USGA Press Conference

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

JOE GOODE:  Good morning.  My name is Joe Goode, managing director of communications for the USGA.  I would like to welcome you to the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the 112th U.S. Open championship.  It's been 14 years since the USGA last conducted a U.S. Open here at Olympic Club and we are thrilled to be back.

All of us at the USGA take great pride in having the opportunity to welcome the golf industry, players, allied associations, members of the media, corporate partners and fans from around the world this week.  We're proud to celebrate the diversity of this great city, showcase the beauty of the Lake Course, and witness the game's best as they compete in golf's toughest test.

Over the course of this morning's news conference the USGA will provide an update on the progress the USGA is making in our efforts to sustain the health of the game, our preparations for the 2012 U.S. Open, and a few of the course features that will challenge our field of 156 competitors.

It is now my pleasure to introduce USGA president, Glen Nager.

GLEN NAGER:  Good morning, everybody.  It's a pleasure for the USGA to be back here at The Olympic Club as we embark on our annual championship season pleased to be joined her at the head table by Tom O'Toole, vice president of the USGA and chairman of our championship committee and Mike Davis, the USGA executive director.

Over the next five months 13 individuals and one team, amateurs and professionals, men and women, will be crowned by the USGA as a national champion.  None will be as visible as our 112th U.S. Open champion, but all will be deserving of our admiration for their competitive accomplishments.  And to that end I would like to commend our Curtis Cup team for their grace and spirit and sportsmanship this last week in their matches against the Great Britain and Ireland team at this year's Curtis Cup.

Obviously Mike and Tom are the ones who are going to comment on our championship preparations and the key features of our course setup for this week.  What I would like to do is briefly update you on what the USGA is doing with our efforts to sustain the game year round.

We know from your coverage of the game that you share the concern and the interest and the passion that major leading golf organizations share for what's going on in the game, particularly here in the United States with declining participation rates.

It's important that you in the media have the opportunity to know from us what we're doing in combination with these other organizations to try to ensure the game's long‑term success.  As I laid out in my remarks in February at the USGA annual meeting, we feel that the game, particularly for the recreational golfer, there needs to be more emphasis on enjoyment of the game, more emphasis on affordability of the game and more emphasis on welcomeness in the game.

So Mike and his staff have recently completed a strategic planning process, a comprehensive strategic plan for the USGA that's designed to use our core functions in services of these ends of trying to make the game more enjoyable, more affordable, more welcoming and more inclusive, while enhancing our own operations and capabilities to better serve the game and those who love to play it.

Time's limited so I'm going to give you some illustrations of some of the initiatives that are under way in support of that strategic plan.  One, of course, is our Tee It Forward initiative that we have done in partnership with the PGA of America.  We started it last year with a very successful pilot project and this year both the USGA and the PGA have devoted substantial attention to a communications campaign in combination with state and regional golf associations to popularize the Tee It Forward program.

The idea here is to get players recreational golfers, to play from the tees where their approach shots into the green would be using a comparable club to what a TOUR professional would use.  So that people like me aren't hitting 5‑woods into every green, occasionally get to use the 8‑iron that they bought when they bought their clubs.

We have to, for this to work, it can really add a lot of satisfaction to the game, it can speed up play, but we're going to have to change the culture.  We're going to have to get recreational golfers to understand and agree that better is more fun, not just more difficult.  But we feel like we're making a lot of headway with this program and you'll be hearing more about it.

Another focus of our strategic plan of using our core functions to help address these issues has to do with the Rules of Golf.  During my tenure as chair of the Rules of Golf committee I personally found the rules were much too complex and there could be barriers to play and enjoyment of the game.

So we started the process while I was chair of the Rules of Golf committee and it's a major element of our new strategic plan to work on simplification of the rules.  And in company with the simplification of the rules, we will be rolling out a five‑year education campaign to build a greater understanding and a greater appreciation for the rules, among recreational golfers.  Our focus here will be on recreational golfers, not on elite golfers.  Our goal here is it to make the rules less intimidating and more enjoyable.  And we're going to have a multi‑channel program with which will deliver content to regional golf associations, to member clubs, to PGA professionals, to help them with techniques to bring the rules to life, both for kids in high school and golfers at courses.

We started this with a series of videos that we have produced on some of the basic rules that are available on USGA.org to just in a simple way to take the most common rules and educate golfers about those on the recognition that not many golfers are actually going to read our rule book because it's too complicated to read.

