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June 28, 2006

Mike Davis

David Fay

Rhonda Glenn

Marcia Luigs


DAVID FAY - Executive Director USGA

MIKE DAVIS - Sr. Director Rules & Competitions

MARCIA LUIGS - Chairman USGA Women's Committee

RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the annual press conference at the Women's Open of the United States Golf Association. Representing the USGA to my immediate left, David Fay, the Executive Director, Marsha Luigs, Chairman of the Women's Committee, and Mike Davis, Senior Director of Rules and Competitions. We'll have a couple of comments, and then we will open the floor to questions, and if you'll just wait for the microphone before you ask a question.

Marcia, this is not the first time the USGA has been at Newport Country Club. Could you tell us a little bit about the history of our association with that club?

MARCIA LUIGS: Well, needless to say, we've gone back a long way with Newport. Newport was one of the founding members of the USGA in 1894 when they were founded, and in 1895, the first U.S. Open and the first Amateur were played here at Newport.

100 years later, the U.S. Amateur came back to Newport. Tiger Woods was the winner. And now we are thrilled to pieces to be here for the Women's Open.

RHONDA GLENN: Mike, there's been quite a bit of discussion about the weather this week. The forecast has not been good as I've seen it on the Weather Channel. How much water can this golf course take?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, you're right. The latest forecast is we're supposed to get some pretty high winds this afternoon, followed by maybe an eighth to a quarter of an inch later in the day, followed by pretty heavy rain starting early tomorrow morning, and we may see up to an inch of rain.

With respect to rain, they have seen their fair share of it here in Newport for the last month and a half. They've gotten, I believe, over 13 inches in the last five or six weeks, and on Saturday and Sunday, which caused some of the wetness that you see out there right now, they got 3.7 inches. Because of that, we had to pump the club with the help of the local fire companies, had to pump over 3 million gallons of water off some of the low lying holes.

With an extra inch, how is the course going to play? It's already going to be a very long golf course. I think it's fair to say it can probably handle a quarter inch, maybe half an inch without really too much problem. If we truly get the inch, then we're going to have some severe puddling out there and probably some bunkers that are going to need to be pumped. It's going to be a wet, long U.S. Open, at least tomorrow.

RHONDA GLENN: The longest Women's Open I can recall was in 1987 when play was not concluded until Tuesday, the year that Laura Davies won. Do you foresee anything like that happening this week?

MIKE DAVIS: I think the easy answer is no. Everything in the forecast for Friday through Sunday actually is looking pretty good. If things don't go well tomorrow, could we carry over Round 1 into Round 2? Sure. There's always time to make up, particularly on the weekend.

Q. Are there going to be spots the spectators are not going to get to walk on this week?

MIKE DAVIS: Question about where spectators can and can't walk, right now most of the holes really are opened as planned. Should we get this inch of rain that's predicted, I think we're just going to have to take it on a case by case basis. I will tell you that the 3rd hole, parts of the 7th hole, the 8th hole and then the landing zone on No. 9 are probably the wettest areas. It could be that we keep spectators out of there. Those were, by the way, the low lying holes that we did have to pump earlier in the week.

Q. There's still a couple of bunkers that have significant puddles in them. Are those pump out able, pardon my language, and do you just play those as relief from the bunker?

MIKE DAVIS: You're right. All of the bunkers have been pumped already, but the way the water table is right now I think of the bunker that's short right of the 17th green, that has been pumped probably four or five times, and the water just keeps coming back in. What you try to do from a play and a rules standpoint is pump the bunkers enough so you've got somewhere in the bunker to drop under the abnormal ground condition rule.

We just don't want situations where the entire bunker is full of water where the player in trying to take free relief can't take relief in the bunker and has to take a one shot penalty and play out. That's our hopes. We don't mind some water in the bunker, but if it gets to be too bad, then pumps will definitely come out.

RHONDA GLENN: At what point would you call a course unplayable?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, I think the things you look at to determine whether a course is unplayable is when you have casual water out on the golf course, what are your relief situations, whether it's on the putting green, the teeing ground or the driving zone. For example, if we have so much water on the greens that we can't squeegee and we can't get to a situation where a player can find relief, that would be a situation that's unplayable. Take the 9th drive zone, which is one of the wettest it almost looked like a lake on Sunday. If it gets to the point where literally players have nowhere to hit a tee shot, there's a case where something might be unplayable where you can't take a player anywhere closer to the hole to find a relief situation.

Q. What yardage are you looking at playing the course at now, and how much might you shorten that?

MIKE DAVIS: Very good question. We're right now at 6,564, and that was planned for Rounds 1 and 2, and then if things go well we'll jump to 6,616. So 6,564 for Rounds 1 and 2 and then 6,616. The difference is we had planned to play holes 5 and 13 from the back teeing grounds. Those are both par 3s that do play into the prevailing southwest wind. We thought maybe it was too much for Rounds 1 and 2 with respect to pace of play.

But back to your question, if we really get hammered with water and some of the very long holes, like the 8th hole, the 14th hole, the 18th hole, which were absolutely positively set up long because they do play downwind with the prevailing southwest wind, if we see forecasts where we're going to get a reverse wind or very little wind and it's this wet, we will look on almost a hole by hole basis to determine whether we do move those up. That's something we've definitely been talking about. We'll really have to wait until early tomorrow morning and see what's going on and what the forecast is.

