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U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
May 12, 2008
CRAIG SMITH: Good morning. My name is Craig Smith, director of media relations for the USGA. I want to introduce our panelists in the order in which they will be speaking to you this morning:
USGA President, Mr. Jim Vernon.
USGA Executive Committee member, Jay Rains.
Manager of Golf Course Operations here in the city, Mark Woodward.
USGA Executive Committee member, Jim Hyler.
Mike Davis, Senior Director of Rules and Competitions with the USGA.
Let's get started. It's especially appropriate that the President of the USGA for 2008 speak first. He's the former president of the SCGA, who is in his sixth year with the USGA Executive Committee and his first as the USGA's president, Mr. Jim Vernon.
JIM VERNON: Thank you, Craig. It really is exciting for me to be here as we get ready for the 108th United States Open championship. As Craig mentioned, I have a long history here in Southern California and with the golf associations here.
This time of year is always exciting for the USGA as we get ready for our national championship. This year there is actually additional excitement back in far hills because we have another notable event just before we come out here for the championship. On June 3rd, we're going to open our Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History back in Far Hills, and to dedicate our new museum. It really is remarkable. The center will be a repository not only for all of our collections, which include photographs, publications, implements and balls, but it truly will be in honor of all of our championships and the champions who have succeeded in them.
It will be interesting that the first person who will be added to that center, of course, will be the champion that we hopefully will crown on June 15th here as the 108th U.S. Open champion.
One of the truly remarkable things for me when I became involved with the USGA was to find out how complicated and complex and how big conducting the United States Open championship is. I think, as you go around today, when you play your round of golf this afternoon, you'll see how much is being done out there - not just only on the golf course, but around the golf course. It really is a tremendous production.
It could not be done without thousands and thousands of people. What is remarkable about the game of golf, I think, is the amount of volunteer time that is dedicated. And the U.S. Open Championship is no exception. We will have 6,000 volunteers out there working the championship. They will represent all 50 states of the union as well as 17 foreign countries. We obviously could not do it without them.
I am also, as Craig referenced, really excited to be here because it has been so long since the United States Open Championship came to Southern California. 60 years, to be exact. Last one was 1948 when Ben Hogan won at Riviera up the coast at that other Southern California city. And we are very happy to be back here finally in Southern California. We are equally happy to be here in San Diego for the first time.
I want to on a personal basis but particularly on behalf of the Association thank the City of San Diego for extending the invitation to us and for being so cooperative in making the arrangements for this championship. We really appreciate it. We appreciate everything that the city has done for us.
This is also the first time that the Open Championship will be conducted on the West Coast at a truly public facility. Of course in 2002 we were at Bethpage, another truly public facility. And this is the first time we've come to such a facility on the West Coast. We'll be back at Bethpage again. I think there is a message here: We understand the importance of public facilities to the game of golf, and we are looking for opportunities to bring the Open championship to such facilities.
Also it's interesting that our Open championship this year, over the next five years, we will be in California three times. This year, of course, in San Diego. In two years we will be at Pebble Beach. Two years after that at the Olympic Club. It's just nice to have it out here on the West Coast. Especially for a Southern California boy, born and raised, it's nice to see it coming home.
In any case, I would now like to introduce Jay Rains. Come up and tell us a little bit.
JAY RAINS: Thank you, Jim. Thank you, all of you, for being here this morning. We really appreciate it.
You know, the last week or so for me it really has started to hit home. As you look around at what's going on out there, of course the golf course, which you're going to get to play this afternoon, see what's happening there, see all the construction, it really does hit home for me personally that this is a culmination of a dream for me that started back in 1999 to bring the first U.S. Open here to San Diego. As Jim said, only the second in Southern California.
Easy for one person to have a dream, but dreams don't become reality usually without the contributions of many people. I'm going to name a few here over the next few minutes. But first and foremost among the group that I need to mention is my co-general chairman, Rich Gillette, who has been with me every step of the way. He has been a partner in every sense of what that word means from day one.
This has been a unique public/private partnership. On the public side, the City of San Diego has been a wonderful partner for us for this U.S. Open from day one. They've done many things, not the least of which was hiring Mark Woodward, bringing him and providing the resources to Mark and his team to bring the south course at Torrey Pines to U.S. Open standards, which is really what's required. In addition, the Mayor's U.S. Open Task Force, under the leadership of our police department, has done a fantastic job and shown everyone why it is that they have such great experience in this community bringing major special events, including three Super Bowls, that this group of people have previously worked on.
On the private side, this has been what I'd like to refer to sometimes as a joint venture of different groups. First and foremost, I suppose is the Century Club, which has provided the domain, expertise and leadership in golf in our community. The San Diego International Sports Council similarly has provided domain expertise and leadership in major special events, sporting events. Up here closer to the property, you have the University of California at San Diego, the Hilton Torrey Pines, Scripps Clinic Research Foundation, the Pro Shop, the Torrey Pines Club, and last but not least, the facility you're sitting in, the Lodge at Torrey Pines, one of the finest hotels in the world, and probably as close as we have to a clubhouse for this championship.
But when you talk about the private side of it, the top billing has to go to a group that we ultimately decided to call the Friends of Torrey Pines. Back in 2001, when we were looking at what it was going to take to get it open, it became clear to us that while Torrey Pines was a great golf course, a great walk in the park, it was not a golf course that was up to the standards of hosting our national championship.
While the benefits of the community will be demonstrable, our city was not in a position at that time where they could step forward and provide the funding necessary to restore the south course. Fortunately for us 29 community leaders refused to let the dream of chasing a U.S. Open die and stepped forward beginning in May of 2001 in a three-month period to provide just under $3.5 million to provide Rees Jones' inspired restoration planned for the south course.
