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June 11, 2003

Reed MacKenzie

Fred Ridley


RAND JERRIS: Welcome to the USGA media conference. I'd like to introduce from right-to-left, Reed Mackenzie, president of the United States Golf Association, in the center, Fred Ridley, vice-president of the USGA and chairman of the championship committee, and executive director, David Fay.

REED MACKENZIE: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to this press conference. We have a couple of special guests with us up in the front row that I'd like to introduce. First of all, Steve Becker and Todd Alfred from the Chicago District Golf Association. And Juan Espejo from the Maryville Academy. They represent a couple of foundations in the Chicago area that have been instrumental in dealing with youngsters and dealing with golf.

They were out here Monday as a part of the junior golf day, where we had about 600 young people here. And we invited them to this press conference so they could see how all this works. But more importantly, for anyone who wants to see how golf at the grass roots is conducted, these are the people that do all that work.

Maryville Academy is the largest private child care facility in Illinois. And Juan and his group provide the clinics and indoor golf working center, club fitting workshops and caddy opportunities at the local clubs. I met Juan a month or so ago and heard about his program, which is a truly remarkable and a story worth telling. Sunshine through golf camps provide instruction to members through the recreation association. They provide opportunities for individuals with behavioral disorders and mental disabilities. And both Juan and Todd are here with a couple of kids from their programs. And I hope that you will take an opportunity just to meet them and say hello when the press conference is over today.

We do not have any special announcements, other than welcoming our guests, and so now I'd like to turn it over to Fred Ridley, who is chairman of the championship committee, to talk about how we see the championship ahead.

FRED RIDLEY: Thanks, Reed. The USGA was quite pleased to have the opportunity to come back to Olympia Fields. The Senior Open here in 1997 was a very successful championship for the USGA. We're very pleased at the way the golf course has come around. As you know, those of you from this area of the world know that it's been a tough winter and virtually no spring. But Dave Ward and his group, along with Tim Moraghan, have done a great job in getting the golf course to where it needs to be for the championship to start tomorrow.

I think you'll find that the playing surfaces are going to be very consistent. We've got them rolling at about 12 right now and that's really where we want to be on Wednesday. Obviously we'd like to see the greens a little firmer, but with a lack of sunshine and the little bit of rain we've had that's been difficult. But with the wind and a couple of days of sunshine I think you'll see the greens a little bit testier than they have been in the past few days.

The quality of the rough is excellent. As I said, Dave has done a excellent job. The rough right now is right about at four inches, which is what we asked Dave and his group to give us on Wednesday. It's fairly consistent, perhaps at this time not as thick as some Opens in the past, but again, it will only take a couple of days of sunshine for that to change a little bit.

Our intention right now is the rough was mowed last night and our intention is not to mow it again, but we will take a look at it every day, and if we need to we'll top it off as circumstances dictate. My observation has been is that this is not a pitch-out type rough. There are times when the ball gets down in the grass and it's pretty hard to do anything with it. But I've seen three or four different variations of lies being out on the golf course the last couple of days, and that's really the desired result as far as we're concerned. I think there will be many times when the player will have an opportunity to take a fairly good cut at the ball out of the rough and I think that will make for some interesting results coming into these greens.

As you know, the routing of the golf course was reversed for the Open Championship. Initially simply by reversing the front and the back nines. That was spectator driven. The membership -- what will be the front nine for the Open has a number of issues with respect to gallery and control and movement that really is not -- was not as desirable and is not as good a condition as you'll find on the Open back nine. For that reason, the fact that we had a number of one-sided holes, not quite as much space for grandstands, it just made a lot of sense to switch the nines.

A little bit later than that, last year, we took a look at the situation of crossover at the turn and felt that we could present a better situation for the players if we basically went back and used the normal 1st and 10th hole, it makes a better situation when the players are making the turn. That did create a little bit of a challenge in the 1st green, 18th tee, 2nd tee area, and also a pretty good walk from the 10th to the 11th, 10th green to the 11th tee, but on balance we felt that this was the best thing for the championship, and I think the players will have no problem in that area working things out.

That's really about it on the golf course. We'd be happy to answer any questions, if you have any, about the golf course or otherwise.

Q. Fred, what hole on the back was the par-5, and what are your feelings about how it will unfold on Sunday with no par-5s on the back?

FRED RIDLEY: The par-5s are over after the 6th hole. And I think every golf course is a little bit different. The players have to all add up their scores together. And I think there's certainly enough challenging par-4s coming in, and of course the 17th hole, which is a heck of a par-3. We feel really good about the finish for the last round.

