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January 27, 2015

Tom Weiskopf


THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Tom Weiskopf. You had your hand in the original design here, and then last year did a redesign on TPC Scottsdale, just in time for the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

TOM WEISKOPF: 29 years for this event? I think so.

THE MODERATOR: I think so.

Q. '86.

THE MODERATOR: So if you would give comments on your thoughts for the course this week.

TOM WEISKOPF: I'll give you a quick overview how the process came about. Basically for about the last 10 years, either by phone call from me to Tim Finchem or e-mails or even handwritten notes, basically we need to do something with this facility. He agreed. Three years ago that decision, in accordance and in agreement with the city, they decided what to do. Very fortunately, there are many, many good designers, and a lot of the guys are still playing the game that are doing it. So I felt lucky to be approached and asked to be involved in that process. So that started really three years ago. So, you know, the No. 1 reason, the quality of the golf course, because of an outdated irrigation and drainage system that existed needed to be improved for the quality of play, because it's a pay-for-play facility. The great advantage this golf course has over most or any of the courses they play on the tour is the fact that people love to play where the pros play. You know, they want to fantasize. They want to -- whatever. They want to enjoy and try to play the holes that they come out and watch the best in the world play, and there they are, you know, playing them. So that's the No. 1 consideration. It's such a successful venue, this venue, for the PGA TOUR. They are in a partnership -- I didn't even realize that, until I got involved the second time, with the city. I didn't know the city really, you know, controls the whole decision-making, you know. But it is a tremendous revenue producer. It contributes highly toward the pension plan for the players. Of course, everybody knows it's the world's largest attended golf event, you know. It's unique because of the 16th hole, the stadium golf that we have. It defines it, which was something that Deane Beman started, you know, that concept. As a player at that time, I thought, oh, I don't know. I'm a traditionalist. I love the old courses. Okay. We're going to build a bunch of mounds and we're going to have a bunch of corporate boxes in the game. You know, I couldn't see it, to tell you the truth. I wasn't against the idea. I just couldn't visualize, you know, what it was going to turn out to be. You know, all you have to do is go out there, and you look at 5 to 600,000 people -- if the weather is good, we can't control that, but we can control all the rest of it -- are going to come this week and be part of this thing. It's a process, when you think about it. So we started April the 1st, and were completed with everything that we did. New irrigation system, new drainage, new grasses on the fairways, the roughs, the greens, and a redesign of four greens totally. We tried to preserve the concept originally on the 14 original greens and their contours. We had all the information necessary. The reason why the second and third green were redesigned was the fact that if we have frost, the sun -- they did a study on this, and we were told after the study for two years the greens have to be at this elevation and they have to face -- they have to be in this location, this elevation, and face to the east so the morning sun, when it comes up, if it's cold, hits those greens and we can go forward with playing golf. So that was a consideration. The fourth green is brand new in a brand new location, brand new hole, and we wanted to kind of divorce ourselves from the closeness and proximity that the original green had to the hotel site. We wanted some separation. We wanted to give them, during the tournament, a little bit more separation, you know, for their residents and this and that. So that was no problem. We found a place to put that, made that a much better hole. And 2 and 3 are much better holes. And 14 was something I always kicked myself. It goes back 20-some years. I always thought the 14th green should be up on the hill in a location where you're up on top of that hill and you look behind that green and you can see the famous Superstition range behind it, which you can now playing the fairway. But more importantly we needed to get away from a very tight situation with the road that existed there. That road wasn't there the first two years. That was just a dirt road access road, but then they paved it. That was when the corporate area came in, you know, the idea that it was servicing that with the beverage trucks and the food trucks and everything else. So that's why those four holes were done the way they were done. We started with 73 bunkers with the original golf course. There are now 66. The sand is the most dramatic thing about them, the white sand, and we got two sand samples in two years previous for the resident touring professionals to go to the back of the range and test that out to make sure it's the right choice. We never had a complaint from day one that the white sand that was chosen was the same sand that they tested and was able to, you know, play with for two years. That choice was made. It proved itself. That's why it was there. So then it got down to -- I have been out quite a few times watching the guys play, and basically from about the middle '90s is when the equipment that they play with really put the game in another perspective to me, because I thought originally I didn't know where the equipment was going to go. What I know now, what I would have done differently 29 years ago, is probably just about what we have now. You know, I just -- we have proven champions in the first 15 years of this event. We had Open champions, PGA champions, Masters champions, we had proven players, and the golf course was at a good length and it was a good challenge back then, but basically from 1995 to where we are today it's a different game. They have even gotten better with equipment. You cannot stop technology. So what do you do? Well, length seems to be the obvious choice. We are only 50 yards longer with this golf course this year. That's as far as we could go back and everything to be considered, where bleachers have to be, where corporate has to be, where properties are. So we only lengthened it 50, 55 yards, I believe, if I'm correct. Help me with that.