During the time leading up to this championship, the Friends of Torrey Pines has provided an additional $600,000 in championship related course improvements which will be left over for the benefit of the golfing public. And many of the Friends of Torrey Pines also have provided their time and talents as active leaders of some of the 33 committees we have for this year's U.S. Open.
I should also add that further evidence of their civic leadership, every member of the Friends of Torrey Pines has agreed that if any funds flow their way as a result of this U.S. Open, they will be given to charity.
So on the community side, the enthusiasm has been equal to that. As Jim said, we have 6,000 volunteers. To me, more impressive, that's the largest number of volunteers ever for a U.S. Open. Even more impressive to me is that call for volunteers went out in November of 2006. Typically we would expect that to take 9 to 12 months to fill our volunteer coffers. In this situation, by the end of March of '07, a little bit more than four months after we put out the initial call, we had 6,000 volunteers and 2,000 on a waiting list.
So tremendous support, enthusiasm, not just here in San Diego, but as Jim said, throughout the United States and outside of our country.
So who are the beneficiaries? From my perspective, number one, is public golf. I concur with what Jim Vernon said. I think it's incredibly important to anybody who loves the game of golf that they ought to be able to go to a place where the national championship is held, tee it up and play that golf course, and they ought to be able to do so regardless of their financial means. We now with Bethpage and Torrey Pines, not too far down the road with Chambers Bay, we'll have facilities where individuals can do that.
Second, it's a big benefit to Southern California golf. Many of you are from Southern California, you know there's a lot of Southern Californians that play the game. We've had some pretty good champions, I think, here in our community with Billy Casper and Gene Littler, Scott Simpson, Mickey Wright. We have had some great championship golfers in Southern California. So I think this is a great reaffirmation for Southern California golf.
The City of San Diego. Obviously an improved golf course at Torrey Pines, previous and ongoing charity from the Friends of Torrey Pines and other things related to the U.S. Open championship. An economic impact study was done by the San Diego State hospitality department that projects an economic impact to our community of over $100 million.
Last but not least from me, more a philosophical piece, when I moved here nearly 30 years ago from a standpoint of civic pride we referred to this place as America's Finest City. I used to think it was the weather and our beaches, but it's probably because (indiscernible) was playing for the Chargers in those days. The truth is in the last few years, we've taken it on the chin a few times in the public press, whether it's our inability to produce financial statements or our inability to fund a pension plan. But come in about a month from now, this community is going to be in the eyes of the world for a week. It's a good chance for us to take one small step back to the kind of community to those of us who live here all know we can do.
I'd like to close by thanking a couple of constituencies if I could. First and foremost I suppose is the Friends of Torrey Pines, just because without the treasury and without the dedication and leadership, we just wouldn't be in this room today. Secondly, Rees Jones. Took a call from somebody he didn't know a lot of years and has provided not only his expertise on the golf course, but his counsel through the process and maybe most importantly to those of us in San Diego his true friendship for which we're deeply appreciative.
Then lastly to my colleagues at the United States Golf Association. First for having the foresight and courage to take the 2002 U.S. Open to Bethpage Black, because frankly without that leadership and showing a willingness to host our national championship on a truly public facility, I don't think anyone here would have thought that this day was possible. So for that vision, many times I have referred to Torrey Pines as the first dividend on Bethpage, for the work of the USGA.
Then since we were awarded the championship here in Torrey Pines six years ago, I want to thank Mike Davis for all his patience and perseverance, the work he's done with Mark Woodward and his team to get this golf course up to U.S. Open standards. And to Jimmy Hyler, my good friend and the chairman of our championship committee, for his consistent support in making sure that we would never, ever, ever allow Torrey Pines to settle for anything but the highest standards that we expect of a U.S. Open golf course.
Thank you to all of you for your interest in the game and everything you do for this championship, your coverage of the USGA, we appreciate it very much. Thanks for being here today.
I would now like to introduce Mark Woodward, who is the head of golf course operations for the City of San Diego. Thank you.
MARK WOODWARD: Good morning, everyone. I, too, would like to thank a few people before I start and talk about some of the things we've done to the golf course.
Mayor Sanders has been a Godsend to me. He came on board in January of '06 and really supported what we're trying to do here, got me the support I needed to get this job done, get this course ready for the championship. So I want to thank the major and his entire staff. I'd like to welcome you all and thank you all for being here.
I too would like to thank the Friends of Torrey Pines, the USGA, and Rees Jones as well. We're finally realizing I think the vision that Rees and Greg had for this golf course when they redesigned it a few years ago and the maintenance that we're producing out there, the quality of golf course you're going to see. We're finally getting up to where that vision is or where it should have been a long time ago. I'd like to thank my entire staff obviously, too, because they're the ones that have gotten it to this point to get it in shape.
Virtually every city department has rallied around this event now that Mayor Sanders has got everybody together. Every city department has representatives involved in working with the USGA staff to get this done. We're proud of that fact. We're represented on virtually every committee that the USGA has in their committee structure. We're proud of that fact.
We're also very proud of the history that we have here at Torrey Pines. There's a great deal of history as you know. The fact that we're a municipal golf course hosting such a prestigious event is huge. It makes it even that much more special to us. I came from municipal golf, and my entire career has been in this sector, so it means the world to me to be able to be involved in an event like this.