Q. For the members, where were the par-5s on the back? Which par-4s were par-5s?

FRED RIDLEY: No. 9 for the members was a par-5.

Q. What about on the back?

FRED RIDLEY: If we'd have played 9 as a par-5, there would be no par-5s on our back nine, no matter how we would have approached it.

Q. Assuming you want to bring this championship back to Chicago in the future, can you speculate where you might want to go? Is Olympia Fields probably the plan again?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, first we're really happy to be in Chicago. It's obviously one of the major metropolitan areas of the country, as well as having a great golf history. Our coming back to Olympia Fields really was a product of a great experience at the Senior Open and some significant undertakings that the club made to really bring this course up to U.S. Open standards. We have a very comprehensive process as it goes to site selection, that involves not only the championship committee but the USGA staff, looking at golf course issues, as well as operational issues, and that's a process that will take place with regard to future U.S. Open championships, and we certainly welcome an invitation from Olympia Fields or any other qualified course in the Chicago area.

Q. Along those lines, for David or Reed, how important is it to the USGA to have a presence, fairly regular presence, in this part of the country?

REED MACKENZIE: Well, I'll take the first shot at it. Being a Midwesterner, I'm delighted to take the championship back to this part of the country. And I think if you look at our rotation, if you will, of Open sites, certainly there is a conscious decision to try to move it across the East Coast to the West Coast and stop occasionally here in the Midwest. And we'll continue as far as I know to have that philosophy going forward.

Q. You talked about the changes as far as with 10 and 11. What have you guys noticed about the galleries getting through those areas? Are there any problem areas with the galleries, but specifically that area?

FRED RIDLEY: 10 to 11, you're right, is tight. But we've been out the last couple of days and there have been quite a few people out, and I think it's working okay. A lot of that also depends on the players working together, and they're very used to that. So we really don't see a problem. But it is a little bit tight. It looks like it's going to work okay.

Q. Fred, what kind of feedback are you getting from the players themselves, just casual conversations or observations?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, I honestly have not heard a lot this week. My experience has been when the player has an opinion about the golf course he'll let you know it. And there's really been very little in the way of negative feedback. I've heard some good, general positive comments. I know Phil Mickelson had a comment early in the week about some observations he had on green speed. But I think by Thursday I think we're going to have the greens very consistent. But overall I think it's been very positive.

Q. Is the two-tee start here to stay and do you have any reservations?

FRED RIDLEY: I think it is. It's something that we had talked about for quite some time. Initially that was not going to be implemented until after Bethpage, but after the logistics of Bethpage we felt we could make it work there. It's certainly something the players are used to on a weekly basis. It gives us more daylight to work with on Thursday and Friday, and I think it is here to stay.

Q. This may sound kind of silly, but is it worrisome at all that there isn't more complaining from the players, that maybe if they're not grumbling enough, maybe they're not being tested enough? Is that a concern?

FRED RIDLEY: It's only Wednesday, the week's not over. I think we're going to find this is going to be a great Open test. Part of the reason there's been no complaints is the condition of the golf course has been just about perfect. And I think the players think it's a fair setup and I think that's the reason we haven't heard any complaints.

Q. What do you expect as far as how this course will play compared to last year and two years ago? Last year was a new course and we didn't know anything about that. This is a new course. How do you gauge trying to figure out how the course is going to play?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, that's a hard question. I know last year at Bethpage there were a lot of us, including me, that wondered if we weren't going to have a real low score there. And I think part of that is because we didn't have any history to fall back on. And to some extent that's the same here. It's been 75 years, and a lot has happened in that time since the U.S. Open has been here. I think the course played tough for the Senior Open. I think even par about won the Senior Open in '97. And I think a lot of it really depends on the weather. I think if the weather cooperates with us and we get a little bit of sunshine, I think you're going to see hopefully a rather typical U.S. Open winning score. If the greens get softer than they are now, and we have a little more rain and not a lot of wind, I think the players could shoot some really good scores. But a lot will depend on what happens between now and Sunday with the weather.

Q. What is your weather for the rest of the week?

FRED RIDLEY: Every time I look at the weather forecast it changes. So I'm not sure what the latest is. I think the latest I've heard is that the next couple of days, through Friday, looks pretty good, with possibly some thundershowers on the weekend. I think that was last night, the last time I looked at it.

Q. It's obvious that with the 7:00 finish on the weekend, this event is set up so more people can see it on prime time on TV. Have you given any thought to some sort of fair playoff system, other than the 18 holes on Monday, where most people are at work and they're unable to see it?

