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U.S. SENIOR OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

July 11, 2012

Tim Flaherty Jeff Hall Thomas O'Toole, Jr.

LAKE ORION, MICHIGAN

JOE GOODE:  Good morning.  My name is Joe Goode, and I'm the managing director of communications for the United States golf association.  I'd like to welcome you to Indianwood Golf & Country Club here in Lake Orion, Michigan, for the 33rd U.S. Senior Open Championship.  It's been about 18 years since the USGA last conducted a championship here at Indianwood, and we could not be more excited to be back.
The golf media is an important constituency of the USGA, and we're pleased to welcome more than 200 journalists, photographers and broadcasters to the U.S. Senior Open this week, and we particularly want to recognize the Golf Writers Association of America, who this year celebrates 40 years as an organization.
All of us at the USGA take great pride in having the opportunity to welcome the golf industry, the players, corporate partners, and fans from around the region and around the world this week, and we're proud to celebrate the diversity of this area, showcase the beauty of Indianwood, and witness the game's best senior players as they compete in golf's toughest test.
Over the course of this morning's news conference, the USGA leaders assembled today will provide a brief update on the progress the USGA is making to sustain the health of the game, our preparations for the 2012 U.S. Senior Open Championship, and a few of the course features that will challenge our field of 156 competitors.
It's now my pleasure to introduce USGA Vice President and Championship Committee Chairman Tom O'Toole.
TOM O'TOOLE:  Thank you, Joe.  Good morning.  Thank you to all the media that is here this morning and throughout the week to assist Indianwood in this, the 33rd playing of the United States Senior Open Championship.  It's a pleasure to be back here at Indianwood Golf & Country Club, as Joe mentioned, as we continue our 2012 championship season.
Two memorable open championships already in 2012 with two great champions.  Of course, the U.S. Open, Webb Simpson and his dramatic victory at the Olympic Club in June.  And just last week, the United States Women's Open champion Na Yeon Choi in Kohler, Wisconsin, right across the lake in another dramatic and exciting U.S. Women's Open finish.
We have every reason to believe the 33rd version of the U.S. Senior Open Championship will be just as memorable.
As chairman of the Championship Committee, I have great pleasure to represent the USGA here today, joined by not only Joe Goode, our Managing Director of Communications, who you've already heard from, but also the two gentlemen on my right, Tim Flaherty, the Senior Director of the U.S. Senior Open Championship, and Jeff Hall, the Managing Director of Rules and Competitions and Amateur Status.
I would be remiss if I did not publicly thank these two USGA veterans for their tireless effort in this, the production of the 33rd U.S. Senior Open Championship.  The bottom line, we could not conduct the magnitude of this production without their great expertise and commitment.
As President Glen Nager laid out at the USGA annual meeting in February, USGA is poised to address the complex challenges facing the game today.  To that end, USGA staff, with the direction of the executive committee, have completed a comprehensive strategic planning initiative, an initiative to make the game more enjoyable, more affordable, and more inviting and welcoming.  Why?  To serve the game better and to serve better those who love the game.
Through this process, we've identified critical strategies and associated initiatives for the next five years.  Some we have begun to implement support.  Others are still in the development phase.  Led by our new executive director Mike Davis, the USGA's strategic vision for the future is designed to complement and, in some cases, support our partners and allied associations around the world.  Why?  Because they need help with the great work they're doing so they can also face these challenges in the game.
One example of those initiatives is Tee It Forward, an initiative that we developed in support with the PGA of America after a successful pilot last summer.  Tens of thousands of golfers today are now playing from tees at a more suitable distance than they actually drive the golf ball.  They move forward?  Why?  To make the game more fun.
Today we're promoting Tee It Forward year round, and USGA has begun work with our regional golf associations to grow and effect long term change in the playing habits of the game.  I know Tee It Forward has made the game more enjoyable for me.
Another particular focus of our strategic plan is on the rules of golf.  Rules simply are too complex.  It can be barriers to playing enjoyment for many.  As part of our strategic action plan, the USGA is developing a five‑year education process and campaign to build greater understanding and greater appreciation for the rules among all golfers with the goal of making it less intimidating and more enjoyable for players at all levels.  This effort is already under way, and new set of videos can be found on USGA.org that bring a greater level of understanding in a most simple way to some of the common rules that most golfers face.
We also want to make the game more welcoming for women and minorities.  We have actively supported programs like the PGA of America's Get Golf Ready, a grassroots initiative that teaches all the basics that an individual may need to know to play the game in just a few short lessons.  The program has proven itself particularly successful in exposing women and minorities to the game, women in these programs totaling 60 percent of the participants, and ethnic diversity individuals making up over 29 percent of those in the program.
Improving sustainability is also a central theme of our strategic plan and that part of that process.  Golf courses consume resources, not simply just land and water, but fertilizer, energy, labor, which put added stress on the economics of the game.  Over the course of the past 95 years, the USGA Green Section has assembled a rich set of resources, scientific expertise, and turf grass innovations that have helped advance a more sustainable relationship between golf and the environment.