THE MODERATOR: I'd have to double-check it.

TOM WEISKOPF: Go over last year's scorecard. But the biggest thing, the greatest help we had that they gave me -- and these aren't all my ideas. This was an accumulation of a lot of thought, throwing darts at the wall. The best idea in my mind should always win, and that's where we came up with the strategy regarding every hole out there. But ShotLink, we went back five years. I had that. I'm looking at these bunkers that were nonexistent to most of these guys. We took the average drive under the conditions, and I found out, you know, the average drive was 292, average. I kind of shook my head. I thought I was a pretty long hitter, you know. I get these baseball cards that people give me all the time to autograph, and the statistics that we know today are the last three years of my career, '81, '82, '83. I never finished in the top 10 in -- I mean, never finished out of the top 10 in driving distance. I was never the longest, but I finished sixth, eighth and ninth. How far do you think I averaged? Pretty long hitter, I thought, in my day. 273. Now, these guys are 20 yards longer, and I was not an average hitter. I was in the top 10. Now, when you look at the long hitters here, you're looking at 305 to 330, and they still hit it straight. So I thought the most important thing that we could do for this tournament was to challenge the tee shot more with relocation with a different look and style of bunker that is more traditional to the look of the past that I prefer. The first bunkers were more grass faced with flat bottoms, much smaller, and actually, a lot more penal for most if you got into certain situations. I think we have helped everybody. So the green contours, you know, just my philosophy is a subtle type of green contour, because by which you can get these speeds, by which they can get green speeds today, and they're pretty consistent on the tour somewhere, usually between 10.5 and 12.5 is kind of the week-to-week thing for them. That's fast. When you get up into that 11 and 12 range, that's fast. So the reason why I don't like severe greens -- there are some, couple greens out here that are tough, difficult, not overly severe, but they are very challenging. But when you get those speeds like that you have to be careful, because if they're too severe and too undulating, they become unplayable and not fun. Because you also have to remember 51 weeks of the year we have to keep that guy happy or that lady happy. We want that return of business. So all those things were put into that, that thought process, and that's what we have. We have a rebunkered golf course. Every tee was reshaped, relocated. Some of them were even moved up for everybody. Most of them were enlarged and relocated with a little different angle. You don't think much of 15- or 25-foot change of angle, but that changes the tee shot location and presentation a lot more. So that's what we are. And from what I've heard, which is very comforting, and I feel good about it, everybody's remarked about the condition of the golf course already. It's impeccable. I played here in the opening in November. I'm not a very good player anymore. I have a philosophy that I have had a good day if I can start and finish with the same ball (laughter). It's nice to hear. I haven't heard any negativity. I know that you can't please everybody, but that's the basic philosophy. The clubhouse is redone, players have their own locker room now, they have done a super job. The most prideful thing I can say is it was done on time six days a week, 100-plus workers, shapers, six days a week, 105 people were on this job. But under budget? Love it.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for that. We will take some questions now.

Q. 15 million was spent to do the redo. Some people thought it was a lot of money. Was more money spent on the golf course or the clubhouse, and what was the big item on the golf course?
TOM WEISKOPF: You know, I have a great friend of mine, close friend, Chris Roderick, sitting back there. Help me with those numbers. I don't want to misquote these numbers.

CHRIS RODERICK: Well, the golf course was 9.2.

