July 27, 2011
PETE KOWALSKI: Good morning, everyone. My name is Pete Kowalski. I'm the manager of championship communication at the United States Golf Association. On behalf of the Association I'd like to welcome you all to Inverness Club for the 2011 U.S. Senior Open championship. As many of you know, the United States Golf Association and the R&A are partners of the international governance of the game of golf.
Complete information about the USGA and its many functions that support the game can be obtained by visiting USGA.org or by speaking with any of our communications staff members here. It's now my pleasure to introduce the president of the United States Golf Association, Mr. Jim Hyler.
JIM HYLER: Thank you, and good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our news conference here at the Senior Open. On behalf of the entire USGA executive committee and the staff, we are very excited to be here at Inverness, the host of many championships in the past. It's a wonderful golf course, and we're very pleased to be here at Inverness for this edition of the Senior Open.
In just a few minutes Tom and Jeff will give you a lot of detail and information about the golf course and what we're doing with it this week.
We are really into our championship season for 2011. Just over a month ago we had an exciting U.S. Open at Congressional, and Rory McIlroy certainly thrilled the golfing world with a tremendous performance there, and then a week or so later at the Broadmoor, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea survived the rain delays and a three-hole playoff to win the Women's Open. And then last week Jordan Spieth won his second U.S. Junior Amateur, becoming only the second player golf to win more than one Junior Amateur, and you probably all know who that other guy is.
So we're looking for another exciting championship here at Inverness this week as we continue through our championship season.
I'd like to comment very briefly on Tee It Forward. I think most of you know about this joint initiative by the PGA of America who is taking the lead on this, supported by the USGA. Our good friends from the Golf Course Superintendents Association here who are also providing support for this initiative.
Simply put, we are encouraging recreational amateurs to play from tees that best suit their ability. The emphasis here is on playing faster and having more fun with the idea of people will want to play more. We just wrapped up roughly a two-week promotional effort and some 1,400 courses participated in this. We will continue this in mid August at the PGA Championship.
The PGA of America will talk about some of their results from this two-week initiative, but we see this continuing on well into the future as we think it's an important initiative to try to address issues around the health of the game and getting people to play more, play faster and have more fun.
I'd like to close by recognizing all the volunteers who make this championship possible. This week at Inverness we have some 2,300 volunteers out on the golf course and doing various things to help us produce this championship. Simply put, we couldn't do it without them, and we're very appreciative of all their efforts to help us do this.
So without further ado, I'm going to throw it to Tom O'Toole, the chairman of the championship committee, and Tom will talk some about Inverness.
TOM O'TOOLE: Mr. President, thank you all for being here to share a few observations and comments regarding Inverness and of course the golf course and leading up in preparation of this the 32nd United States Senior Open Championship.
The Inverness Club, fabulous 107-year championship golf history. Of course we know six USGA Championships which we will detail, but besides two PGA Championships in 1986 won by Bob Tway, Greg Norman finishing second there, and again in 1993 Paul Azinger prevailing in a playoff again over Greg Norman.
But most importantly, the USGA history is what belongs to Inverness; four United States Open Championships, 1920 won by Ted Ray, 1931 by Billy Burke, 1957 by Dick Mayer, and 1978 by Hale Irwin who's in the field this week. Of course the 1973 U.S. Amateur Championship was contested here, and that was won by Craig Stadler, and finally most recently was in the field, the 2003 United States Senior Open Championship, Bruce Lietzke.
Interesting historical note with Inverness, the 1920 U.S. Open as I mentioned was contested here, and it was the first time that golf professionals were allowed in the clubhouse. The U.S. Open returned here in 1931, and an initiative led by Walter Hagen, a gift was given to the club for their kindness, the grandfather clock that still sits in the main hallway here at the club.
Inscribed on that clock, "God measures men by what they are, not by what they in wealth possess." This vibrant message chimes afar the voice of Inverness. The USGA is proud to continue this championship history here at Inverness.
Let me address another issue that's been bantered about the advance week and certainly this week here at Inverness and that is the rerouting of certain holes on the golf course, which I will let you know was implemented after a question or a query by the club as to address certain operational and crowd movement subjects.
After approved by Tim Flaherty, our operational head of outside the ropes matters at the U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Women's Open we settled on the routing as it is. Which I can explain to you is the front nine, holes 1 and 2, the short par-4s that lead from the clubhouse, are intact. Then championship holes 3 to 7 are achieved by utilizing club holes 12 to 16, then finishing the front nines with holes 8 and 9 intact.