As part of our strategic planning process, the USGA plans to further develop a broad‑based educational program directed at all course officials and superintendents delivering sustainable best management practices that could also help improve golf's bottom line.  This educational campaign also will be developed with the individual golfer in mind so they can better understand the role golf plays in being more sustainable.
These strategic initiatives and others are all under way.  Additional programs are still in development.  This is an exciting time in USGA history, and our new strategic plan provides a clear road map for the USGA over the next five years.  It provides clarity for the ways in which the association will allocate its most valuable resources and position the USGA to provide a strong leadership for the good of the game.  During these very important and challenging times, the USGA must lead by example.
Before concluding, I would like to thank, of course, many of our USGA volunteers.  First of all, those who serve USGA committees, over 1,400 men and women across the country who assist in our national championships, who serve our partners at our state and regional golf associations, who conduct our USGA qualifying rounds.  We say to them, you are our life blood.
And to those volunteers at our Open Championships, like those here at Indianwood who will assist in the conduct of this, the 33rd U.S. Senior Open Championship, over 2,400 volunteers that will help stage this Senior Open.
To both groups, we say thank you.  We just simply could not do it without you.
Finally, recognize the contribution U.S. Senior Open Championship and those at Indianwood have enjoyed from the collaborative efforts of our municipal partners, those in Lake Orion, and, of course, Oakland County.  It's important to bring golf back to Southeastern Michigan, and we couldn't do it without that community support.
Now it's my pleasure to turn over the program to the gentlemen I mentioned earlier, our senior director of the U.S. Senior Open Championship, Tim Flaherty.
TIM FLAHERTY:  Thank you, Tom.  Thank you all for being here today.  On the eve of the 33rd U.S. Senior Open, I'd just like to start by welcoming you all but also for thanking our host here at Indianwood.  I had lunch with Stan Aldridge about five years ago when we first talked about a U.S. Senior Open.  It's been a long path.  Indianwood has been a great partner for us.
Stan, as a lot of you know, his family is very involved.  His son Keith has been working tirelessly.  He's been the championship director.  Kevin, very involved in the golf course.  And their daughter Kelli, as well, involved in the operation.
First and foremost, I just want to thank Stan and all the Aldridges.  They've been wonderful hosts, and looking forward for a successful weekend.
The great thing about the Senior Open is the courses that we go to.  Again, we've got a tremendous golf course here.  That's the reason we're here to start off with, but it's interesting to look at the Senior Open lineup.
Indianwood is joining a lineup of Winged Foot, places like Winged Foot, Pinehurst No.2.  We've been to Oakland Hills twice with the Senior Open.  Riviera out in California.  Just a great, great array of clubs.  Indianwood belongs in that ranking.
Just going to briefly mention tickets are available for everybody.  The key thing there are that kids 17 and under are in free.  We like to promote a family atmosphere at these events.  I also work on the Women's Open, where we promote that as well.  Kids are in free.  Tickets for championship rounds are only 40.  They can be found at ussenioropen.com or most of the 183 Kroger stores in the area.  Tickets are still available for the rest of the week.
Today is military day.  All military personnel are allowed in free.  We've also got a special thing going on on the golf course.  If you notice the flagstick on the 16th hole, it's the American flag.  We worked that arrangement out with the U.S. Army, Detroit Arsenal, and they are greeting every group as they come through.  Again, this is for our military day.  So there's also a special pricing for military throughout the rest of the week.
For fans who wish to enjoy the Senior Open from afar, we continue to make improvements in delivering an integrated view of our U.S. Senior Open coverage at ussenioropen.com.  Fans can get the very latest information concerning the championship, including schedules, realtime scoring, social media feeds through our@usopengolf Twitter handle as well.
Beyond our digital channel, the television broadcasts continue to be an increasingly successful platform for sharing the excitement and drama that will unfold at the U.S. Senior Open.  This year, as in years past, ESPN and ABC will air 14 hours of live coverage here from Lake Orion.
As far as the community goes, we've had tremendous help from the local people around here.  It gets back to tickets.  Our parking and transportation plan is very simple.  Over the last three days, it's gone very well.  Parking is close by, and the buses have all been running.  Some roads have been shut down.  So for fans, the ease of getting in and out of here is very good.  We couldn't do those types of things without dealing with the local police, local municipalities, all those types of people who have been very accommodating here in Lake Orion.
The USGA estimates that the U.S. Senior Open will deliver an estimated $15 million to $20 million to the local economy, mainly through spending on hotels, restaurants, merchandise, and other entertainment as well as direct funding that USGA spends on local vendors to stage the championship.  Again, we've got great partners in the area.  Looking forward to having them involved as we finish the week out.
Just a couple of other things I'd like to mention.  As far as our staff goes, I see Bob Brame sitting in the back.  Bob has been in here the last two years on a pretty regular basis working with Mark Jackson, Kevin Aldridge on thing the agronomic program.  Many of you out there on the golf course, it's in pretty close to perfect shape for us.  I'd like to recognize Bob and also Mark Jackson and Kevin Aldridge.  Also in the back is Matt Sawicki, who's been here quite a bit working on the aspects.  And Brian DePasquale, who oversees our media for the U.S. Senior Open as well.
Again, it's great to be back here at Indianwood.  I'm going to turn it over now to Jeff Hall.
JEFF HALL:  Thank you, Tim.  Good morning, everyone.  My thank‑yous have been covered so we won't be redundant in that regard.  Tom and I were out this morning on our respective setup walks.  Tom on the front nine, I was on the back nine.  And we got some of the numbers that came back from various readings and things, Stimpmeter and firmness, and we are really well positioned for the start of the championship tomorrow.