We're also wanting to address the fact that many people who don't play golf, one of the reasons they don't play, our research shows, is that they just are intimidated by the process and prospect of playing the game.  So we're trying to find ways to make people find the game more welcoming and here again in a partnership with the PGA of America we're supporting the Get Golf Ready program, which is a grass roots initiative that teaches basics about the game to an individual in just a few short lessons.  And again the preliminary results of this program are very encouraging on interesting people in the game.

This week we announced a new program with Chevron, a partnership with Chevron, which is designed to come at young people, introduce them to the game, and introduce them to the science and technology behind the game of golf.  So with Chevron we will be partnering with their stem program to introduce kids to golf course setup, equipment testing, agronomic research and how science, technology, engineering and math is used by the USGA in delivering its core mission to the game to introduce young people not only to science, engineering and the like that Chevron's interested in introducing kids to, but to use golf as the vehicle for doing it and hopefully interest kids in golf as well.

Expense of the game.  The game's gotten increasingly expensive, in part because golf courses have gotten longer, wider, lusher, and a consequence of that is not simply using more land and more water, it's also using more fertilizer, more energy, more labor, and that's put a stress on the economics of the game.  We're hopeful over time that our Tee It Forward initiative will actually help reduce the footprint of the golf course that's actually used most of the time and reduce the amount of acreage that golf course superintendents have to maintain in order to provide the playing conditions for recreational golfers and one of the consequences of that should be to lower the cost structure of maintaining golf courses.

In this regard, we are going to come out also with an educational campaign to educate not just golf course superintendents about techniques for using less water, less fertilizer, less labor, and the maintenance of our golf course, but also to educate recreational golfers about what's necessary to help change the expense of the game.

We'll also be convening this fall in Dallas a water summit which will bring together experts from science, government, business, academia and golf to discuss ways that the industry can address the increasingly challenging issue of water in golf course management.  We're hoping through this forum we cannot only discuss best management practices, but also help stimulate future industry research and directions related to the challenge of decreasing supplies of water in the game.

And finally in our strategic plan we are working on an upgrading and improving the USGA's communications and technology functions.  Again to deliver messages to the golfing public with regard to the various programs that we will be implementing in service of our core functions with again the notion that if we can share the information we can help address some of the stereotypes about the game and break it down and make the game more welcoming and more inclusive and more enjoyable.

Mike and his team deserve a lot of credit for the effort that went into this strategic plan and I'm confident that over time and combination with our other allied organizations what they're doing, we'll have an effect.

Before I conclude I would just like to recognize the many USGA volunteers who donate their time to our organization.  They help us conduct our national championship, they serve on our committees, they help conduct our local competitions and they help generate the next generation of golfers.  More than 1200 people volunteer their time to the USGA each year and here at Olympic Club we obviously have over 5,000 volunteers helping us run our national championship.  We offer our appreciation and thanks to them.

Finally, my thanks would not be complete if I didn't recognize the great cooperation that we have had from our municipal partners here in San Francisco and San Mateo County and particularly Mayor Ed Lee, the mayor's director of special events, Martha Cohen and Pat Martel, who is the city manager for Daly City, as well as the men and women in uniform who are helping with security this week.  So now on to the championship, which is what you're here for.  Tom O'Toole our vice president and chairman of our championship committee.

TOM O'TOOLE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you all for being here today for this press conference.  As we embark on our 112th playing of the U.S. Open I would like to review with you a variety of subjects.  Since 1895 the USGA has moved our championships, particularly the U.S. Open, to different sites annually.  Which allows us to deliver golf's greatest test and toughest test at unique, challenging, but different venues and courses each year.  The Olympic Club, which will host its fifth U.S. Open, is truly one of those unique great courses that can deliver that special test.

The Lake Course, the 1927 gem of Wilfred Reed design has had minimal course changes since its inception.  Since we were here in 1998 the club has added nine new teeing grounds and of course the construction of the new par‑3 8th hole.

But beyond that, the Lake Course, in addition to five U.S. Opens, has hosted other championships.  The 1958 U.S. Amateur Championship won by career superstar amateur Charlie Coe.  The 1981 U.S. Amateur, a historic amateur championship, won by then virtual no name, the son of Bing Crosby, Nathaniel Crosby.  The 2007 U.S. Amateur Championship, won by Colt Knost, who is in the field here this week, who made history as he won a second USGA championship in that summer of 2007.