TOM WEISKOPF: The golf course was 9.2. That's a total new irrigation system.

CHRIS RODERICK: That's a main line, too.

TOM WEISKOPF: That's the main line, too. That's drainage. When you think about irrigation today on a golf course like this, just starting from scratch is going to run over $2 million for a starter, you know. So I'm not trying to pad it or make it look any different than it is. I just wanted to be -- but to have done what we did, that totally surprised me, and I have done 67 golf courses. You know, to have done what we did, the amount of work that was accomplished in that short a period was incredible. It was a quality construction company with hard workers and very skillful workers. But the planning was done so good. Two years of planning went into this, you know. It was quite a venture, you know. So half went to the clubhouse, the way I look at it. Half went to the golf course.

Q. In 2001, the last time Tiger played here, Mark Calcavecchia won it at 28-under. Does that score seem implausible with this redesign, and was that part of the thinking that you really don't want to see scores like that?
TOM WEISKOPF: I would hope we never see the 20s. These guys are so good at what they do. If the right conditions are such, in other words, if you have a soft golf course or soft greens where they are throwing darts at these pins, and that slows down the green speeds and everything like that, that could happen again, but we are trying to make a little bit more competitive golf course. If we can stay right about, right around where we, where they were last year -- what did they tie with last year? Was it 15-under or 16-under? Isn't that amazing we don't even remember. Now, if it was 28-under, we'd remember that.

Q. Would you talk about the big bunker on 18?
TOM WEISKOPF: Yeah, the big bunker over the lake on the left that you're talking about.

Q. Yep.
TOM WEISKOPF: Originally, yeah, it was planned to be put on the right side of the fairway. The reason why we decided that -- there was an existing bunker there, but it stopped at 310 yards. It's 300 yards to carry the water. So the bunker took up 10 yards of length, the original bunker, and it had a little island in it, you know, not much. So we got to talking, and I just -- are we really discouraging the longest of hitters that play this game? How do we stop them from just -- because they can hit it so far, just hitting it over the left side and also carrying the bunker, and they have nothing left to hit to the green? So we came up with the idea, a big bunker with some islands in there that if they get maybe a little bit up against them they might have a challenge, and also located a little bunker in the front left to kind of stop the angle. But we also had a guy make the comment after his third round after he hit his 3-wood off the tee that if I play tomorrow and I have a chance to win the tournament, I'm going to take my driver out and just going to hit it into the corporate boxes to the left. So I went to the tour staff and I said, Why don't we just make it out of bounds over there from the standpoint of liability, just from the standpoint of safety? You know, if they are supposed to be that good, why let them hit it over there so they wouldn't do that. We can't have interior boundaries. I still don't understand that, because they do at the Open Championship, USOpen. But anyway, I'm not trying to fire -- that's their philosophy, okay? How do we at least make it more aware that you don't want to be over there? I thought the big bunker, that they couldn't carry that, was much bigger than the area that they were getting away with over with some islands in it where they might get a little bit unlucky. Now, that went through a process. Oh, my gosh, that went through a process of about two months, because the islands were actually a little higher and they were very nice. You know, I had enough controversy as a player. I didn't want controversy either, you know. So why don't we tone them down a bit. Good idea. So we toned them down. I wish we wouldn't have, to tell you the truth. I wish it would have -- now, you can hit it -- if you play a challenging tee shot there and you just roll in the right edge of it, you've got a shot, so those islands are in the middle of the bunker, you know. It's potluck, I guess you could say. We used to have the same situation at 17, and we took that big bunker that had 13 islands in it out, because these guys always go with the green at 17, you know. So we just have the sliver bunker there, and we actually tried to open up that area for spectator movement if they wanted to move up that left side in between holes 10 and 17 just to alleviate a little bit of the pressure behind the 10th green. So there were all kinds of things regarding the gallery movement of this thing. We improved some gallery areas, you know. So it was really a heck of a puzzle to solve. It was fun. It was challenging. At the end of the day, you just hoped that we get better fields because it's a better golf course and we provide the necessary demands of the corporate side of it and still protect the spectator from the standpoint of watching great golf.

