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June 22, 2014

Dan Burton

Mike Davis


MIKE TROSTEL: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to the interview room. I'm here joined on my far left by Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, and Dan Burton the vice-president of the USGA and chairman of the championship committee. It's been a busy great few weeks we've had at Pinehurst. Two very worthy winners in Martin Kaymer and Michelle Wie. It's been a historic fortnight, here. Dan, your thoughts on the back-to-back championships here at Pinehurst?

DAN BURTON: My first thought is wow. Wow. If you let me write a script about how I would dream it to go, that's how it went. Just an absolutely wonderful two weeks, great golf. I think we achieved every objective we could have possibly set out to enumerate. We presented the golf course, I think, both weeks in almost perfect fashion, thanks to Mike and all the setup people. We are just absolutely thrilled and have to say, I can't not say thank you to all the USGA staff who worked so hard to make this happen and make it happen flawlessly and seamlessly and also Pinehurst Resort to give us these two weeks to work with us in every regard and every say no to anything we needed to make this work. There just aren't words to describe how grateful we are to all the people that made this historic, historic moment happen. And we are just off the charts thrilled.

MIKE TROSTEL: Mike, over to you, the golf course playing back-to-back championships it certainly endured a lot, playing two national championships on. Talk about how the golf course fared over these two weeks for the Men's and Women's Open.

MIKE DAVIS: As Dan would say, I think we were delighted in how it played. In talking with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who we all knew led this restoration, they couldn't have been more pleased with how it played, how it looked, the different options the players had, the bounciness to the golf course. And when I look back on this, one of the things I'm going to remember is -- and I remember this about 1999 and 2005, as well, is just how fortunate we were with the weather. And I say that not because of just lack of suspensions, but I say that because going into this one of the things we wanted to do with the back-to-back was say, wouldn't it be interesting to really see if we can set the golf course up in a like manner, the same as the architect will allow or Mother Nature will allow. And Mother Nature gave us a big big break. We got to control the situation. Often times in these championships it rains so much you get behind schedule or whatever, you really don't control it, but we got to control it. And looking back on it, just given right after the prize presentation ceremony, some data. And I really want to study it. But when I look back at this thing, we actually learned a lot of things. And part of this back-to-back, kind of an underlying thing, was we wanted a chance to learn a little bit more about how we compare mens and women's golf. When I think back on this thing, just to give you a little -- I guess maybe more information than you'd want, but when we set this course up, we generally get started two to three years ahead of time, and it's often 5, 6, 7, 8 years in advance, if there's some architectural work that needs to get done. About two years ago the lead people on staff that do setups, I do the U.S. Open and Ben Kimball does the Women's Open. We went and did our own thing. Got initial ideas and certainly Dan Burton who chairs our championship committee and other people look at it, but when we did it, we essentially came out distance-wise about 700 yards difference between the men and women. About 7,500 and change, and Ben came up with about 6,800 and change. If these had been their own events at different places, that's what you would have seen. But then we really went to work, and said, okay, Ben, here's how I think the men are going to play, here's what I think they'll hit, what they're going to hit in, here's how I think they'll play the second hole. Ben would do that and we'd collectively talk about it. So we went from about a 700 yard difference to a 900 yard difference. And then coming into this week, as I mentioned the other day, we collected just thousands upon thousands of data points, thanks in large part to the caddies, but also to the volunteers. If you look back the actual yardages difference, when you average them out, so if you take the four days, actual yardage, in other words teeing grounds to where they were set that day to the flag stick, it ended up being 1,043 yards difference. And it worked out tremendously well. And I think one of the things I learned from this and having set up women's Opens for quite a few years, is that's about the difference, based on actual data, that if you really want to compare apples to apples -- now that's on Pinehurst No. 2. If we were playing at Merion or Pebble Beach, that number would be a little bit different. But the point of it is that I think we were very pleased this week that this golf course really did play, overall, the same for the men and the women's. Same green speeds, same preparation of bunkers and everything else. If you watched this week, how the greens accepted a golf ball, it was very similar for the men and the women. It wasn't necessarily the same every day, but it averaged the same. The holes, if you look at the data, they didn't play necessarily the same. In other words, the first hole, for example, played tougher for the women than it did the men. And part of that was everybody was laying back to that pinch point. But we made up other places. Like the 11th hole, for example, played easier for the women than it did the men. But when you look at the final numbers, another thing you learn from it, is just the sheer number of males versus females playing the game, I think probably gives the depth of field to the men slightly stronger. Because if you look at the top, top -- whether it's the top-10, the top-25, the top 50, those numbers are very close. But when you start to stretch it out, and it always stands to reason that for the U.S. Open we had -- we had over 10,000 people file an entry. For the Women's Open we had 1700. And I stroke play as years come in the future you'll see that gap start to decrease, because we are seeing the number of entries in women's for grow a little bit faster proportionally than men's. I think it was a great learning experience for us. I think Pinehurst just could not have been a better host. I mean the grounds staff did a superb job, as Dan said. They gave us a golf course that is just outstanding. When you look back you always think about things you'd change. But in terms of how this grounds staff prepared it, I couldn't give them higher marks. They nailed it. They were great. The USGA greens section did a great job.