It was quite a challenging week last week here.  Advance week, Mother Nature, much like last year, looked like she wanted to play a little bit more of a lead role in the Senior Open.  Fortunately, I guess she had another appointment this week because she let go on Saturday night, and we've got some wonderful weather the last four days.  The golf course has responded beautifully.  We have targeted a green speed of 12 feet, and we are right where we want to be with that.
We've had outstanding firming conditions the last four days.  The golf course is coming to us that way.  Again, we really feel like the golf course is where we need it to be.  Mark Jackson and his crew have just been working tirelessly on a daily basis to meet our desires, and we're very confident the golf course will be presenting to everyone's satisfaction.
We do want the Senior Open to be very reminiscent of the U.S. Opens of the past these gentlemen have participated in.  That said, it's not intended to be the U.S. Open.  It can't be.  It's a different group of players.  But we do want it to be the toughest test in golf that these players encounter each year.  They can circle it on the calendar and know, okay, I'm coming to Indianwood in 2012.  It's going to be a little bit different than what they see every week.  I think we are achieving that.
I've talked to a few of the players over the last few days, and I think we are achieving our goal.  It's a little different than what they see every week.  We try to tailor, set up the golf course to not only reflect the toughest test that they encounter all year, but to fit the personality of this particular golf course.
Many have commented when we were here for media day in May, that gee, this isn't a very long golf course.  No, it's not.  Don't let that fool you.  It's going to be a solid test of golf.  Very small greens.  Fairways are pretty tight.  Indianwood has never been about the overall length of the golf course.  It's going to be about producing quality golf shots throughout the 72 holes that we'll play.
We don't have a target score.  Many ask that.  Again, I bumped into a couple of players who said, well, you must have a number in mind for the winning score.  That's not how we work.  Now, I don't think it's a surprise that we do try to test the players in all facets of their game‑‑ physical, mental, emotional‑‑ all of those things factor in.  When we have a firm golf course, we're confident that that gets in the player's mind when they park their courtesy car because they know they've got to play to firm greens from the fairways, and the fairways out here are not particularly generous in some spots.  A little more in others, but I think they're appropriately generous based on the hole that is being played.
There is some risk/reward, but perhaps not as much as other golf courses, but we don't want to force that issue either.  The 1st hole, I think, although it is just the 1st hole, does provide some risk/rewards.  It is a very reachable par 5, but it will require two very precise golf shots.  If you miss the fairway, well, you're going to have to work hard to catch up, and you'll play a much longer third shot if you don't drive it in the fairway, and we'll see that throughout.
It's not our intent to have the rough be a pitch‑out rough, but it's healthy.  There's no mistaking that.  It's very healthy out there right now.  We have included our graduated rough concept that we have initiated about six years ago, and primarily we see that on Holes 12, 16, and 18.  Three very solid challenging holes.  12th hole being a 490‑yard par 4.  16 at 450 and 18 in the 460 range.  So that graduated rough, we have a three‑inch rough that's approximately eight feet wide.  And then outside of that, we have the primary rough at four inches.
In speaking with Mark Jackson, Kevin Aldridge, our grounds crew, we've asked that all of the rough grass inside the ropes, excluding the fescue, obviously, be all four‑inch rough inside the ropes, be mowed by the end of the day today.  So they start that process yesterday and will finish by the end of the day.  We'll keep a very close eye on that the balance of the week.  We'll start dialling down the water, that rough will start to dry out, it will continue to grow.  We'll keep a close eye on it throughout the week, just as we do all facets of the setup, be it green speeds, firmness, et cetera.
We're very, very pleased with where we are and really think the golf course will provide a very solid test of golf, and nobody will pretend their way to the championship on Sunday night.
We have endeavored to provide a very consistent golf course, beginning with practice rounds Monday to what they see Thursday.  We're not trying to surprise anybody.  We want those practice rounds to be very meaningful, and we believe we've accomplished that.  Very solid finish here at Indianwood.  We've got a chance to make one on 15, par 5, that if we get the prevailing wind, which I haven't seen yet, but they tell me it will come from the south/southwest, but we haven't seen it yet.  It will be a healthy wind.  We could see some players get up on the green or potentially knock it on the green up there.
But 16, 17, 18, I think 3 pars with a one‑shot lead, you've got to like your chances at grasping that trophy on the 18th green.  Very, very good finishing holes, and we're sure that they will be a very solid test as we come down to the end and the players are playing for that national championship.
We certainly believe the prize at the end does add its own element of pressure to the test of golf that will be before them.  We will, not surprisingly, use 16, 17, 18 as our three‑hole playoff if we have a tie at the end of the 72 holes.  If we still have a tie, we play the 18th hole until we determine the champion.
I really thank you for your attention this morning.  Again, we've had a great preparation the last three days, last six days, and once Mother Nature let go, we've been really well positioned for an outstanding championship and do want to, again, thank Mark Jackson, the superintendent and his staff, who have really just worked tirelessly to deliver a golf course that is worthy of our Senior Open Championship.
JOE GOODE:  Jeff, Tim, and Tom, thanks very much.  We're going to open it up to questions now.  Please wait for a microphone as we are transcribing today's press conference.