Later this summer the Olympic Club will host the USA/China youth golf match, just another example of how the Olympic Club steps up to sport USGA and amateur golf of the.

Now that's a club with a wonderful USGA history.

Our objective at the USGA is to make the U.S. Open the best experience in championship golf.  From the perspective of all constituencies; players, spectators, viewership, and the community.

Fan experience is paramount to that objective.  This is the 26th straight sell out, a pattern that started here in 1987.  Also a sell out from a corporate hospitality and participation perspective.  Again, what a fabulous job done by the Olympic Club.

This year, 32 hours of coverage of the U.S. Open through our partners at NBC and the Golf Channel, ESPN and our broadcast partners around the world, reaching millions of viewers worldwide.

And our digital efforts through USOpen.com delivering an integrated view of the U.S. Open coverage and of course the early coverage of the marquee group tomorrow morning, Woods, Mickelson and Watson, streaming live on USOpen.com.

We also endeavor to have an international flavor and an all exclusive field.  To that end of the 156 competitors, representing 18 countries, 10 past champions, 35 first time participants, and eight amateurs.  But, wait, in addition, we have a 14 year old, Andy Zhang in the field who went through local and sectional qualifying and a disabled golfer, Casey Martin, who's been an inspiration to many and who made history here 14 years ago, he's back again.

Wow, those stories only at the U.S. Open.

The Lake Course, 7170 yards, not likely to use the length of that in any one particular day, a par 70, is of course a shot maker's course.  We have in many times in recent years reviewed with you and told us our U.S. Open course setup philosophies, we won't again belabor those particulars, but golf's toughest test should be the most rigorous, the most difficult, yet fair test in championship golf.  We want well executed shots rewarded, and poorly executed shots penalized.

To insure that test, being in coastal California, despite our slight mist this morning should allow us to be involved in determining a firm and fast golf course.  Besides the Mike Davis intrigue in the setup, water management is the key this week.  Assuming we get cooperation from our very dear friend, Mother Nature.

The rest of the golf course setup will be reviewed with you by its architect, Mike Davis.  Be assured that 2012 version of the U.S. Open Olympic Club will have plenty of intrigue and creativity.  Much has been made of the difficulty of the first six holes and, yes, that's a fact.  But the last four holes will give the accurate aggressive player plenty of opportunity to recover.  And the risk reward of the two par‑5s, 16 and 17, is significant.

All of this gives rise to what we hope will be an unbelievable dramatic theater.

To conclude, we would be remiss if we did not publicly deliver some thank yous.  To conduct the U.S. Open we have continually said you need a committed and dedicated partner.  In the Olympic Club we have had that partner.  That partnership led by Steve Meeker, the general chairman, Steve has led this club with great distinction and dedication and all of this membership should be quite proud.

Also representing that partnership club president Jay Fredricks and general manager Greg DeRosa.  To all those at The Olympic Club we say thank you.

But to separate out the golf course superintendent, Pat Finlen, as Mike Davis has said many times, the most important critical figure in the U.S. Open production is the golf course superintendent.  Pat Finlen has stood by Mike, myself, in this setup for the last three years and really accommodated our every need.  He deserves special kudos from all at the USGA and all who witness this great championship.

Also, we must recognize the tireless efforts of our USGA staff.  Ladies and gentlemen, they're the best in the business, as they lead what is the biggest production in championship golf.

They are Reg Jones, senior director of the U.S. Open Championship, Danny Sink, and Kevin Chris to have, who have been here each for over three years, in their respective staffs.  Also, our operations team of Frank Bussey and John Palacios, ladies and gentlemen, the bottom line is we simply could not pull off the magnitude of this production and you've seen it as you've walked on the grounds here at Olympic Club, without their expertise and commitment.

Reg, to your and your team, we say thank you.

In closing, we're excited to be back in San Francisco as Glen said, here at The Olympic Club for, yes, our ninth USGA championship and our fifth United States Open championship.  We believe this historic golf course with all the implemented modifications has a challenge and rigor and will stand up to the billing of golf's toughest test to test the greatest players in the world.  So in comparison, whether it was Jack Fleck's playoff win in 1955 over Ben Hogan or Billy Casper's back nine charge to a playoff to defeat Arnold Palmer in 1966, or Scott Simpson's one stroke victory over Tom Watson in 1987, or Lee Janzen's final round 68 resulting in a one‑stroke victory over Payne Stewart, it is our bet that the 2012 version of the U.S. Open at Olympic Club will be as just as memorable.