When I arrived in February of '05, it was very obvious we had a lot of work to do. My first charge was to develop a team that could get us where we needed to be to get this event done. I think we've done that. I think you're going to see out there today, if you've been around, seen this golf course in the past, you're going to see some dramatic changes, some levels of maintenance you probably haven't seen before. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
We've done a great deal of work on the entire complex here. Parking lot, as you know. We've done maintenance facilities. We've done equipment. Restaffed this place almost completely. But the main focus for us has been the agronomics, inside the ropes area. They mentioned earlier the 6,000 volunteers outside the ropes, we're going to have another 100 volunteers inside the ropes, helping us on the agronomics part of this thing, fine tuning this thing the last week or so before the championship. Those people are from all over the United States, even as far away as Japan, Canada, other countries. They're all superintendents or assistant superintendents that are kind of a fraternity of people that come in and actually help with these events.
It's a great, great thing they come in. We don't have to train them. They're all well-trained already. We turn them loose, give them assignments, they know what to do. They meet the expectations that we need after our meetings. It's a great group of people. I'm really proud of the fact we have a hundred of those folks coming in to work with our team of about 50 employees that have been building up to this point.
So with all that said, I'm going to go through the changes we made. The first one is it doesn't directly relate to the U.S. Open, but has to do with the conditioning. That is the car path system we installed a couple years ago, a tee-to-green car pass system out there. The only reason we did that was to get the agronomic conditions where they needed to be. If you have been around Torrey a long time, you know that we had a tendency to peak for the Buick, it would kind of go downhill and turn into what you would consider a typical municipal golf course. Now we have this value-added mindset right now that it needs to be at a high level at all times.
I told my staff we need to be at 90% tournament condition at all time on that south course, the last 10% would be green seeds, rough height, fairway width, those type of things we do when we put on major events. The car path system has allowed us to keep cars from the path and keep the traffic where it needs to be. You have to remember, we have about 62,000 to 64,000 rounds on that south course, which is probably double what most U.S. Open courses have. It's a particularly hard challenge for us to do what we need to do and work around the play that we have.
Secondly, another area that's very important is the greens. We converted the greens from a stand of bentgrass. When we designed the course, it was planted in bentgrass. And we converted those to a hundred percent Poa annua, which allows us to get the green speeds to firmness that the USGA needs for this event.
Speaking of turf, the fairways and the roughs. About 18 months ago we sprayed a chemical called Revolver on these fairways, tree line to tree line, and we pretty much killed everything but the kikuya grass. Right after that, when the seed started coming back, we planted about a million square feet of kikuya grass sod. We got it from a variety of seven or eight different sources, including other golf courses in the local area. We get it on the north course, harvested it from the south course, anywhere we could get the kikuya grass, because it is not a very commonly grown grass around this area. I mean, it is common in this area, but it is not actually grown commercially, so we had to get it from every source we could get it from.
Once we did that, we pretty much had a hundred percent kikuya on the fairways. Then we had a combination of grass in the rough of kikuya, rye and Poa annua. That's what you're going to see out there today. It's kind of a blend of those three varieties. As the temperatures get warmer, which they're going to do here in the next few days, you're going to see the kikuya continue to get stronger and stronger. The kikuya will probably be the dominant grass with rye and Poa annua mixed in. You'll probably get that blend.
We've leveled several of the tees, enlarged several of the tees for the championship. We've moved the 4 fairway over. We've leveled the landing area on No. 18. We've added several bunkers. So we've done a variety of different things to get the course ready for the championship. A lot of things, like Jay mentioned, are for the long-term benefits of the residents and the visitors of San Diego. They're not necessarily all for the Open. But we did a lot of things specific to the Open.
Over the next 20 or 30 days, our charge is to continue to fine tune the agronomics, inside the ropes areas, get it to where it needs to be so it peaks right at the right moment. And we're going to be one of those golf courses that peaks right at the right moment, believe me.
When our volunteers come in on June 8, we're going to kick it into even a higher gear at that point. We'll have people all around the golf course continuing to raise the level of this course so come the date of the championship it's going to be in excellent condition.
I think Mike is going to talk on some of the particulars on green speeds and graduated cuts. I'll let him do that. I thank you for being here, on behalf of the City of San Diego, thank you for everything you're doing and we'll see you soon. Thank you.
CRAIG SMITH: Our next speaker worked side by side with Mike Davis to set up this golf course for the U.S. Open. He got involved with the USGA of being chair of the Presidents Counsel when the USGA took the championship to Pinehurst in 1999. This is his fifth year as a member of the USGA Executive Committee, his second as the vice president. He speaks to you today also as Chair of the USGA Championship Committee, Jim Hyler.
JIM HYLER: Craig, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome. Thank you all for being here as we talk about what is a most exciting event, the 108th United States Open championship.
Torrey Pines is going to be a great venue for our national championship. We're going to talk some over the next few minutes about course setup philosophy. I'm going to give you some general comments about it, then Mike Davis will come up and get into a lot more specifics about the golf course.
The course has been and will be set up consistent with the USGA's U.S. Open championship philosophy, and you do have a copy of that in your press kit. It's a tab called U.S. Open Championship Philosophy. This was actually created in the fall of 2004 and we have conducted three very successful U.S. Opens following the foundations of this U.S. Open setup philosophy.
But an overall comment about our philosophy is that we want the U.S. Open to be the most rigorous test of golf for players at the highest level. But at the same time we want the course to be very fair so you'll hear the term a lot today "hard but fair," then during the week of The Open, you'll also continue to hear that, the course is hard, stern, but we want it to be fair for the players.