Q.  What's the philosophy on hole positions on the 18th green?  You can probably do anything.  I know you guys set the pins well in advance, at least in your mind.  What are you planning on doing with that?  It seems to me there's so many different things that can happen there.
JEFF HALL:  When we looked at the 18th green, I think it was a case of which ones we don't want to use.  There's plenty of choices.  I think at the end of the day we want to provide a stern test, and we want that to be reflected in the hole locations.  They're challenging.  They're fair.
What I found, as we went through the setup, the greens, excepting for 18, are generally pretty small and have quite a bit of pitch.  Almost to the point where one side of the green is‑‑ I'm sure the players are putting notes in their yardage book with a big red X.  This is a bad place to be if the hole locations appear.
On 18, there's almost mini greens throughout that particular green.  But we're looking for challenging hole locations.  There's a lot of variety.  The putting green is 51 yards deep.  The tape measure that we used did stretch that long.  So we were complete.  I had my concerns about that from the start.  We were able to get from back to front.
I think you'll find‑‑ it always amazes me, when you watch these players play their practice rounds, we don't give them the hole location sheet for the week.  We've got a master sheet that we use.  But I'll tell you what, they're awfully good at figuring it out.  If you spend any time looking down there and see where we go with the hole locations, I bet they've nailed most of them as to where we're going to go.
A lot of choices there.  We'll have to be mindful of the weather.  Tomorrow it's predicted what wind we get is going to be an east wind, which will result in the second shot being straight into the wind there.  So we're going to be mindful of that.  If we've got rain in the forecast, we're going to look for some higher ground, if possible.  But it's a case of trying to find proper balance; back, front, left, right.  We don't want a setup that favors players that shape the ball one direction versus the other.  We're trying to identify the best player, not just a certain type of player.