Now it is my pleasure to bring to you the podium the guy that can no longer call, after 15 months on the job, the new leader of the USGA, but we can call him the guy who leads the new USGA.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome executive director, Mike Davis.

MIKE DAVIS:  Tom, thank you.  Well, good morning, everybody.  First of all, I want to speak about the golf course, where we are with setup.  And let me start out by saying we're absolutely delighted with where we are right now with the conditions.  The greens are as good as any greens we have seen at a U.S. Open.  They putt beautifully.  The fairways are perfect.  The rough is aptly named, it's rough.  And we're just delighted.

Tom mentioned about Pat Finlen, the golf course superintendent.  For those that come to the U.S. Open every year, I know this is going to sound like a stuck record because what Tom said is absolutely the case, that there's no person that really influences this championship more.  When you look back at the successes over the decades, the golf course superintendent and his staff just a marvelous group to work with and Pat, if you wouldn't mind standing up just so everybody knows who you are. (Applause.)

Just a great job and as Tom said, you're just a delight to work with.  And that seems to be the case every single year.  So it's great.  And I would be remiss too if I didn't being acknowledge the USGA greens section.  For some of you that don't know, the USGA has had what we call a greens section since 1920.  And really looking back at some of the things the USGA has accomplished over the years, I'm not so sure that some of our greatest accomplishments haven't come out of the greens section, whether it's turf grass research, environmental research, that has impacted the entire world of golf.  And we have got several members, several experts here this week that's helping out Pat and his staff.  So I do want to thank our green section staff and for all they do, they just are a tremendous asset.

With respect to the Olympic Club, I know a lot of you have been here before, a lot of you have been out on the golf course, and I think one of the great things about moving championships, our national championships around, whether it's the U.S. Open or the U.S. Girls Junior Amateur is that each cite has its own personality and surely the Olympic Club has its own personality.  And with all the trees that are here, and there's certainly a lot less trees than there used to be, you sometimes forget that literally we are on the side of a giant sand dune here.  If you get up to Skyline Boulevard, or, I guess it's Boulevard, and you look out west, you quickly realize it goes kind of straight down this big dune to the ocean.  And this is a golf course that got built on the eastern end of this giant sand dune.  And I think that what's fascinating about that is when it was designed, I mean the routing, with the exception of the par‑3 8th hole, is the same that it's been for almost a hundred years now.

But it got built on the side of the hill and I really think that, along with the firmness of the golf course, is what the Olympic Club's Lake Course, because there's 36 holes here, that's really the personality of it.  That how, in so many cases, that you are working against that hillside when you have got a hole that doglegs in the opposite direction of this big hillside that works its way the whole way down to like Merced, it makes it challenging.  And when you add firm conditions it makes it challenging and the thing that even exacerbates that is the prevailing wind, this week, should be out of the northwest or west, although I saw tomorrow it's going to be out of the southwest if we get some wind, but that just ‑‑ you're just fighting not only the hillside, but you're fighting the prevailing wind.

So and I think that the by‑product of that is that, and it's been said before, but this course really, more than any other U.S. Open course we go to, it requires ‑‑ well it certainly, it doesn't require shaping on every shot, but if you can work the ball both ways, left‑to‑right and right‑to‑left, you get a real advantage.  And that's something we don't see as much anymore in today's game.  It's more about hitting it long and hitting it straight.

So I think it's fascinating that we're at an Open course that it's not necessarily all about hitting it long.  If you look on the scorecard, it's 7170, which Tom just mentioned, and we have firm conditions.  And even though I think everybody ‑‑ the players would certainly acknowledge that here at sea level with these cooler temperatures you don't hit the ball quite as far, but nonetheless, this is not about all length this week.  This is really about shot making.  And so it will be interesting to see how the players work themselves around the golf course.  Some of the holes don't require drivers, but at the same time those same holes, you can hit driver.  So they have a choice.  And I think any time we give the world's best players a choice in what they want to do or how they want to play the shot is always ‑‑ it always makes for a better championship.