Contrary to what a lot of people think, there is no target winning score. We are not trying to protect par or produce over par final scores. We want the course to be set up rigorous, stern, but fair, then whatever the winning score turns out to be is what it turns out to be.
Let me just comment very briefly on three what I think are probably the most important parts of those 14 points. One is rough height, density and stages of severity. Mike will talk more about that in a minute. Second is hole location. Do we have the right mix, balance of hole locations, left, right, front, back. Then as important, maybe more important, do we have the hole location matched with the severity of the approach shot. And there is a lot of thought that goes into that as we think about the nature of the approach shot and where we might locate the hole. Third is risk and reward options. And we have come to the point where we want to introduce more risk/reward kinds of opportunities for the players. Certainly here at Torrey Pines, the 18th hole playing as a par 5 we think will be a very exciting risk/reward opportunity for the players. Mike, again, will talk more about that.
In 2008 we will be carrying forward with three new concepts that we introduced in 2006 at Wingfoot, the first being a graduated rough under the theory that the further offline you hit the ball, the more severe the penalty will be. Second is using different teeing grounds on various holes. And then third is a very subtle change, but maybe the most important change that we introduced in 2006, and that is we want to give the players the same golf course on Sunday afternoon that they experienced when they show up on Monday morning. In other words, to the extent the weather will allow us, we want the course to play the same for seven consecutive days.
Prior to 2006, oftentimes the course would be made harder and firmer throughout the week. But we're trying to get away from that and give the players the same course throughout the week.
Preparations for the Open are proceeding very well, both inside and outside the ropes. Mark talked a little bit about things he's doing on the inside of the ropes. Let me recognize Mark, as well as John and their team, for the absolutely tremendous job that they have done particularly over the last 12 months to bring the course to where it is today. Mark does a truly terrific job.
There are a few tweaks to be made between now and June the 9th, but we're confident that all will be done in good order and that we will have a great championship at Torrey Pines.
Reg Jones, who was introduced to you a few minutes ago, he heads up our teams that looks after all the outside the ropes activities. Everything is on schedule. This is a huge event, an event that takes years of planning. Then starting about three months out, there is a flurry of construction activity at the site. So as you go around today, you'll see the results of that. But everything is in good shape and proceeding on schedule.
To follow up on a comment that Jay made about the benefits to the community and Torrey Pines. Jay talked about the economic impact being around $100 million. That's a direct economic impact. But probably even more important is the exposure this community will get during the week of the Open. There's something like I forget how many hours of TV, 30 plus hours of TV time, broadcast to over a hundred countries around the world. You'll have something like a thousand print media folks here from all over the world. Every time Torrey Pines comes on with the wonderful backdrop of the ocean here, I mean, it's tremendous exposure for the community.
As relates to the golf course, as was the case at Bethpage in 2002, the USGA's goal is to leave the golf course better than we found it for the local golfers. And two points here, one is the greens are in the best condition they've ever been, and secondly the grass coverage on the golf course will be the best that it's ever been once the Open is over and going forward.
You also had the major renovations that Jay talked about. I think it's important to note, however, that the USGA did not award the Open to Torrey Pines until after that renovation was done. So that was something that was done in hopes that the Open would come, and we did make the decision to come. So clearly the golf course will be much better after we're here, as was the case at Bethpage.
Let me mention one final thing before I turn it over to Mike. This has to do with our admissions policies for juniors. As we have done in many years leading up to Torrey Pines, we want juniors to come to the Open. And our admissions policy is that children 12 and under get in free if accompanied by a ticketed adult with a limit of two per adult, and then children 13 to 17 get in at half price.
We want juniors to come and experience the excitement of the Open, be exposed to major championship golf. We think our admissions policy makes it inviting and makes it easy for these juniors to come.
In closing, we're excited. We're looking forward to being here for the Open. Frankly, I can't wait to get here and get started, get the championship going. Things are progressing very well. I'm confident we're going to have a great championship here in a month.
Now let me bring up Mike Davis, the senior director of rules and competition. Mike is our lead person in golf course setup. He's going to go over a lot of particulars and details about Torrey Pines. Mike.
MIKE DAVIS: Well, I'll be the fourth person today to say how delighted we are to be in Southern California. 60 years is a long time. So great to be here. There's so many great things about coming to coastal California, one of which is the weather. The only snafu that we possibly see is fog, so we've got our fingers crossed.
I'll also say how incredibly delighted we are about the golf course condition. This is the best we've ever seen it. And essentially, folks, we're exactly where we need to be right now. For those of you that are going to go out this afternoon and test your game, this is what the players that are going to play in the Open are going to see. The only I guess two differences that they'll see that you won't see, obviously I don't think you're playing the back teeing grounds, but beyond that it's a much softer golf course right now. So that's something that absolutely will change second week of June. I'll talk a little bit about that. And also we're going to slightly vary some of the mow heights that are out there, everything from the putting greens to the rough.
What's interesting about that is that in every single case, whether it's the greens, the collars, some of the rough heights that we're going to adjust, and we're talking about relatively speaking minute changes, they're going to be lower.
But my point is, for those that are going out today, you're seeing the U.S. Open course. There's not going to be drastic change other than the mow heights and the overall firmness of the course.
One of the challenges, whether it's a U.S. Open, Women's Open, any one of our 13 national championships, amateur championships that we have, would be that we go to different venues each year. And that does make things tough, particularly at one of our Open championships with all the logistical things that go on.
So, you know, unlike say a TOUR event that is at the same place every year, that one year doesn't quite get it right, can make that change, we only get one shot to do it. So it does make it challenging. That even carries over to the golf course setup. Sometimes you're just not sure how certain aspects are going to work.