The back nine then, of course, again, beginning with holes 10 and 11, those two short 4s intact. Then the championship holes 12 through 16 achieved by utilizing club holes 3 to 7; then finishing the back nine with holes 17 and 18 intact.
The result of this changes each of these five hole segments, 3 to 7 and 12 to 16 are played in the same order they would have been played in. They're merely swapped from one nine to the other. We think this addresses the operational charges and questions that the club propounded, and in no way did we accept and agree to this routing in some effort relative to golf course setup or how to challenge these great senior players.
This results in a setup finally of a par-71, 37 par on the front nine, 34 on the back, a total yardage of 7,143, although I suspect Jeff will tell you that we will not use any of that entire yardage any one day.
An important point that we review with these types of press conferences is of course our U.S. Senior Open course setup philosophy. In the fall of 2004 Walter Driver, the then-chairman of the championship committee, implemented a written U.S. Open course setup philosophy, which sets forth certain and many factors and criteria relative to USGA philosophy on course setup. That can be found at USOPEN.com.
That same philosophy applies to all of our championships, and of course we adjust that accordingly as of the skill set that we're challenged with in a particular championship, so in this case United States Senior Open and the skill set of senior professional amateur players over the age of 50 years.
This philosophy is: "The U.S. Senior Open should be the most rigorous, the most difficult, yet fair, test in senior championship golf, an examination which tests both the players' physical capabilities and tenacities, and of course all mental capabilities and shot making."
The conclusion: We want well-executed shots rewarded, poorly executed shots penalized. An example of some of the key criteria and factors that are used in this philosophy are, of course, the concept of graduated rough, the trademark of Mike Davis and Jim Hyler since 2006, in that a wider path of shorter rough adjacent to the fairways on the longer holes like holes 5 and 6 or 16 and 17, that rough being two and three quarter inches, and then a narrower path of that shorter rough adjacent to the fairway on the shorter holes like holes 1 and 2 and holes 10 and 11.
The use of different teeing grounds is another one of those factors and criteria. We use a variety of teeing grounds throughout the championship here at Inverness, certainly the par-3s will see a mix of those teeing grounds. For example, hole 12 could see the yardage fluctuate from anywhere from 194 yards to possibly as little as 155 yards.
And finally, the risk-reward concept, probably most exampled here at Inverness at hole 16. We may contemplate to use a forward more right teeing ground, which will then create a risk-reward as you attempt to traverse the meandering creek on that hole, drive the ball further up to a narrower fairway, and of course result in a shorter shot to that very long par-4.
Another concept we wanted to address here is green speeds, hallmarks of USGA setup is fast and firm putting greens. No specific one stimp meter reading in here, Jeff and I targeted somewhere between 11 and 11 and a half relative to the architectural features of these greens.
Pebble Beach architectural feature might generate a light green speed, but Oakmont or other U.S. Open courses might dictate another.
Because of the extreme heat we've experienced here in Toledo over the last week, we got a little reprieve today, but again forecast for tomorrow, we've had to cut back on the number of rolls and the number of mows to prepare these putting greens to that speed.
We did not achieve the objective that we would have liked to have achieved, did not achieve that objective by Monday, which is our objective and goal, because of, again, the weather that Mother Nature has dealt us. But most importantly, the green speed which we approach of 11 to 11 and a half as we sit here on Thursday, the players have been apprised of this fact, and we will endeavor to get there should Mother Nature cooperate.
But most importantly leave this part of the press conference understanding that in no way will we compromise the health of the turf on the putting greens here at Inverness in an effort to achieve the objective that we set forth. Certainly we will leave here hopefully Sunday evening, again, weather permitting, and we wouldn't want to do anything that would compromise this wonderful club and their putting greens or any agronomic aspects of this wonderful course, so that's why we've backed off and have not achieved our objective.
Of course we'd be remiss if we didn't thank our partners in this 32nd United States Senior Open Championship. We need a committed partner. This is the biggest production in senior golf. We had that partner at Inverness, and we'd like to publicly thank president Tom Geiger, co-general chairman Bob May and Marc Stockwell, who interestingly enough were the co-general chairs in 2003, as well; green committee chair Doug Spencer who has worked closely with Jeff and Steve Anderson to prepare the golf course for this championship.
And of course golf course superintendent Steve Anderson and Judd Silverman, a member, who is their championship director. From the USGA, we say thank you to our partners.