Some other personalities with the golf course, incredibly small greens here at Olympic Club.  They're not Pebble Beach small, but I think probably if we were to compare them to all of our other U.S. Open sites I suspect we would find that square footage wise they probably are the smallest.  And they really do play small when you consider that this time of the year, as Tom mentioned, we shouldn't get precipitation.  We may get fog.  So it should be a firm course.  And when you get the speeds of the greens, championship, like we have got them right now, you couple that with the relatively small square footage and firmness, hitting the greens is a real challenge here at Olympic.  So it's a definite shot maker's golf course.

Tom mentioned the firmness.  I would say year in and year out that is the biggest thing.  If you really want to challenge the world's best, you make them think about what happens when their ball lands.  Whether it's after a tee shot landing in the fairway what's going to happen, where is it going to roll to or is it going to roll through the fairway.  Or if you're hitting into the green, how far do I need to fly it and where do I need to land it to get where I want my ball to go.  That's part of course strategy, that's part of what we ultimately want to test is can you think yourself around the golf course.

And I think when you get a firm golf course that's just a wonderful thing.  Which is why I think you always see a glow in our faces when we come to coastal California because it doesn't rain in June.  I mean, knock on wood, and it's advantageous for us also when we go to other U.S. Open courses that are built on sand that if we do have a rain event we may be set back maybe a day or so, but not for the whole championship.  So it's always nice to be in firm conditions.

In terms of the putting greens, this week what I will say is they're literally near perfect.  Pat and his staff, I guess it was two or three years ago, rebuilt the putting greens.  They weren't done for the U.S. Open, but we're the certainly lucky beneficiary of that.  They were done because there was really a nematode problem and they just felt that long‑term having bent grass was a solution rather than having poa annua.  But a by‑product of that is that the greens just putt beautifully, they're true.  If you hit it on the right line with the right speed, you're going to make it this week.

So I think that one of the things that if you can compare this U.S. Open to the last four, one of the things I believe is that it's going to be easier on the putting greens.  I think you're going to see more putts made.  I'm not sure I can tell you what that translates into over 72 holes, but you're going to see more putts made than ‑‑ we always hear about bumpy poa annua.  Well poa annua is not bumpy in the morning but when you get to the afternoon when it starts growing at different rates, it can get bumpy.  So this year we're not going to have, in the afternoon, you may get a few spike marks here and there, but you're not going to have bumpy greens.  And again, Pat, to you and your staff, just congratulations on just the presentation of the golf course.  It's fabulous.

As far as the rough, I know when you look out there that I've been asked this quite a bit this week, why isn't there a graduated rough?  There actually is a graduated rough out there, but we have got predominantly two types of grass in this rough, and it's poa annua and it's ryegrass.  And those two grasses, particularly when they're left to grow long, are very, very different.  Poa annua tends to get to a point at a height and it just kind of stops.  And it's much more dense.  A lot more grass blades per square foot than ryegrass, which tends to grow vertically.

So what you have out there right now are some puffy spots with poa annua, you've got some longer kind of darker green grass which is the ryegrass where a ball tends to sink more.  So out in the rough this week you truly can get all kinds of different lies.  You may get a lie in the rough where you could virtually hit a three metal out of it or you may get a lie right literally a foot of it where it's sunken into some ryegrass and it's more of a chop out type shot.

But having said that, the rough closer in is shorter than the rough longer, but if you happen to get into a poa annua patch, it's generally speaking going to be easier than the ryegrass.  And that's okay.  I think one of the messages we want to spread not only for the U.S. Open but for all golf is that roughs shouldn't be perfectly consistent.  And if you get some good lies, that's okay.  If sometimes you're penalized more than others, that's OK.  It's like being in the fairway and getting into a divot.  Golf isn't ‑‑ I mean we can't predict everything and one of the beautiful things about golf is play your ball as it lies and really figure out what you've got and play it from there.

So with that I will leave, I'll close this up by saying that we are very, very happy with where we are right now, the last few days what we have really been focusing in on is water management because we know it can get very dry quickly.  We gave a little extra water to the golf course yesterday to really replenish it.  So yesterday's conditions were actually a little bit softer than they were on Sunday and Monday but we feel we needed to do that to really get into the week and start to dry the course down a little bit.  And as Tom and I have been working hard with our greens section, with Pat Finlen and his staff, it's just managing the amount of water that gets put out so it is a challenge, but at the same time it doesn't become too challenging where a good shot's not rewarded.

JOE GOODE:  Mike, thank you very much.  We want to turn this over to questions and answers now.

Q.  What's your time par this week?  What was it in '98, and what measures can you take short of cattle prods to get them to move?