With that said, I think one of the neat things about moving our championships around is that we get different tests of golf. We get to visit different communities. Perhaps that makes the excitement in the community a little bit heightened over if you had the same event in the same area every year. With that, one of the things that's interesting about U.S. Opens, for all of our championships this would be the case, is that each course is a little bit different. Some courses fit players' games, some courses fit players' eyes different and better than others.
I think if you look at Torrey Pines versus, say, a Pinehurst, Oakmont, Wingfoot, Bethpage, Pebble Beach, this is different. If I had to categorize this, I would say this will be perceived as a longer, because it is going to be a longer golf course than what they generally see. I would also say it's a little bit more straightforward. Torrey Pines really doesn't have many blind shots. The fairways, generally speaking, the putting greens, don't have crazy undulations to them where it's really hard to keep the ball on the fairway or on the green. So I think from a player standpoint, they'll see this as a little bit more straightforward.
Some players love that. Thinking back last year at Oakmont, there were some fairways there that, while they may have been very wide, they were incredibly undulating. We just don't have this here at Torrey. The other aspect at Torrey that will be wonderful - several aspects - but it's great, as I said, in coastal California. You can almost dial in the golf course setup because you don't have rain influencing the golf course setup like it does so many other venues.
So in theory we can get this thing exactly how we want it versus most other venues, we just don't have that opportunity because we don't know what Mother Nature is going to give us.
I think also one of the big challenges to the world's best players is wind. A lot of places we go, it's not subjected to wind particularly during the summer months like it is when you come to coastal California. In fact, we're hoping for some wind. Not that we're hoping for 40 mile-per-hour winds for all four days, but we do want some wind.
I guess talking a little bit about the length of the course. On the scorecard, it's going to read 7643 yards, par 71. Folks, that is comparing to other U.S. Opens in the last 107 years, 379 yards longer than we've ever played. So it is going to be a long Open.
Now, in fairness, we're playing a par 71 this year. So the net effect is probably 260, 270 yards longer. But, nonetheless, this is a long golf course. When Jim Hyler and I went around to set it up, this isn't something we came to Torrey Pines and said, Let's have a 7600-yard golf course. That isn't the case at all. We went to each hole, what is the best setup for that particular hole, you add up 18 numbers, that's what your yardage is. Most of our Opens are in that 7200 to 7400 yards range. We're even having in 2013, that's going to be around 6900 yards. In every case, while they're different tests, we all think they're going to be wonderful tests of golf for what we try to do to identify this country's national champion.
I should also say with that length it's a little bit deceiving because I feel very confident saying we will not play that length one day of the championship. Jim Hyler mentioned that we will use different teeing grounds different days. That's something that's a little bit different for the USGA from years gone by. We really feeling mixing teeing grounds up adds another challenge to the test. In addition, it allows us on certain holes to propose different things that the architect was trying to do when he or she designed the golf course.
So my guess is most days you'll see this golf course play somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 and change up to 75 and change. But, nonetheless, on the scorecard, it is long.
A few holes, I'll talk about some of the differences between the Buick and the U.S. Open, but a few new teeing grounds that we will use. On the 3rd hole, the par 3 downhill, we're going to play for a couple of days from 142 yards. That's downhill, so in effect it plays, I don't know, 125, 130 yards. So it's nothing more than pitching wedges for the players. But we feel that's neat because this teeing ground sits way over to the left and much higher than the 195-yard teeing ground. We feel that hole generally plays dead into the wind, which is kind of a neat shot where the player is trying to hit a knock-down shot with a lofted club. At that distance, it's more aggressive, the hole locations, really trying to bring the canyon into play, make the players think a little bit more.
13th hole has been for some extent talked about a good bit, how we've added a couple teeing grounds back on the other side of the canyon to force the players to play over the canyon. We plan on that hole to use three different teeing grounds over the course of four days. I'll talk a little bit about that a little later on. So, anyway, we will vary some teeing grounds.
I think when we come to a site that has an annual PGA TOUR event, obviously this is one, we go to Pebble Beach, it's another, I think it's pertinent to talk about what the differences are going to be.
In the case of Torrey Pines, I think you can really categorize it into three areas in a sense that are really going to make the U.S. Open different from the Buick. I'll preface this by saying just because we have these changes doesn't mean we don't think the setup at the Buick is right. We want it to be different. I mean, I think the players would probably say the same thing. To have the exact same golf course used with the exact same setup twice a year probably isn't something that's necessarily good for anybody.
So with that, I think you can categorize the Open championship will be significantly firmer. Balls are going to roll further on the fairways. Greens will be firmer, which I think everybody knows when you have firmer greens you have to hit much more exacting shots into those. Your distance control has to be better. If you're coming out of the rough, you have a much more difficult time in holing the ball. That's one thing. That really is just a function of in the summer you just don't get rain around here - knock on wood.
Type of grasses that the players will see will also be different. I mean, Mark Woodward just touched on that before. But kikuya grass is all over this golf course and really is not much of a factor in February because it's a summertime grass, a warm-season grass, so it's really semi-dormant at that point. But it's going to be most definitely growing in June. And I think that that in and of itself will change the golf course rather significantly because it's such a thick, coarse bladed grass that it's very hard to get a club through it.