FRED RIDLEY: The issue of playoff versus finishing on Sunday is one that I know has been discussed in detail and often since I've been on the executive committee. There's certainly very good points to be made on both sides of that issue, and you just identified a couple of them. Obviously it's something that we would certainly continue to discuss and consider, but right now the USGA feels that the best way to identify its champion is to play 18 holes on Monday. But it's not -- it's something certainly that will be brought up I'm sure again and discussed.

Q. Have you ever considered doing 18 holes to where it would finish in prime time on Monday so you would have a larger television audience? 29 hours of live TV for four days, I think they should have a better opportunity than taking a day off or making a tape to watch it, in my opinion.

FRED RIDLEY: That's certainly a good question, and that's something that could go into the equation. Television is certainly an issue and when television is able to broadcast the playoff is part of the equation.

Q. Fred, just a follow-up. You were talking about the conditions, and it depends so much on the weather. If we do get soft conditions, we know what these guys can do when a course gets soft. How would you guys react if you saw a bunch of guys with 8, 9, even 10 under par, and it was not the traditional low scores that we see in the U.S. Open, would that be a reflection on the course or a reflection on just how good these guys are at this point?

FRED RIDLEY: I think it would probably be a reflection of the caliber of the field. I've always said that if you give these players softer conditions and not much wind I don't think it really matters how long the golf course is or how high the rough is, they're going to shoot low scores. And I think that's pretty much the case just about every year. Last year Bethpage turned out to be extremely difficult. But I don't think low scores would reflect poorly certainly on Olympia Fields at all.

Q. Last week weather was a big issue, not only for the U.S. Open qualifying, but almost became an issue for the Senior Open qualifying open on Monday, for the seniors. Could you address the inherent fairness of having 20-year Tour player having to maybe miss a PGA TOUR event so they could qualify for the U.S. Open? Have you thought about ways to deal with those issues, and also to change the qualification so that some of those guys that have been out there long enough for numerous Opens don't have to qualify in that way?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, as far as the first part of your question, there's always been a Monday, Tuesday site for what we call the Tour sites, so there is an option there. But when the tournament is delayed, and perhaps could be delayed another day, that could be an issue.

As far as the exemption sort of framework in general, that's certainly something that's always undergoing review. We've had some major revision in our exemptions in some of our other championships this year, so that's something that's always on the table. There also is always the possibility if a situation that's warranted for a player to receive a special exemption, and there were three this year, as well. But I can assure you that the executive committee and the championship committee has looked at exemptions every year.

Q. The security has been pretty extraordinary out there. I'm wondering, are you satisfied at this point that it will be a safe experience for the fans and the players?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, I'm involved with what's on the inside of the ropes. But having been a part of the process for a number of years now, and particularly going through what we did last year at Bethpage, I'm very confident that our operations people, Mike Davis, does a tremendous job heading all that up, that we've taken every step reasonably necessary and possible to make sure that we have a safe U.S. Open.

Q. And the gentlemen who are patrolling near the train platform with the camouflage suits and weapons, what law enforcement agency do they represent?

FRED RIDLEY: I don't know the answer to that. The answer is it varies.

Q. Between what?

FRED RIDLEY: There are various agencies involved with dealing with the train, because there's multiple jurisdictions involved.

Q. Local law enforcement?

FRED RIDLEY: Local and -- I don't think we really want to go through specifics, but there is ample security dealing with the train.

Q. With the 1st and 10th tees giving you more daylight, is there any thought to adding six more players or 12 more players to fill some of that daylight?

FRED RIDLEY: There's no consideration of that at the present time.

Q. Padraig Harrington was in here yesterday saying the way you guys set up the courses leads to, his words, not mine, playing boring golf. Do you have a comment to make on that? And do you discuss in the executive committee the way you set up courses on a regular basis?

FRED RIDLEY: I'm sorry, I didn't hear the characterization of Padraig as boring.

Q. He says it takes the flare out of the game, and they have to plod their way around?

FRED RIDLEY: Well, I suppose certainly Padraig is entitled to his opinion. And I think the record speaks for itself, and there have been Opens where winners have sort of backed up to the field and there's been others where it's been very exciting. I think there's no question that the U.S. Open test provides a premium on accuracy off the tee, depending on the year, in some cases there may not be a lot of options when a player misses the fairway.

I think part of the test, though, really, is the -- sort of the psychological aspect of it, the ability of the player to control his game, emotions, and realize that he's going to run into adversity during the round. I think that's part of what's involved in identifying a champion. So in my view that's not boring, but I can certainly appreciate Padraig's opinion.

REED MACKENZIE: I suppose as one of the champion plodders, Padraig sort of liked that. Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and I encourage you to meet our guests up here in the front row.

End of FastScripts....

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