MIKE DAVIS:  I'm going to actually turn this over to Tom O'Toole who is actually chairman of the championship committee.

TOM O'TOOLE:  Can't tell you what it was in '98.  Although I was here.  My memory is not that good.  But the time par this week is 4:37 and it's a little longer when you start from the ninth tee because you got the walk up the hill to get from 18 to 1.

Q.  That's the first two days?

TOM O'TOOLE:  That's right.  And assuming we get this cut made Friday night and we don't have too large a cut and we play in groups of two on the weekend, then it's 4:02.

 

Q.  How do you handle slow play warnings and what's the first second and third red card, yellow card, how do you guys do it?

TOM O'TOOLE:  Our pace of play policy, which is published and the players, of course, received it in their packet is not too dissimilar from what the PGA TOUR uses.  As we heard from Mr. Nicklaus this morning we penalize in a different way and now we have implemented a new note under Rule 6‑7 where we can invoke a one‑stroke penalty.  But usually there would be ‑‑ there would be a timing, if a group is timed, by one of our timing roving officials, which by the way, most of those officials are PGA TOUR rules officials, so there's some degree of familiarity between them and the players, there would be a warning when the first bad time was obtained and then the penalties would apply thereafter.

Q.  Can you really enumerate the changes that were done at 8 since the Amateur?  I sort of get the picture of what you did but maybe just review that because it looks like a tough hole now?

MIKE DAVIS:  Dave, you're right.  Thinking back to not only the U.S. Amateur a few years ago but also to the '98 Open, one of the things we have done is we're at 7170 this year, which I think that's 373 yards longer than '98.  But as Tom O'Toole correctly said, that just gives us the ability to use different teeing grounds on different days.  So it doesn't mean we're going to max out at that yardage.  So that's one thing.

Another thing we did is we flipped the 17th and the first holes, we flipped the par on it.  And just a little bit about that, it's not as if the first four U.S. Opens played here the 17th hole was bad.  We don't look back at it negatively, but I think on balance we look at it and say, we feel the way that green is, which it sits way up in the air, you're playing uphill to it and it also happens to be the most treacherous, by a long shot the most treacherous green on the course, that it could be and can be an interesting risk reward short par‑5.

So then we decided to flip the first hole, which really was the first part of this first six holes being the toughest.  Because when you look back in the past it's always been a tough start, but the first hole played the easiest hole and it traditionally has in past championships.  So it wasn't as if we said, let's make these first six holes really hard, it just kind of happened.

And the 6th hole is definitely harder.  Our motivation on changing that was we really wanted to bring that drive zone bunker back into play.  So thus the tee went way back and even in 1987 I'm told that bunker was not in play.

Other changes, seven of the 18 green complexes have closely mown areas, which we did not have before.  Our motivation with those, a couple different things.  One, in some cases our motivation was to simply get the balls moving away from the green.  Allow gravity to really take place.  So in some cases a ball's going to run off those closely mown areas into the rough.  We planned that.  To the right of four, that was our motivation where it wasn't going to be a bail out like it always had been in the past.  Other places we want to see balls roll off and give the players an opportunity to have different types of shots.  So it might be a putt, a bump and run, it may be a pitch shot.

In another case left of 1 green I know there's been some questions of why did you do that.  The answer is, we wanted to really bring that left hazard feature into play.  Now one of the things that we have done is that we have seen in the last few days as we continue to me and mow and roll those areas, they actually are getting faster.  So Tom and I made the decision a few days ago to slow that area down left of 13 so if a ball's just rolling off, it was never our intention to have it roll into the hazard.  If you hit a tee shot and if you're a right‑hand player and you hook it and it hits that bank and it goes in, that's fine.  But we actually cleared that hazard out so you can play out of it now.  There's grass in it versus before there was really high weeds and your ball would have been lost.  So that was a strategic decision that we made.

Right of 17, again, that was the idea that that green cants very heavily left‑to‑right and you always knew that you can't miss that green to the left.  So now we wanted to bring some more risk into the right.  So we have done it with that closely mown area.  At least we hope we have succeeded there.  Last thing the big change is the greens from bent to poa annua.