Q. How much resodding did you have to do?
TOM WEISKOPF: You know, all the sodding happened around the greens and the new bunkers that were shaped, okay? The fairways we really didn't hardly -- you know, we didn't do anything to those. They just had the luxury of six months with no play on them and no carts on them, you know.

Q. It's all the same grass?
TOM WEISKOPF: Yeah, yeah. There really wasn't a lot of sodding. There was a lot of sod that took place in between the beautification between the second green and the ninth green. Remember that little ditch that used to run through there? Had the cattails and a few ducks nested down there and just didn't look nice. That was a major deal. That was an engineering deal with the pipe that's underground. What we did behind the 9th green, we lowered that mound and a couple other mounds out on the golf course to make these beautiful McDowell Mountains stand out a little bit more. That mound behind 9 was lowered about 10 feet. You'd never know it, but if you played the hole enough, now you can see the beautiful mountains behind it. So there was all this thought. You know, then we were lucky that we didn't even plan on the reveg of the desert. They put new DG in. They added over 200 trees, I think, and they got that from other projects in the city where they were improving the roads, have to take the vegetation. We got the luxury of those trees. All the existing old trees, had a couple of arborists come in and trim those up. They're beautiful. Everything was done for the 21st Century.

Q. Did that large rainstorm cause you any problems?
TOM WEISKOPF: No, it didn't do too much damage at all. It really didn't. I wasn't here then, but I called.

Q. Couple things. How far is it to carry that bunker on 18? 320?

Q. And secondly, you mentioned the different elevations of 2 and 3 green. I'm assuming they are higher now?
TOM WEISKOPF: I don't remember. Both greens are higher, and they are moved to a different location. I mean, they had that sun hitting that spot. They put up these things, you know, give them a reading. I don't know. I just asked them about it. They showed me some pictures of it. The third green was moved to the left about 20 feet and lowered.

Q. How about the big tier? What was the thinking behind that?
TOM WEISKOPF: Just to make it a little bit more challenging, a pitch shot if you laid up. And if you missed it around the green, you might have a real challenging shot just to get it on the green on your third shot. So it was a strategic thing.

Q. Is that about four feet?
TOM WEISKOPF: No, no, no. It's 20 inches. That's all.

Q. Seems a lot more.
TOM WEISKOPF: Yes, it does. I thought the same thing when I played. It's 20 inches between the surface of the low half of the green to the high half. 20 inches.

Q. On 14 now is about what, 490-yard par-4. What impact do you think that hole is going to have on the entire back 9?
TOM WEISKOPF: Well, I call it an equalizer because if it's in between two reachable 5s, 13 and 15. 13, that length of that hole didn't change, because they measured it. It measured on the old card like 590, but that's out on the left fairway that used to exist. You're always going out wide on the dogleg. I think it's 565, isn't it? I don't know. I didn't even look at the card. They hadn't had it when I was here. Does anybody have the card on 13? I think it's 565. Maybe it's 575. I don't know. But there is an interesting little thing around the green there called the coffin bunker. If you stand there on top and you look down -- you know, I got the idea from St. Andrews, you know, the famous coffin bunker on the 14th hole. Just something a little different. Architecture is a copy and a recopy from day one. You get some great ideas from past courses that you've played, and you've seen aspects of it, characteristics of them that you like to introduce, you know. I don't ever refer to the bunker at 18 as the church pews. That's reserved for Oakmont. There is only one church pews. Those are the islands in there. Four islands, big islands. Some people call them church pews. They can call them whatever they want. You don't want to be in there.

Q. The yardage book says the carryover there is 340. Does that sound right? You said the carryover over that new bunker --
TOM WEISKOPF: I guessed 360.

