman, who is in the back. Also particular shout-outs to Steve Boggs, the Club Manager. Jim Pike, the Director of Golf. And, of course, probably the most important person here this week, Rich Taylor, the Golf Course Superintendent.
Let me recognize in a special way, Seattle native and the 2009 US President's Cup captain, Fred Couples, who this week is serving as an honorary chairman for the 2010 Senior Open. As you know, Fred turned 50 in October and has been an instant hit on the Senior Tour and has been a great help to us in promoting this year's Senior Open and we certainly wish him success this week.
Let me turn the podium over to Tom O'Toole, the chairman of the USGA Championship Committee.
TOM O'TOOLE: Thank you, Jim, on behalf of the Championship Committee and the other members of the USGA Executive Committee, thank you for taking time to come here and share our perspectives about this 31st playing of the United States Senior Open Championship.
The USGA is excited about our partnering as Jim indicated with the Sahalee Country Club. We embark on this, again, the 31st version of the U.S. Senior Open Championship. And Sahalee, as you know, is a golf course that has a wonderful Championship history. That history includes the 1998 PGA Championship and of course the 2002 NEC World Golf Championship. We feel the 2010 U.S. Senior Open Championship is just another testament of this Club's great golf course and great facility.
As Jim indicated the 2010 Championship season has been an exciting one, particularly our win at the Curtis Cup in Essex County Club which was the club and the source of the Curtis Cup sisters as they grew up playing amateur golf. That club, of course, is in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. USGA also has already conducted our Amateur Public Links Championships and Women's Amateur Public Links Championships and both are Boy's Junior and Girl's Junior Championships in 2010. And like those exciting championships we expect the excitement here on Sunday to be another memorable and historic U.S. Senior Open.
USGA has had somewhat banner year in entries in our Championships. In fact, the U.S. Open Championship realized the number of entries of 9,052 which was only 34 short of the record entries for the United States Open. The Women's Open, which Jim indicated Paula Creamer won at Oakmont Country Club received entries of 1296, the most ever for a Women's Open Championship.
Again, as we prepare for this 31st Senior Open we memorialize that Sahalee joins a list of impressive, wonderful, historic USGA member clubs that have hosted this prestigious Championship, the likes of which are Winged Foot East, which hosted the inaugural Championship in 1980; Oakland Hills Country Club, Oakhill Country Club, Saucon Valley Country Club, the Inverness Club which will host the 2011 Championship and Bellerive Country Club.
While the inaugural Championship at Winged Foot was contested for players of the age of 55 or older, we changed that requirement the next year in 1981 and lowered that age requirement in this Championship to age 50. That is the age requirement since the inaugural Championship in 1980.
Open to professional and amateur golfers, who as of tomorrow will be 50 years of age. Amateur golfers have a handicap requirement not to exceed a handicap index of 3.4.
The field will be 156 players, 73 of those players were exempt, although some have withdrawn. The other qualifying participants made it through sectional qualifying around the country. All those players will compete, particularly those who survive the cut at 72 holes of stroke play. That cut will be made at the conclusion of 36 holes, which we hope is on Friday. Those who survive that cut will play on the weekend at the number of the low 60 and ties and any player within 10 strokes of the leader.
In the event of a tie on Sunday afternoon there will be a three-hole aggregate playoff, the holes contemplated by the committee. In the event we have that playoff it will be Holes 14, 17 and 18. And in the unlikely event that we did not determine a champion, then we would continue to play the 18th hole repeated until the champion was determined.
The field includes as Jim indicated, of course, the honorary chair and Seattle-born Fred Couples, with golf greats like Tom Watson, and of course past champions Hale Irwin, Peter Jacobsen, Don Pooley, Allen Doyle and of course defending champion, Fred Funk, to name a few. The TV coverage for the Championship will be 14 hours of live coverage, eight of those will be on ESPN 2. Of course over the course of Thursday and Friday during the initial two rounds, of the Championship the final 6 hours of live coverage will be on NBC, three hours each on Saturday and Sunday to the Championship's conclusion.
A couple of observations about ticket sales, because of the wonderful golf region that the Northwest is, I think we expect ticket holders and those who have purchased tickets to be approximately 110,000. Of course, additional tickets are available and that can be obtained by purchasing online at www.2010USSeniorOpen.com or by this number, 877-281-Open.
Once again the USGA is proud to announce our policy for admissions to juniors at the Senior Open Championship that extends to persons 17 or under and they can attend the Championship when accompanied by a ticketed adult. Each adult may escort up to nine children so it's a great way of young families and young people to come to the Championship and have one adult satisfy many of those requests. We're pleased that the Senior Open is allowing these young families to come and view this National Championship together.