Q.  This is for Tom or Jeff.  You indicated that the greens are running 12 on the Stimpmeter.  Are there plans to go faster than that?  Are you planning to keep them around 12?
TOM O'TOOLE:  I think as Jeff said, we like the golf course where it is right now today.  We've got some collaboration to do with Bob Brame and our green sections staff and Mark Jackson.  I think we like the golf course where it is and try to dial in what Mother Nature's going to give us and try to keep it in that area.  That could change our preparation based on that.  I think Jeff and I like the golf course where it is right now this morning when we were out there.

Q.  Tim, can you talk about what it means in this tournament to create some buzz and give fans again something they may not see up close.
TIM FLAHERTY:  Sure, absolutely.  I think that's the interesting thing with Tom.  You probably won't see him again in Michigan or this part of the state in a significant championship again.  We had Tom Watson and Fred Couples play together up at Sahalee in Seattle, which was Fred's first Senior Open.  They went up at about 8:00 in the morning, and we had a tremendous crowd.  I think the two of them together will be a great pairing for the spectators.
But the field is deep.  The great thing about the Senior Open is what you get here are the great players like Tom Watson and Fred Couples.  I was here yesterday for Mr. California's press conference, which was pretty interesting.  So Gerry James.  Thursday and Friday, I think sometimes Jeff and Tom have one of the hardest jobs in golf, setting up the golf course for such a wide variety of players.
Absolutely, I think the pairings will favor the spectators with Fred and Tom together.

Q.  You mentioned, Jeff, earlier about these guys playing in a U.S. Open in the past and how this would resemble a U.S. Open.  Obviously, the length of the golf course, that kind of thing, probably isn't the same as the U.S. Open.  Would it be the firmness and speed of the greens pretty much that resembles an open for them?  Maybe if they miss the fairways too, I guess.
JEFF HALL:  Dave, that's exactly right.  The setup reflects what we do for the U.S. Open Championship, and it's got to be dialed back just a bit.  But there's a premium on all aspects of your game, and that's what we're trying to showcase with our setup.
I think the other thing that brings them back, if I may use that phrase, to the U.S. Open is the size and the enthusiasm of the crowds.  And a birdie is made four holes behind or four holes ahead, and you know about it.  You're who, what, where?  Especially on the weekend.  Who was that?  Okay, somebody's making a run.  I think those are the kinds of things that, again, harken them back to the days of playing in a U.S. Open Championship.
Tim and the folks here at Indianwood have developed a great plan to get folks out here and get them around, make sure they have a great positive experience while they're here, enjoying names that they all know.