Q. 340, according to the new...
TOM WEISKOPF: Believe me, that's true. That's a long way.

Q. You described yourself as a traditionalist, and obviously you played the game in a different era. I was wondering what you think, what you make of the headlines the game has had in recent weeks between Tiger and the gap in his mouth and Allenby and how he got beaten up, and Dustin Johnson's leave of absence. What do you make of all of the attention being given to these things that are only peripherally related to the game?
TOM WEISKOPF: I was no saint (laughter). You deserve what you deserve, okay? We're in a sensational world today where information is passed so quickly, and it's unfortunate that you have controversy. I mean, how about the football deal for the Super Bowl? Or whatever, you know. I think these guys do a great job promoting the game. I'm not so sure that they really know the past and the players that have given and created the foundation in the game for decades and decades and decades to where we are today. Now, I'm going to give you a comparison, okay? My first tournament was 1964 at the Western Open. There were 30 PGA co-sponsored events. There were four Majors, as we know them. 19 of the 30 had two cuts. There was a cut on Saturday. It was the low 60 and ties were cut to the low 50 and ties, and they only paid 40 places. I tied for 30th my first tournament. Made two cuts. That continued through 1965. It went down to eight events. Then in '66 the tour -- it's what we know now. 70 and ties. Okay? I won $487.50. This week there will be a rookie, and I'm going to look at who they are, and there will probably be a star come out of that group, but his first event, if he ties for 30th here, he wins $40,000. That's great. That's where this game finally has gotten to. We are comparable to the other sports paychecks. You know what I mean? They deserve it. They handle it well. But there is never going to be a perfect scenario. There's always going to be some kind of controversy. There's going to be, you know, I don't know -- I don't even know what the drug policy is. I wouldn't even want to read it, because I wouldn't worry about it because my generation didn't worry about that. It wasn't evident back then. But they need a policy, is what I'm saying. I would hate to be the commissioner of any sport to be able to, you know, lay down the law and give judgment and penalty. It's very difficult. It would be a very difficult thing to do, but you still have to have that. These young guys are role models. It's a different dress code. I remember -- I always took a sport coat, if I thought I was going to win the tournament, put it in the cart, because I looked in the hallways at Colonial County Club and the Byron Nelson and those tournaments, and you go to the Western Open and you look at these Hogans and Snead, they'd be posing with a big smile like we do with that trophy in a sport coat. Some even had shirts and ties on. You know, but it is what it is today. You go in the locker room today and there's tennis shoes in front of everybody's locker. It's the way it is. They're all texting and, you know, I don't do that stuff. You know, I have a phone. It stays in my pickup, you know. It is what it is. It doesn't bother -- I think they do a good job. I really do. The media today is totally different than it was. The media in my time were guys that really knew the game. There are some of those now. I know who they are in this room, you know. They know the game. They know the tradition. They know the right questions to ask. I mean, I sit in at the Open Championship because I'm working for ESPN or the USOpen, I do the stuff for ESPN, you can get it on the computer and all that stuff. I listen to some of these questions that these guys say, and I would say to myself -- we had a few of those, too, but I understand why they don't want to be interviewed. I understand why they don't have supposedly enough time for everybody. It's the way it is. Deal with it. Why wouldn't you want to play here in front of a half a million people? Now, in my time it might have been a little difficult if I would have hit a bad shot or something like that, but I still would have wanted to play in front of that many people, in front of your fans. Maybe the 16th hole has gotten out of control, but it's a very unique thing. Everybody would want to have the 16th hole at their tournament. You know that going in. Now, there's only one of them. Thank God it's here, to tell you the truth. And all this corporate stuff, it's great. You know, it's unbelievable. There were 20,000 people, I'll bet you, for the week when I played my first tournament, and that was at Tam O'Shanter where they played the World Golf Championship. It's now a housing project. Doesn't even exist. We're going to have 500,000 people out there. Wow. I think that's great. And the playing conditions, the equipment, everything about it is just big time. It's wonderful. These guys have maximized their popularity the right way. They have been great for the game, whether they have won one tournament or two tournaments or 20. You know, you see the kids that follow Rickie Fowler. You know who the little kids are. He has a tremendous impact. He's won one tournament but he'll win more. You know, it's what you give back, and you've got to be available. You know, make yourself available. I got along great because I probably was good copy. I said it. I told it the way it was, you know. I read some of my quotes recently. I wonder why I said some of that stuff, but you do, you know.

THE MODERATOR: We have to wrap things up. Thank you very much for your time.

TOM WEISKOPF: Enjoy the week.
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