Jim indicated some recognition for the Club committee and the Club staff. Certainly you all are well initiated to know that a Championship like this does not happen by accident. The Championship staff which is led by Mike Zinga, Max Bruno from the Vice President Bruno Event Team of John Palacioz, the Operations Director; Billy Rodgers, the Marketing Director; and Sally Shonk, the volunteer manager. All have put in tireless hours over the past couple of years to assist the Sahalee membership to produce this wonderful Championship which will get underway tomorrow.
Let me conclude with a couple of comments about the golf course. First of all, the Golf Course Superintendent, Rich Taylor, who happened to be the superintendent during the prior two Championships that Sahalee has hosted is a fabulous superintendent and has such a great attachment and knowledge of this golf course.
Between Rich and our USGA agronomy staff led by Larry Gilhuly and Bob Brame and Derf Soller, I think Jeff Hall will tell you, and his remarks will be specific in a moment. I think knocking on wood or keeping our fingers crossed we're delighted at where the golf course is right now today. That presentation of fairway and green firmness and green speeds and mowing heights could not have been achieved without the tireless effort of Rich Taylor and his staff and the many volunteers of golf course superintendents from all over the Northwest.
One of the main presentations and concepts that the USGA has adopted is to try to present the players with a Championship setup of the golf course during their practice rounds of what will be experienced during the Championship rounds. And, again, between Jeff's hard leadership and fabulous direction with Rich Taylor and our agronomy staff I think the golf course is presented to the players in that very manner in connection with that concept.
Let me close with a little bit about our U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open setup philosophy. In 2004, Walter Driver, the then Chairman of the USGA Championship Committee, implemented a written U.S. Open course setup philosophy and that philosophy can be found on USopen.com which sets fourth 14 criteria and factors. That same philosophy is applicable to all of our USGA Championships and particularly here at the United States Senior Open Championship. That philosophy is that the U.S. Senior Open Championship should be the most rigorous, the most difficult, yet fair, test in Senior Championship golf. An examination which tests both the players' physical capabilities, including all shot-making, but also tests the players' mental capabilities and tenacities.
The conclusion is we want well-executed shots rewarded, poorly executed shots penalized. I'm not going to go through the 14-factor criteria, but suffice it to say there are things like the varying of the length of holes. Some of the long holes in the golf course such as No. 6 and No. 12, you may see the teeing grounds varied from day-to-day during the Championship.
The same thing with the par-3 holes. Also the graduated rough philosophy, which Jim Hyler, the Chairman of the Championship Committee and Mike Davis implemented in our first U.S. Open in 2006 at Winged Foot, that philosophy has been applied here today and Jeff will get into some of those more specifics. I know Mr. Hyler and I will be available, as well as Jeff, for questions. But now I'd like to turn the microphone over to Jeff Hall, who as Pete indicated is our Managing Director of Rules and Competitions, and of course the staff person in charge of the U.S. Senior Open Championship.
JEFF HALL: Good morning, we have a number of our guys represented this week and we are delighted to be here and participate in the conduct of the 31st U.S. Senior Open. Tom mentioned. Rich Taylor and his dedicated staff and the volunteers who willing give their time to be here. They have done a fantastic job to prepare the golf course in an appropriate fashion that will test the best golfers fifty years of age and older this week.
Some specifics about the setup here at Sahalee. You will often hear in a USGA Championship "firm and fast." We're going to have firm and fast this week. Ideal weather conditions throughout advance week and this week have been very beneficial in achieving the firm and fast conditions we're looking for. No rain in the forecast, and as you know, that's certainly important and oftentimes when you invite the USGA we can solve a drought problem for you, but not this week. We're going to be able to manage the application of water to the golf course. We're quite satisfied with the overall firmness of the golf course presently. So the goal for the balance of the Championship will be to maintain this level of firmness.
Why firm? Well, simply we think it mandates precise shot-making from the players. I sometimes say that firmness gets in their head when they park their car and there is some truth to that. Firm greens require play from the fairway. Firm fairways require precise tee shots so that the ball does not run into the rough. We believe firm requires the player to play quality golf shots that will, in fact, be rewarded in different golf shots rather than left to their own devices. A sound game plan will be required here at Sahalee and at every U.S. Open Championship, patience will be key. With respect to the putting greens, our target green speed this week is between 12 and a half and 13 feet on the stimp meter. We believe at those speeds subtle contours of the putting green designs will be accentuated. When we are setting up the golf course we want those green speeds and the firmness to require excellent putting touch but also excellent touch around the greens when a player does miss the green in their recovery efforts. But we do not want to have the speed and firmness so fast or so firm that we sacrifice hole locations. In our analysis we feel this is the proper speed for Sahalee. We will balance the golf course setup, especially with respect to the hole locations, be they left, right, back, front, to ensure consistent challenge from day-to-day. The first hole on Thursday is no less important than the final hole on Sunday, we add 'em all up.