Q.  What about number 8 specifically though.  What you did do with 8?

MIKE DAVIS:  Well number 8, you're right, the club worked with Bill Love, the superintendent, and let me say here that this was not directed by the USGA.  This ‑‑ now was the USGA asked about this?  Absolutely.  Just like all architectural change that is by contract we get asked, is it okay to do it.  But this was the Olympic Club and Bill Love, their architect, that made that change.  The by‑product for us is that it's taken really which was always the second easiest hole on the course, a blind uphill par‑3, and in the worst area on the course in terms of spectator movement and it's created this wonderful vista where you can watch the 8th hole on the hillside, you can watch the 7th hole and you can watch tee shots at 9.  So I think for us with the U.S. Open it's been a real positive.

Q.  Any clarity on how often you'll use the new tee at 16 at 670 and what did you think, Phil Mickelson was openly critical of that yesterday.  Assuming you saw that quote and curious your thoughts on his views?

MIKE DAVIS:  Yeah, thanks, Ron. (Laughter.)

We plan on using it two out of the four days.  And we have huge respect for Phil Mickelson, but I will say on this one, I would respectfully disagree with that position.  I think what we were trying to do and I think we have succeeded, at least I hope so that we succeed on it, is that we really wanted to make a true three shot par‑5.  And I know that, you know, par‑5s are supposed to be when an expert player hits three shots and then the third is on the green and they 2‑putt and I know that there's a mentality that every par‑5 ought to be reachable in two.  But we wanted for two days to make it a true three shotter where if you miss one shot you might not be able to catch up on it.

And the other two days, and we did this at the U.S. Amateur a few years ago, we moved the tee markers up and it just changed the hole substantially, where all of a sudden now instead of just trying to hit a straight tee shot out you had to curve it around the corner or you had to lay back.  If you didn't you ran through the fairway or if you hooked it too much you're going to have what happened to Arnold Palmer in the final round where you hit a tree and it drops down and you can't catch up.

So in the Amateur we saw it played actually less than 600 yards and it was just fun watching the players literally have to hook their ball, hard hook around the corner, and try to go for it in two.  So I think that is one of the neat things when you can substantially change a hole up just by the teeing ground you use on a daily basis.

Q.  Do you anticipate Sunday being one of those two days that you use that back tee?

MIKE DAVIS:  We're still working through our rotation, but we will probably have it back once Thursday, Friday and back once on the weekend, the whole way back at 670.

Q.  Will you also use that at 11?  You talked about using that tee at 11 one day?

MIKE DAVIS:  We did.  We looked for a very short period of time of maybe using that tame that same back tee, the new back tee at 16 for 11, but it didn't work out right for the crowd flow and so it was a short lived idea.

Q.  Any chance for controversial pin placements this year on No. 18 or has that green been altered enough where it's not going to be?

MIKE DAVIS:  Well, I'll never say no, because looking back on that and Tom Meeks is a dear friend of mine and certainly of Tom's too, he got 71 hole locations right that week and you get one wrong and so it's easy to err, particularly when greens get faster on you or you get big winds.  But the green is different.  There's the same general concept on the 18th green, it just doesn't have as much percentage slope from back to front.  So it would be harder to set a bad hole location on 18 even if we tried.

But certainly there's some other greens we're having to be very watchful of and I tell you, the hardest thing about hole locations out here is trying to know if the wind's going to come up.  Because if the wind comes up, so many of the hole locations they're putting down to the hole and if it gets real windy they're putting downhill downwind and it's ‑‑ that's the kind of thing you really have to worry about.

Q.  The parings philosophy.  What are the pros and cons of putting Tiger and Phil together and why do you like that kind of marquee pairing group?

TOM O'TOOLE:  I'm glad to.  We were here earlier for press conference and heard about Jack playing with Arnold in 1962.  So this is not untraveled territory for the USGA to put marquee players together.  The interesting thing about these two players, Mr. Watson notwithstanding, is that of the 17 U.S. Opens they have played in together only one time were they paired together in the first round and we all know that was in 2008.  So there was a lot of thought given to this.  But we're trying to create excitement, trying to create fan buzz for those people here in San Francisco that will spectate here personally and those who will either stream on line at U.S. Open.com or catch the telecast of ESPN tomorrow morning and Friday too.  So that was the thought process interestingly enough, after that decision was made, Jeff, Paul, and Mike Davis and myself, we went back to our operations people and said, okay, how can this be done and can you handle this operationally with the constraints that will be put on with the spectators following that group and we went to Reg Jones and Danny Sink and that's how we ended up with the morning or the early late part of the pairing and draw for Thursday and Friday and we think this enhances our championship, we're excited about it.  And then after the fact, interesting to note that both camps weighed in and were positive about it.  So I guess we didn't stub our toe on that one.