Finally, I close with the drama of 1979 and Hale Irwin's U.S. Open victory as he hung on in rallies from Jerry Pate and Gary Player, and of course Bruce Lietzke's exciting win here in 2003 over Tom Watson causes us to look forward and anticipate an exciting and historic USGA championship this week here at Inverness. Because of the talent in this field, we have a hunch that this group in this the 32nd version of this championship, will be just as memorable.
Now I'd like to turn it over for more specific course setup comments to our managing director of Rules and Competitions, the staff person in charge of the United States Senior Open Championship, Jeff Hall.
JEFF HALL: Thank you, Tom. Good morning. I would also like to take a moment to say thanks to Steve Anderson, the golf course superintendent and his crew. They have really worked tirelessly. Advance week was an adventure. It seems like Mother Nature has decided she wants to participate in all three USGA Open Championships this year, and with three inches of rain, the thunderstorms we received, the debris cleanup, it's amazing they were able to get what they got done, done in preparing for this week. So hats off to Steve, his crew and the volunteers that he has helping him this week.
Tom mentioned our setup philosophy, and certainly firm and fast is what the USGA is interested in in setting up its golf courses for each of its championships. As I mentioned Mother Nature has had an impact on that thus far and looks like she may want to continue to have an impact as the week goes on, but it's an outdoor game and we'll see what happens. We might catch a break.
But we have certainly seen some gradual firming since Sunday. I'm very optimistic that that will continue, and generally pleased with where we are as we head into tomorrow's first round.
With respect to why firm and fast, we just think it really requires and provides a complete examination for the players. I sometimes suggest that firm golf course gets in the players' heads when they park their car in the parking lot because they know they're going to have to drive the golf ball in the fairway. Once that's been accomplished, a precise iron shot must be played to the firm green in order to control their golf ball being above the hole or below the hole.
Certainly there are a number of cases here at Inverness where placing your golf ball on the putting green in the proper locations is going to be paramount to scoring.
The putting green complexes at Inverness average about 5,700 square feet, pretty small targets. Tom mentioned our target green speed, and we're just about there. We're very pleased with the progress we've made in that area. We want that green speed to certainly test the players with respect to excellent putting touch and recovery from around the green, but we don't want to sacrifice some of the unique hole locations that are available to us on those putting greens.
So could we get faster with the green speeds? Certainly, you could get faster. But we'd lose a lot of the really interesting hole locations, and we want to retain that variety.
We will try to balance the setup of the golf course Thursday through Sunday with lefts, rights, fronts, backs, so that a consistent golf course is what awaits the players when they get to the tee each day. The first hole on Thursday is no less important than the final hole on Sunday, and we think perhaps what it is they're playing for on Sunday might ratchet things up with respect to the pressure. But there's no weighted scale in scoring, as you know.
Tom mentioned the graduated rough, which I think is a concept that has been very well received by players. The specifics this week, we have an intermediate cut of rough immediately adjacent to the fairway that's approximately six feet wide and an inch and a half in length. The first cut of the primary rough is at two and three quarters inches, and as Tom mentioned, on the shorter holes, approximately it's eight feet wide, on the longer holes, the longer par-4 holes, we're at approximately 15 feet wide.
So very -- excuse me, the second cut of primary rough is at four inches. So again, the concept of the farther off line you hit it, the tougher the lie, the longer the grass is going to be. I think the players have bought into that and appreciated that, and it makes very good sense.
We certainly have a great deal of flexibility here at Inverness with utilizing some different tees to either address weather conditions or just for strategic purposes using forward tees with different hole locations. Tom mentioned the 12th hole. I think that's perhaps the best example of a hole that can play 50 yards' difference in its overall length, but really with some different strategic intentions in mind.
The configuration of holes here at Inverness is quite unique. Two par-5s, both on the front nine, and three par-3s. I think it's safe to say that you might see some very good scoring in the first 11 holes if you're playing from the first tee. But you get to No. 12, you'd better have made your hay. It's time to hang on for those final 11 holes.
I think Inverness provides a wonderful variety of holes. Some of those short par-4s are quite unique and are quite a contrast to some of the longer par-4s in the 460 to 480 range. I think there's a wonderful variety of holes, many different clubs the players will use in their golf bag this week.
The fairways will average approximately 28 to 30 yards. As Tom mentioned, 7,143 yards is the overall length, and that's 160 yards longer than the setup was in 2003. At this time I'd like to turn it back over to Pete Kowalski because I believe we're going to have some Q & A.
Q. My question is for Jeff. Tom mentioned that it would be unlikely that you'd be using the full yardage in any given round. Do you have a target area that you try -- I know you take from some, give to others, but do you have a target yardage length in mind on a daily basis?