With respect to the rough here at Sahalee, as Tom mentioned, we're utilizing the graduated rough as we have done the last few years. And the simple logic being the farther off line you hit the ball the potential for a worse lie is present. And I think the players appreciate and understand that and have really warmed up and welcomed that philosophy.
Specifics? What we call our intermediate cut of rough will be maintained at one and a quarter inches, it will be cut every day, it's approximately 6-feet wide, that's the rough that's immediately adjacent to the fairway. We also have a 4-foot wide, are for the intermediate around each putting green. Our first cut of primary rough will be maintained at two and a half inches, it will be cut every day.
It's approximately 8 feet wide along the fairways. Again another 4-foot width adjacent to the intermediate around the putting greens. There are four holes where we do not have the two and a half inch rough, Holes 1, 4, 14 and 16. They're the shorter holes here at Sahalee and if you miss those fairways you're going to be straightaway into our second cut of primary which we are maintaining at three and one-quarter inch height and that's the balance of the grass out on the golf course that's being maintained at that height.
We're cutting that rough in the direction of the putting green. We've been very pleased as we've tossed golf balls out into that rough that it's playable but the golfers will not have complete control of their golf ball. Couple that with the firm conditions around the greens and the approaches, the guys will have a chance when they're in that rough to make a shot and, again, we will have the opportunity for them to present their skill. We'll see their skill levels come out in making those strokes should they miss the fairway.
We don't really want the lie of the golf ball to dictate a pitch-out. Now if they get behind a tree that's different. That leads to the third cut of primary that we have out there, it's anywhere from 75 to 100 foot in height, comes in the form of cedars and fir trees, obviously a key element to Sahalee, the trees that line the fairways. When we analyze our set-up, we opted to bring that rough cut down, we want to get it firm, we want to encourage golf balls to get out into the rough in and under and around the trees but yet maintain a height that will give players an opportunity to make a recovery shot.
Around the putting greens, we started with a rough height of three and a half inches, last night we actually brought that cut down to three and a quarter and we looked at this morning during setup, we're going to discuss it further. We may very well bring that down another quarter of an inch.
We started to see golf balls getting out into that rough during practice rounds, where perhaps the skill level of the players in the Championship was not being reflected in the result of the shot.
Really, we want to make sure the setup is such that the players out there have a better chance of getting it up and down than any of us. By bringing that height of cut down their skill will be accentuated and shown off appropriately, so we will keep an eye on that. We have two holes this week that we did convert from par-5s to 4s, the 6th hole, measuring 480 yards and the 18th, measuring 470 yards. As Tom indicated, we will vary the teeing ground on these holes, when we use certain hole locations, keep in mind weather, firmness, et cetera, so I don't think you will see either of these holes played at that distance each of the four days, but they will certainly play at that distance for some of the four rounds.
Risk reward has become a hot topic with our setups in recent years and perhaps the best example here at Sahalee is the 2nd hole, a short par-5 at over 500 yards but the pond in the front looms large. We absolutely expect there will be a number of players that will be able to reach this green in 2 and perhaps have a putt for an eagle. But it will require a precise shot to a firm, fairly small target and should they get a little conservative in mid-swing and miss the green to the left or a little long, they will be pitching it back on to a firm, fast green that runs away, toward the water, so I think that's a great example of a risk/reward hole that we will see this week.
Certainly you've seen some drivable par-4s in our setups, recently. We have not identified the hole here where we felt comfortable that that is present, so we're not going to try to force something here in that regard this week at Sahalee.
Tom referenced the varying teeing grounds, another neat example would be the 17th hole, par-3 downhill. The green is 40 yards in depth, and if we go to the forward portion of the teeing ground that we're using with a front hole location it will measure in the area of 185 yards. If we go to the back portion of that teeing ground, locate the tee markers there and use a back hole location, it will play almost 230 yards. I think you could expect to see that sometime during the next four days.
We certainly will take advantage of these unique setup opportunities throughout the week. We want to require the players not just to play precise physical golf but we want them to think their way around this golf course as well.
The golf course appears on the scorecard to be quite short by today's standards, however, the short holes don't play as short as you read the number on the scorecard because of the positioning off the tee. The 14th hole a good example is only 370 yards; you look at it on a scorecard golfers at this level it appears like it's a wedge or sand wedge, and I don't think anybody is going to hit wedge or sand wedge there unless it's their third shot.