Then the third thing would be just green speeds. The greens here at Torrey, we've got plans for roughly 13 on the stint meter. That speed is subject to change by, you know, maybe a half of foot in either direction depending on what we see we get back. For those of you playing this afternoon, I believe the green speed has gotten up somewhere around 12 feet. So it's closer. That 12 feet that you're playing is absolutely faster than what the touring pros play in February. So I think green speeds will translate, the difference between the two events, two to three feet faster, which for those of you who don't understand stint meter readings, that is a significant difference, folks. When Rees Jones renovated this golf course in 2001, he put a lot of ridges and undulations, almost different plateaus within the greens. I think what you're going to see when you get to those, is that trying to get from one area of the green to the other is going to be very difficult. You've really got to use good imagination. It's really going to bring those undulations alive.
Some other changes. Jim Hyler mentioned graduated rough. We will do that as we mentioned. I'll talk a little bit about some of the specifics a little later. And the fairway contours. Contrary to what some of you might think, we did not come in here post Buick and really narrow up the golf course. In fact, we made six very minor changes the week after the Buick, and in four cases actually widened fairways out a little bit, and in two cases narrowed it down a little bit.
But the point of the matter is that the players, when they come here in June, are essentially going to see the same fairway width as what they saw in February. If you want some of those changes, we widened out the right side up near the green on the fourth hole to allow a player to bank his shot in. You'll see that today if you're going around. Fifth hole, we widened it out a little bit to bring bunkering a little bit more into play. The 18th hole, you can see essentially we circled the fairway cut the whole way around the pond to bring the pond more in play. Then 13, the par 5, we've added a little bit just as a security blanket that if we see tee markers back on the other side of the canyon, all of a sudden the meteorologist goofed on us, you get a Santa Ana winds, the player can, if need be, play way out to the right. Then we tightened up the third shot area on the 9th hole slightly, then tightened up the area just shy of the green on the 14th hole.
But, again, essentially when the players come here, they're going too see the same golf course in terms of width as they saw for the Buick the last couple years.
As far as golf course specifics, let me touch on a few things. As Jim Hyler mentioned, our goal, folks, just like it is for every national championship we run, is we want a very stern test of golf. I mean, that's the history of USGA championships, whether you like it or don't. It's been around for a century now. But at the same time we want to test all aspects of the game, everything from putting to driving to the ability to recover when you get yourself into problems.
But with that said, I can promise you, this golf course could be set up significantly harder than what it's going to be set up. We got a fair number of calls right after the Buick when Tiger got 19-under, whatever it was, saying are we nervous about Torrey Pines being too easy for the U.S. Open. I know Jim and I both felt anything but that. Our fear, knowing what the kikuya was going to be like, knowing what the firmness was going to be like, is that Torrey Pines, given the length of the golf course, is one place that actually could become too tough.
So I think keep that in mind when you're out there you're going to see some things that say, gee, I've seen some past Opens where maybe the rough was a little bit more brutal, maybe it was a little narrower, whatever the case may be.
Jim mentioned risk/reward. This is something that the championship committee of the USGA has been talking about in the last couple years. While we want this to remain an incredibly difficult test, ideally we want the U.S. Open to be the hardest test of the year, just like the Women's Open would be the hardest test for the women each year. But at the same time there really is some desire to say, where can we make this event a little bit more exciting in terms of risk reward. Where can we give the players options? And if you think about that, what the risk/reward really does is it widens the differential in scoring on certain holes.
So take 18 as a par 5, for example. We want players to get out and have a choice, sit back there saying, Am I going to try to fly the pond, can I keep it on the green, give myself a realistic chance for birdie, maybe even eagle, but at the same time knock it in the water and maybe make bogey or double bogey? Those things are very appealing to us. I think where we can do it, we tried. We've done that I think the last couple years and I think by varying some of the teeing grounds we're going to continue to do it.
We even have one hole right now, a par 4, that I'm not going to actually name it because we're still contemplating, but we even have a par 4 that we're actually thinking about making drivable at this U.S. Open just because the last couple years at Wingfoot and Oakmont, there was so much excitement. And if you look back, folks, at what happened the last couple years, both holes really did have a major influence on who won and who didn't win the last couple Opens.
I mentioned putting greens. Essentially 13 on the stint meter. The rough, graduated rough that's out there. Mark Woodward did mention it's a combination of rough. Here at the Buick, essentially those guys were playing on an overseeded ryegrass rough. For the Open, there's really three different grasses in there. I think Mark's right that a couple weeks from now we'll even see more kikuya than you have right now, but there's kikuya there, there's still the overseeded rye, and then there's some Poa annua out there. Translated, what that means is the guys are absolutely going to get different lies.
You're going to see some balls in the rough, particularly what we call the first cut of primary rough, where it's going to sit up like it's almost on a tee. You'll say, gee, there's no penalty there. Most of the time it's going to sit down just a little bit so the player's going to get some grass between the ball and his club head, which is really what we want. Then occasionally, we hope this is rather occasional, the ball is just going to sink in the kikuya, so even though it's mown fairly short, it's such a dense grass that the player won't be able to get the ball through.
You're going to see that rough, again what we call the first cut of primary, which is 15 feet width, that's mown right now at two and a half inches. A couple weeks ago it was mown at two and three-quarters inches. We've just given the word as of yesterday and Mark that we want it taken down another quarter inch. So at least the week before the U.S. Open we'll be at two and a quarter. Folks, that is a low rough. You look back in history of the U.S. Open rough, it almost doesn't look like U.S. Open rough.
But having said that, all we want to do with that cut is just take the spin off the ball and distance control. We want the players from that rough to be able and play towards the putting greens and really show their skills. That's what that is all about. Then if you get off the beaten path, which I'm sure nobody in this room will do this afternoon, you get yourself into the second cut of primary, out there right now I think it's basically four inches, maybe four and a half inches. We've directed Mark and take that down to three and a half inches. You'll see out there, whether it's three and a half inches or five inches, it is very thick, particularly when you get yourself into some of the kikuya. So good luck.