Q.  Pace of play has been a big issue this year in all of golf.  Just wondering with time par is this week and what measures, if any, have to be taken to move them around faster.
TOM O'TOOLE:  Good question, David.  You're right.  It is in the forefront with many in golf.  It's not just golf or championship level, but it's golf‑‑ the playing of the game is an issue as it relates to the time.  To specifically answer your question time par, remember the time par is a reference that we don't use, but it's a vernacular around the industry.
Our allotted time for a group of three is 4 hours and 29 minutes.  Now, that applies to the first group.  It doesn't apply to every group.  So many of the questions last week, as you referenced, is why did the last group not play within the allotted time?  It's not possible when you're playing 11‑minute intervals and you have holes that take longer than 11 minutes to play, to play with that.
But we expect, there's an expectation in our condition of competition, which we've adopted in our pace of play guidelines, that they will be in position in relation to the group in front of them.  That's how we monitor their play.  They're not timed or monitored unless they get out of that position.
So we will, like we did at Olympic Club and like we did last week at Kohler, we will endeavor to enforce this policy to its full force and effect.  That means, if groups get out of position, they will be monitored.
Let's remember, ladies and gentlemen, this is the United States Senior Open Championship, and the golf course setup that Jeff just delivered is a difficult one, and it requires attention and application by these players.  And that's where you exceed behind the time par, what you call the time par, and what we call the allotted time.
We will endeavor to enforce the policy that's been adopted, as we do on all of our open championships, and we think the time selected, the 4 hours and 20 minutes s a reasonable amount of time for those groups leading those waves to play again.
TIM FLAHERTY:  I would just add that historically, this group of players plays somewhat considerably faster than the PGA Tour or the U.S. Women's Open.  This group of players has historically played faster, and this golf course, you know, greens to tees, are pretty short walks.

Q.  This is for Jeff.  Does the 9th hole give you a chance to change things up?  Is there a chance you'll shorten that up at some point?
JEFF HALL:  It's certainly one that we've been keeping an eye on.  We're not going to put all of our cards out on the table on Wednesday afternoon, but we will certainly have some opportunities to utilize some varying teeing grounds, whether it's reaction to weather, where we're trying to be more practical.  In some cases, it's more about the strategic side of things, such as moving forward on Hole 9.  But Tom and I have been discussing those possibilities, and we'll just have to wait and see.

Q.  What about the par 3s?  How long will you play the 13th?  Will that be all the way back?  Do you have any thoughts on that or the other par 3s?
JEFF HALL:  The 13th hole, I think, is one we will play back on that back tee.  It's quite a large teeing ground, so we do have quite a bit of variety in moving tees up and back but also left and right, so we can change angles.  That's the same opportunity, as far as changing angles, on 17.  The width of that tee.  Not a very deep tee, but very unusual putting green there, and the opportunity to shift the tee by 20 yards further left or right and the hole location to go with it will be quite strategic, I think.
The 3rd hole, we do intend on using the teeing ground, that is golfer's right of the primary teeing ground.  I believe the yardage to the front of that teeing ground or the front of that teeing ground is 117 yards.  So I think, if you can count on the fact that if we go there, we'll probably have a hole location that is commensurate with a shorter requirement of golf shots.
And then the 5th hole, again, is a very long teeing ground, which we have some great flexibility.  Again, a real neat putting green with a little bowl in front and two tiers.  So you could have a hole location that might very well be the same depth on our tape measure but vary the length of the shot on that particular hole by as much as 15 yards based on where the tee is located.
So we will certainly utilize the flexibility that we have of those teeing grounds on the par 3 holes and then manage all of that with the weather conditions and the firmness and what's reasonable for a hole location and the length of shot that's being played.
JOE GOODE:  This concludes the U.S. Senior Open press conference.  Enjoy the rest of the week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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