They'll be playing a shot out into the fairway and likely playing a 7, 8, maybe a 9-iron, certainly clubs they can be more aggressive with, but not a wedge or sand wedge, so keep that in mind when you look at the yardage here at Sahalee. The fairways are 26-yards wide; we know that those trees impact that as well. You can be on the right side or left side of a given fairway and have to move the golf ball around the trees.
For those keeping score at home, the course rating this week, based on our setup, is 74.4, and the slope rating is 143, so I guess the amateurs need to make sure they post their scores back to their home clubs they might perhaps enjoy that. At this time I'll turn it back to Pete Kowalski, who will guide us through the question and answer portion of the program here. Thank you for your attention.
PETE KOWALSKI: Thanks, Jeff. We want to let you know that each morning of the competition, Tom and Jeff and the crew get out there and set the golf course up. They will then provide us with a written documentation of what's actually done for the day. So if you're interested on what's going on for the setup on the 17th hole, for example, tomorrow, we will have information about how that's going to play out, that will be printed out and emailed to you so you'll have the specifics of the course set up ready to go, if there are questions about that as you go. It takes a while to get it; those guys go out there first thing in the morning and it gets turned around to us, and by mid-morning usually we will have that for you so that information will be available.
What I would like to do is follow procedure here. If you have a question, wait for the hand-held mic and we will get the question to you. Direct it to someone in particular.
Q. Jeff, the guys have talked about they like where the greens are at now, they don't want to see them much firmer than they are currently. How do you balance watering as you go these next couple of days, also with the weather and how you have kind of more of a damp morning with a cloud cover, but it's going to be clearing out in the afternoons?
JEFF HALL: We're pleased with the firmness. We have technology available to us now that was not available five, six years where we can watch golf shots, which Tom and I have done quite a bit in the last few days, watch how the golf ball is reacting, chat with the players, get their views, filter that information, and if we like the way the golf ball is reacting on a given putting green, we can look at our "True Firm" data and quantify that information.
It's not a precise science, but it's much more precise than it used to be, like walk on it and, yeah, this feels right. We're able to quantify it now and we actually last evening -- let me step back. Last four or five days we've been drying the golf course down, sprinklers were not running last night. There was some "corrective watering" that was applied to several greens that were on the firmer end of the spectrum, to bring those back to more the middle of the spectrum and some of the longer holes, 6, as an example, where we want that to be slightly more receptive than the average because of the type of shot they're playing.
We're going to stay on top of this. We utilized the wonderful weather that we had the last few days and that helped us dry down and Rich Taylor was able to look at the forecast and say, "Now is when we have to move to dry it down. We're going to get a marine layer. Now is the time to dry it down." And now it's in our hands now, mother nature is not going to participate in this process, it doesn't appear. We will be mindful of keeping it right where it is.
Q. Mr. Hyler, Mr. O'Toole, this is directed at you. The U.S. Senior Open is obviously a prestigious event. It's a huge deal especially in Seattle. It's not quite the ultimate. Can I ask you to what extent this week has been used as a possible look at whether the U.S. Open might one day come here?
JIM HYLER: Well, it's a good question. We're coming here in 2015 with our U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. We're excited; it's a public course owned by Pierce County, it's a wonderful golf course. I think it's a very environmentally sensitive friendly course, so we're excited about that, '15 at Chambers. Let's get through the U.S. Senior Open here, beyond the sites we've announced we don't talk about possible future sites. Thank you.
Q. Why are you so hung up on par-70? You turned two par-5s into par-4s and the score is an average between par and bogey. These guys are good, what's wrong with a par 72?
JIM HYLER: I'm going to take this because I was involved in the decisions about making these two par-5s par-4s, we're not hung up on a number. What we are concentrating on is looking at a hole and saying what kind of shots are required to play a hole? Here on the 6 and 18, we think it makes sense to play those two holes as par-4s. We think it makes for a better challenge for the players as a 4 as opposed to a 5.
So we're not hung up on 70, 71. At Pebble Beach we were 71, so we really take a look at the holes and try to determine what's the best way to challenge these players on a particular hole.
Q. Jim, you perhaps heard that the Greensboro TOUR stop is going to allow cell phones. I was wondering your thoughts on that with respect to running the USGA Championships. Will you be paying attention to that? Would it be something USGA would consider?
JIM HYLER: I heard about that late last night. It's something we've talked about a lot. We'll be interested to see how this goes in Greensboro. It's absolutely possible that something -- that it's something we will consider and keep our eye on. In today's world hand-held devices are important to people, and if we can figure out a way to control the ringing and the talking, I mean, I think it's something we will look at. It's interesting that they're doing that and we'll watch it closely.
PETE KOWALSKI: Jeff, Tom, Jim, we thank you very much. Appreciate it.
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