JEFF HALL: We have not discussed a specific number, no. Simply, as you suggest, got to take from one, give to another. Especially Thursday and Friday with 156 players, we want to be sure that we can get everybody around the golf course. I think it's unlikely, for instance, hole 16 and hole 5, I don't think you'd see us play both those holes at their full yardage Thursday and Friday. We'd likely play one slightly shorter.
I'm not sure the players would say it's short at 450 yards on hole No. 5 but slightly shorter than we can play it. Whereas hole 16 might be longer on that day, and try to find the right balance. But we don't really want a golf course that is dramatically different Thursday and Friday versus Saturday and Sunday. That's not the intent.
Q. My question is for the president. I was wondering, with the anniversary of the 100th U.S. Open or the 1920 U.S. Open here at Inverness, I was wondering with the anniversary approaching has there been any talk about it possibly coming back here?
JIM HYLER: Well, it's certainly been talked about, and we've received an invitation to come back as we've received invitations from lots of other people, but adhering to a long standing policy at the USGA we really don't comment any further than that. So we've announced through 2019, and that's where we are.
Q. Just to sort of follow up on that, in the local paper one of the principals of the club said clearly the operational changes, the rerouting, was done with a larger U.S. Open gallery in mind. Given that he's already said that, how much of a test run is this week going to be for you?
JIM HYLER: We are focused on this week. We want to focus on the Senior Open, having the most successful Senior Open we can possibly have, and our partners at the Inverness Club are right with us on that. And then we'll get through this week and think about the future in the future.
Q. For Jeff, in terms of the back nine, was there ever consideration, the fact that you didn't have a par-5? Was that ever a concern when you did the swap of the routing?
JEFF HALL: No, it was not. Again, the club approached us about the routing and said, hey, what do you think, would this be acceptable. We think it's going to provide a better spectator experience. We evaluated it on that basis, and really that evaluation fell primarily on Tim Flaherty.
But from a setup standpoint, no, we're going to play all 18 holes at some point. But the fact that there was no par-5 on that nine was of no consequence.
Q. Talk about the plans you guys have if we do get more rain because you mentioned the firmness of the course isn't where you want it to be and there's rain in the forecast the next few days. What do you have in place to address those concerns?
JEFF HALL: Well, we've seen a gradual firming since Sunday. Very pleased. We hadn't seen the numbers that were taken this morning with true firm. We have a meeting with Steve Anderson and our agronomy team in about an hour. But we're encouraged with the direction it's going. The forecast suggests we're going to get some rain perhaps tomorrow and more likely on Friday.
If we get rain, there's just not much we can do about the firmness. It was slightly encouraging to look at Greg Quinn, our meteorologist's forecast this morning, and even on Friday he's not forecasting, I think, any more than three tenths. But that would certainly impact how firm the golf course will play.
If the golf course got particularly soft where there was really no run at all in the fairways, Tom and I would huddle and we'd contemplate playing the golf course a little bit shorter because the golf course would play longer as a result of it being soft.
But agronomically and from a maintenance standpoint, if we get the rain, our primary concern is getting the golf course in condition to complete play that day and hand out a trophy on Sunday. That's what we'll ultimately work toward. But the firmness from a strategic and setup standpoint, you just take what you get.
TOM O'TOOLE: There was some discussion at Congressional, were we going to react to Mother Nature and the softness of the golf course by making it more difficult. If that's where your question was going, other than from a length standpoint, which Jeff has answered that portion of the question, we're not going to change our philosophy and setup to try to make the golf course more difficult because we think it's more receptive.
Q. You mentioned the Tee It Forward campaign. 1,400 courses sounds like a pretty good-sized experiment to get it off the ground. Can you offer any anecdotal information about how it went, anything that you can offer about that?
JIM HYLER: Well, we've gotten some limited feedback that people who have done it like it, and they say, wow, it does make a difference. It is taking less time to play. I'm having more fun. I'm hitting the same clubs into holes that the touring pros would hit, and it is more fun. So we've gotten some anecdotal comments back.
PGA of America is really driving that obviously through their members. We think we'll know by mid August, there will be a more comprehensive report about what happened during those two weeks. But it's getting a lot of play, a lot of coverage. We're very encouraged by this. And as I said, we think this is a great thing.
I'm a prime example of this. I was focused on playing a 6600, 6700-yard golf course and once I moved up to about 6200, I said, wow, this makes a difference, and I like it. It's more fun. So I think that's evidence of what we're seeing out there.
PETE KOWALSKI: Thank you, gentlemen.
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