MIKE TROSTEL: Thank you very much. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. Does going to a permanent date for the women in 2018 mean that we're never going to do this again?
DAN BURTON: Well, that's a great question. We've been asking ourselves that same question. I think going to a permanent date is important to us for lots of reasons. We intend to do that. I don't think that precludes us maybe every once in a while, once we sit back and evaluate this and see what they think, but we are going to go to the permanent date. It won't be a regular thing if we do this. We'll see as time goes on whether or not we need to accomplish something that we want to and we might. But it takes a lot to get a course to do it. It takes a lot of effort, so we'll see?

Q. Is this the ideal place to do it?
MIKE DAVIS: It has to be -- you'd be hard pressed to find a better place, partly because -- well, first of all you've got a great ownership and group here that is willing to do it. They just bend over backwards. The State of North Carolina is great, the Village of Pinehurst, Moore county. You start with that great group to work with. But the fact that this golf course sits on sand and it can take rain much better than most facilities, the fact that with this restoration it's very easy. We don't have to manipulate the rough. One of the things that's fascinating is we didn't touch that natural area at all. I mean not at all. What you saw grow there is what it had. And that's not the case if we go to other places with rough. It would be -- we'd have to probably work a little harder in that regard. So in some ways this is a great place if you're going to do that. But I suppose we could think of maybe other places, if they'd have us and if we'd want to do it.

Q. Mike, I've taken your figure for the difference in total yardage, between men and women. I've divided by 18. And I've come up with 63 and a half yards. So that would be 63 and a half yards difference every hole, some more, some less. Which brings me to the 10th hole. Could you talk about the 10th hole? That hole played very short.
MIKE DAVIS: It did. It's great data. And one of the things when you start looking at these averages, one of the keys is you've got to look hole-by-hole. And I'll tell you a fascinating stat to that 10th hole, they're candidly fighting architecture a little bit. Because if you went to the very front of the back tee, where we played the women one day, it was the hardest hole on the entire course for the women. Now when does that ever happen on a par-5? But there was darn near 100 yards difference. And so we had no middle room there. So when we went up it played as a two-shotter. I would dare say for virtually all the players that played it. But you have to remember the last two days for the men, it played as basically a virtual two-shotter for them, too. We played the front of that tee, basically the same teeing area as the women played the one day. So my point is, that just that difference in yardage that was dictated really by architecture went from the hardest hole on the course to the easiest hole on the course. I don't think I've ever seen that in terms of taking a hole, going from the hardest to the easiest, but that's what that extra, whatever, 100 yards did.

Q. It looked like Michelle Wie had incredible control of her ground game this weekend, with that low running stinger, and she bounced one up from the sand, and a few from the front of the greens, is that not a template how to play this course under these firm and fast conditions?
MIKE DAVIS: I think a lot of us involved with site selection and golf course set up, we always love to see a course where you can bounce balls up. Whether you're playing out of four inch rough, it just gives the players an option. And when the greens are covered up in front with whatever, water hazard, a bunker, you that away, or soft conditions, too, even if it's open in front and it's real soft you can't bounce it in. So I think that's terrific. It allows the players to really show their shot making skills. And she hit a few shots today that absolutely did that. It was terrific.

Q. In 2010 your predecessor David Fay said that people have to understand that brown is the new green. And you said that when people saw the brown spot from Pebble Beach in 10, you got a huge mail storm. He said he got thousands of mail from viewers that were angry, upset, to see the brown spots. I'm wondering if you got a similar response this week or if people are starting to kind of understand and accept that brown is the new green and that there is maybe a different -- should be a different standard of how a golf course should look?
MIKE DAVIS: Very good question. Somewhat complex question. We've talked a little over the last couple of weeks about the issue. Certainly how people view it esthetically, it's in the eyes of the beholder. It really is. It's like looking at a piece of artwork. But what was really important these two weeks was how this golf course played. It played beautifully. It played just the way we wanted it to play, the way the architects wanted it to play. The feedback I got from both the men and women, they loved how it played. It gave them options. They could be creative. I think it's important to note, and we said this over the last couple of weeks, that you're on sand here. You're with Bermudagrass. You couldn't get this look a lot of places. And we actually don't think it's appropriate, because in some places if you had this look you'd have dead grass. That is not dead grass out there, that is just dormant, thirsty Bermuda. But I think the message we are trying to say is that firmer bandage golf courses that use less water that focus more in maintenance up the middle. That's the message here. There are a lot of people that love this look. And there are some people that didn't like the look, that's okay. We're perfectly fine with that. If we get some people that aren't favorable about it, that's okay.

MIKE TROSTEL: Thank you very much.

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