Bunkers. A little bit different than what the touring pros see week to week. This, again, is not to say that what the TOUR, European Tour, other entities do, is wrong. But our philosophy is we want the bunkers and play more of what they are, which is hazards. We will come in the week before and purposely turn up the bottom of the bunkers, try to get the sand softer so the players can't spin the ball as much. So, in other words, they've got to be able and hit a better shot because right now we're seeing statistics on TOUR that they've got a 30% better chance of getting the ball up and down out of a hazard, a bunker, than they do from the grass. We just don't think that that percentage is quite right. Ideally we'd love to get that about equal. Ideally we'd like the hazards to be worse, but we'll settle on an equal type thing percentage wise.
I talked about firmness there. But, folks, the real reason that we want our golf courses firm for our national championship is because we think that it brings more shot-making into play, more creativity. The players have to think about what happens after the ball lands, which is a big thing, rather than just throwing darts, which for today's touring pros, if you give them a soft golf course, particularly one with no wind, they do quite well. So we want a firm golf course.
I guess with that, I'll kind of close up by saying a few things. Just to reiterate two things Jim Hyler said, we really aren't shooting for a winning score. In fact, we aren't talented enough to even do that because so much of what a winning score is at these Opens really has to do with Mother Nature. Whether it's 10-over par, even par, 10-under par, I know Jim and I speak for the whole USGA championship committee and think we don't care. All we want is a stern test of golf, then let Mother Nature do what she's going to do, and whoever has the lowest score after 72 holes is going to be our champion.
The other thing, I really do think -- we talked about this before the Bethpage Open in 2002, but we really want to leave here with Torrey Pines being a better golf course. And I can tell you in Bethpage's case, that golf course for the years following the Open may have even been manicured better than it was during the U.S. Open. If you've seen Bethpage before that Open, to say it was muni like would be the understatement of the year. It was amazing.
I think here, this place is always -- the condition of it in the winter with the overseed is always very good, but I think many of us have seen Torrey Pines in the summer when you start to lose that overseed. I think the greens are so much better now, and there will be grass coverage, that I think ultimately we're happy that at least we think Torrey Pines will be a better place once we leave it.
The last thing I'm going to say is that I do want to recognize Mark Woodward. You can't believe how much this guy has meant to Torrey Pines. A couple years ago we were at least inside the ropes with the golf course setup. We were very concerned with things. I mean, generally speaking, our U.S. Open sites are pristine the years leading into it, and it's just a matter of tweaking for the golf course setup. In this case we converted greens from bent to Po, now you could get the speeds, the firmness. There's grass coverage there. I mean, I can't even begin to go into the list of things that Mark has done.
We've said this before, and I truly believe it, there's no one person that has more impact on the success of a U.S. Open than the golf course superintendent. The effects that Mark has had to date, the last couple years, have been incredibly significant. Mark, thank you. I'd like to recognize his assistant, John Mattern (phonetic). Both these guys, amazingly, are past presidents of the Golf Course Superintendents Association. You're getting top-notched people here.
With that, I'd like to open it up to questions.
Q. Mike, you mentioned you're going to do a risk/reward on the par 4s. Seems like the two that would be the candidates would be 2 and 10. Can you narrow it down to that? What is your feeling on the par 4s?
MARK DAVIS: Well, as I mentioned, right now we're still contemplating it. There's been some internal discussion. I hate to give you a no answer. But we're still thinking about if we're going to do it, and if we do it what day. I hate to not answer your question. But we've talked before this and just decided, because we're not sure about it yet, we're going to hold off on the speculation. So sorry.
Q. I'm curious about the green, as far as bent to Poa annua, are you unable to start new greens? Is it impossible to start Poa annua and then keep it there or do you need to start with bent to give it some sort of a surface that eventually integrate the Poa annua?
MIKE DAVIS: Let me give you the non-agronomic answer, because I'm not one. We felt that the bentgrass, which is an older strain of bent that was put in there, I think I'm speaking for both Rees and Mark Woodward, the thought to put the bent in is because you can get bent from seed. With Poa annua, you basically almost have to cultivate it. What's kind of humorous about this whole thing is that most golf courses around this country are trying to keep Poa annua out, keep the bent in. We did a flip-flop on that because in coastal California where you don't have severe weather swings in terms of heat or cold, this really is the type of grass that thrives. We found, whether it's up at Pebble Beach or Olympic, and really the courses along here, that Poa annua really is the desired grass, that long-term that's the way to go, we can get the greens faster and firmer that way.
I think when they did plant bent originally, it was with the idea that in time it would just convert itself over to Po. We got in here and decided - and this was something that wasn't just USGA, this was PGA TOUR along with Mark and his staff - that it would be in the best interest to try to move that along as quickly as we can. So essentially we did the exact opposite of what other courses are trying to do to keep the Po out. If you have any specifics on that, I'm going to turn it over to Mark.
MARK WOODWARD: (No microphone) average of seven or eight times a year to get that conversion over. Now we're able to use growth regulators to get the speeds and firmness and tightness that Mike wants so we can get everything where it needs to be. It's the grass of choice, definitely the grass that needs to be here on the coast right now. Those greens when I started had a 15 to 19% Poa in them. Every month it seemed like it would get more and more, exponentially started going crazy. We decided let's not fight it, convert it over. We did everything mechanically we could. It happened in really two and a half years that we got it up to that point.