Q.  After the relatively low scoring last year at Congressional, there's sometimes a perception that the USGA's going to go the other way or to make sure that it's much harder.  Can you comment on that.  Is that in your thought at all, has it been in your mind at all, in the back of your mind even, hey, you know, we're going to make sure that it's really tough this time or is that just a myth?

MIKE DAVIS:  No, very fair question.  In the back of my mind I guess that just me personally and I think Tom feels the same way and I believe the USGA as a whole, we want this event to be a real challenge.  That trademark goes back, I mean that mindset, when you read about it, goes back even into the 1800s when this event was played.  So I think that one of the things we want to set this event apart is really challenging the players in all respects.

So it wasn't as if last week or excuse me, last year didn't challenge them, but the one thing they didn't have last year that really as a part of the championship is at least a day or two of firm conditions.  And when you give the world's best players an opportunity to know as soon as their ball lands it's going to stop, they can be more aggressive off the tee, they can certainly be more aggressive hitting into the greens and going for hole locations that may be hidden and strategically some of the rolls to the property really you're not bringing those to life.

So when we look back at last year, we're very, very proud, Congressional was a great club to work with, it's a great championship test, and that the proof's in the pudding, Rory McIlroy won.  If we had had four days of incredibly firm conditions, I'm absolutely convinced Rory still would have won.  Maybe even by more than eight shots.

So I think looking back we identified the best player last year, he's been a wonderful champion, but at the same time I wouldn't want to go through every year where we have four days of wet, soft conditions because it doesn't really bring out the ‑‑ it doesn't, I suppose, really embellish on what we're trying to do in terms of identifying a national champion.

Q.  The strategic plan referenced earlier, is that strictly an internal plan or is this something that will be made public and be open for some sort of public discussion?

MIKE DAVIS:  The strategic plan actually is something that, a lot of the great detail to it will be internal, it's really for the working staff and our board, but absolutely, we're going to share parts of that with the outside.  It's really, as Glen rightly said, it's our vision for the future and saying, what do we want to do for the next five years.  And he mentioned sustainability is a huge part of it.  And doing things for the health of the game, for all golfers, is really a big, big focus of what that strategic plan's about.

Q.  I know you said the rough varies, but what, on most holes, how tall is the rough right off the fairway and how tall is it the farther you go out?

MIKE DAVIS:  I would say right now the rough would probably go somewhere, I would say in those little pockets of poa annua that aren't, that really aren't growing much, they might be three inches or so.  And then there's parts that get up to maybe seven inches.

In the closer in rough, what we did a couple days ago, we ran a mower across it at four inches.  It cut some of the rye, but it didn't get a lot of the poa annua.  And that's why you see kind of that have clumpy look to it.  Which is fine.  So that's why you're really going to get a lot of varying lies in the rough this week, which is going to be neat.  These players know they don't want to be in the rough, but it's a little bit like an Easter egg contest, when you go up there you might find an egg and you might not.  Your egg might be sitting up and it may not.  So it's going to be interesting.

Q.  On number 7, is there just one tee or are you using it at 288 all four days or is there some flexibility there and do you expect everyone, most players to try to drive that?

MIKE DAVIS:  Well, another interesting question.  In the U.S. Amateur we did find that on windy days, because you generally would play into the wind on that hole and it is really uphill, that we needed to get the tee markers more up in the 360, or excuse me, 265 range, which doesn't sound very long, but uphill and into the kind of wind you can get here, so we will not necessarily make that drivable every day, but I think that when we do want to make it drivable we're going to be looking hard at what the predicted wind conditions are that day.  So I think you'll probably see us on the next tee up some, just assuming we get some wind.

Q.  What's that distance?

MIKE DAVIS:  It's 260, 265.  270.  Something like that.  That certainly plays a lot more than that.

JOE GOODE:  Well this concludes our U.S. Open news conference, enjoy the week, everybody.

 

Current Leaders
PosPlayerTodayThruTotal
1W. Simpson-2F+1
T2M. Thompson-3F+2
T2G. McDowell+3F+2
T4D. Toms-2F+3
T4P. Harrington-2F+3
T4J. PetersonEF+3
T4J. DufnerEF+3
T4J. Furyk+4F+3
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