Q. From what you've been able to look at projecting-wise this week in June over the last several years, there's been a lot of ranges for the wind, but what would you say would be the most likely type of wind that you can determine?
MIKE DAVIS: Good question. From what we've been told and what we expect the U.S. Open week, sometime between 10 a.m. and noon each day, you'll start to see the marine layer leave and we'll get some sunshine. Then by late afternoon, maybe 4, 5, 6 o'clock, we'll see that come back and if it does clear, we'll get more wind. From what we've seen, if you get normal weather conditions, that's going to translate into half a club, one to one and a half. I don't think we're going to get necessarily the wind sometimes you see at a Pebble Beach. I can remember the '92 U.S. Open, that final round, it was at times a four- to six-club wind. Guys could hardly stand up. Unless you get some strange weather patterns, I don't think we'll see that there.
We're also not expecting Santa Anas. But having said that, supposedly they're pretty good at predicting those. If we get one, that will really change the golf course setup in a lot of ways. If we do that, we'll be doing some juggling last minute to try to change up some things in our setup.
Q. Going back to playing the golf course the same as Monday on Sunday, what made you to decide to do that? What challenges may come into trying to keep it that way? Could you get tempted going into the weekend if guys were at a certain level, tempted to make that firmer on the weekend?
MIKE DAVIS: That's a good question. I'm glad Jim brought that up. I think a few years ago when Jim and I -- when he took over the chairman of the championship committee and I took over in this position, we talked amongst ourselves. We talked to our championship committee. We really got to the point of saying, Listen, let's try, in fairness to the players, if we want a green speed of let's say 13 for our championship, then let's give them 13 Monday through Wednesday. In other words, allow them to practice on a course that we're going to have. Same thing with the rough. Same thing with firmness. Allow them to practice on what we're going to give them.
But I do think -- you know, no one should read into this we're looking for a lot of consistency across the board because what we want is we want to avoid where each day the greens get firmer, they get faster, the rough gets longer. So by the time they're playing the final Sunday, it's a completely different golf course.
You know, we've had that happen a few times where each day it gets a little bit harder. So we don't want that to happen. At the same time we like the idea of some inconsistency. In other words, in the rough. Contrary to what people might think, we love the different lies. We think that's part of golf, that a player looks down at his lie and says, I've got this. If every single lie in the rough is exactly the same, it would take some of the challenge out.
I think mixing up teeing grounds, hole locations, trying to make some holes harder some days than others, that's where we want to mix things up.
We don't want one day soft greens at 12 and the next day firm greens at 14. It's just not fair to the players when they're hitting into a green, they don't know what to expect, so...
Q. Reg Jones, can you tell me what happened with the issue of the fair and the U.S. Open and also obviously you want people to park at Qualcom. Are you going to be doing any kind of shuttling from the Amtrak station?
REG JONES: As far as the first question and the fairgrounds, we had conversations with the fairgrounds probably about 9 or 10 months ago. Basically what we determined, you know, they were scheduled to open Friday of the Open. We sort of looked at that from a traffic standpoint. Obviously that would be the worse day if the Open and the fair were both going on at the same time. So what we were able to do is work with the fair, delay their opening by one day, so they're actually going to be starting the Saturday of the U.S. Open. From a traffic standpoint, we feel like most of our spectators will be coming to the Open earlier than the fair goers will be going to the fair. Also we don't have to deal with or normal daily commuter traffic. So from a traffic standpoint, I think we've worked together to come up with a pretty good solution.
As far as the Amtrak, we took a look at utilizing Amtrak. Unfortunately there's not enough capacity up the line in order to accommodate what we felt we needed to do in order to have an efficient operation. We tried to put something together because we had a good feeling that that would be a good option for our people coming from the north, the I-5 corridor, but were not able to logistically make that work.
Q. Mike, how much do the players' comments, either during or after the Open, influence your decision making? Phil was very critical last year, saying the rough was dangerous, injurious. How much of it is your analysis of the scoring and all that? The kikuya here, is it influencing your decision making on kind of cutting back the rough a little bit?
MIKE DAVIS: Really two questions there. Let me see if I can answer them both.
The player comments, we'd be lying if we said we didn't listen to them. We do. We're like everybody else. But I genuinely think that we're much less influenced by their comments versus our observations. Practice rounds will be a very important time during the U.S. Open in that we'll be out there watching. How does the rough react? How are the green speeds? The firmness of the greens? Reality is what one player says could be the absolute opposite of what another player thinks.
Again, it's not that we don't listen. But I would say observation means a lot more than how the players are going to influence on what they say.
Then the second part specifically on the rough, it's interesting you ask that because I think when Jim Hyler and I, we always do kind of a postmortem on golf course setup after the championship, talk with our championship committee. I think we both came away from Wingfoot and Oakmont, which by the way we loved those Opens, but you look back and say that we could always do a few things different or better. I think we both concluded, along with our championship committee, that first cut of primary, it was more penal than we wanted. We really want to show the players' skills. We saw too many examples at Oakmont and Wingfoot that guys were just chopping out of it. That's not what we wanted.
Translated, I think we came in with this year knowing Torrey is going to be a long golf course, knowing it's going to be firm, and said, If we're going to err on that first cut, we're going to err because it's too short. But, you know, with that said, I know if you get in a patch of kikuya, even at two and a quarter inches, you're talking about rough this long, you still may be a chop-out. There's almost nothing we can do about that with kikuya. It will happen rarely, but it won't happen that often.
Certainly, afterwards any of us are available for questions, as well. Thank you very much.
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