Q. This is for David. First, I was wondering if you have a sense if the players have an appreciation for the history here and if you could also talk about your own appreciation for it.

DAVID FAY: Well, my sense of the players is just what I've been reading and hearing, and I think they do have an appreciation that they are in a special place. They certainly every year have an appreciation for the Women's Open, which I believe they consider the most important championship they play.

My appreciation, yes, I'm a full member of this club, and I love the way it's setting out this week. I'd certainly, like everyone else, worry about the weather, but thankfully we're not in Washington, D.C. We've had problems, as Mike said, but my God, they've had 11 inches, the biggest storm in the last 300 years. I think this will be a great week and a week that the USGA will be proud of and certainly Newport Country Club.

Q. Mike, what's the plan for the rough this week? Will we see the same type of deal we saw at Winged Foot?

MIKE DAVIS: In parts, yes. We are doing the tiered rough this week. We go from intermediate, which we have at all our championships, to find of first cut of primary that's three and a quarter inches, then it jumps to four and a half inches after the first 20 feet of width. Then it goes to something Winged Foot didn't have, which is the native fescues, which in most cases you simply do not want to get into those natives here at Newport.

The one big difference is that these grasses Winged Foot was some of the thickest rough we've ever seen. Even at three and a half inches at Winged Foot, you saw the best players in the world really struggling to get out. At three and a quarter inches here, we won't see the same type of struggle, but let me also say this: One of the charming things about Newport Country Club is the fact that it's so natural. I can't think we talked about this amongst ourselves, of what championship, whether it's USGA or some other associations, have staged this big of an event at a course where there's no irrigation. You might laugh at that because we don't need the irrigation this week, but this is a club that because it doesn't have automated irrigation except or the putting greens and teeing grounds, it's almost a survival of the fittest with the grasses.

Some of the real high areas that don't retain the moisture, you really see the fine fescues growing, which in their areas of the rough that's very playable. It's a thin, wispy type grass versus where you see poa annua, rye grasses which are much thicker. What you're going to see in the rough this week are some players having no trouble with some lies and a lot of trouble with other lies.

Q. David, as a member here, have you seen course conditions like this before? Could you tell us some of your experiences with bad weather here?

DAVID FAY: I've never seen it quite this soggy, but the real impact is on the as Mike mentioned, it's in the areas where hopefully as a player you're not going to be, outside the ropes. Interestingly, as everyone knows, we've flipped the nines for a lot of reasons, including spectator accommodation. Just think about the holes that Mike cited as the problem holes would normally be your back nine holes.

I can't recall weather like this. I think this is weather that's not only victimized Rye Island but the Boston area, too.

Q. I have to ask partly because Christine is not here, but women believe done, there's a force going on at Wimbledon to try to equalize the men's and women's prize money, and obviously this prize money is very large but yet not equal to the men's. Is there any move afoot to try to equalize that?

DAVID FAY: Well, Wimbledon and the U.S. tennis Open and the Australian Open and some other athletic events, they should have equal prize money because when I go to Wimbledon, I could be going to see Hingis now as much as I am to go see Federer because they play concurrently at the same time at the same playing ground. That's the big difference here.

So what you're faced with is you want to provide a very reasonable purse, and the U.S. Women's Open purse, I don't think I'm overstating it to say, it dwarfs anything else in the women's game. In an ideal world they would be equal. When you're dealing with an athletic competition that's also an entertainment product, you really pay what the marketplace drives. As an example, I would like to believe that the WNBA should have the same salary structure as the NBA, but it just doesn't happen that way.

We felt when we dramatically increased the purse a number of years ago in the Women's Open, we wanted to do it not only for the Women's Open, it was the hope that by taking that step, it would dramatically elevate the prize money of other women's competitions. I'd like to say that we're getting closer to closing the gap, but the gap is real, and it's really economic issues, not things like the number of people who enter, the number of people who come to the championship, all of the variables, the number of people in this room, most of you who were at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago at Winged Foot.

If you had the U.S. Open and the U.S. Women's Open on the same facility the same week, certainly there would be equal prize money because how would you know why you're coming to the event? Would you be coming to see Sorenstam or would you be coming to see Woods, but that's not the case here.

Q. With Cherry Hills last year and obviously coming here with Oakmont and Pebble Beach around the corner, some classic venues, are you finding more interest out there in clubs wanting to get this event?

MARCIA LUIGS: Yes, there certainly are. We're very proud of the venues that are coming up, and we're excited about some of the clubs that are in the works. We go to Pine Needles next year and then Interlachen, off to Saucon Valley and then to Oakmont. So that's a great location, and we foresee in the future that sites will be as exciting?

Q. To follow on that, we know Pebble is coming, but do we know when? Have we figured out a date for that and what's holding up an announcement on the specific date? Or did I miss it?

DAVID FAY: No, you didn't miss it. The specific date for Pebble Beach will be announced when we have a signed contract. There's no hitch in the giddy up as they may say, we're just working out the final details.

Q. We had the first major here in the U.S. in 1895, and we waited nor 100 years for the U.S. Amateur. Why did it take so long to come back here? I know it's probably before your time?

DAVID FAY: Thank you for that.

Q. Why did it take so long to come back here?

DAVID FAY: Regardless of whether it's the Open or the Women's Open or the Women's Amateur Public Links that we had last week, you have to have the facility express the interest in it. Personally I hope that the club feels after this week that, in spite of the weather and the damage that will be caused to the outlying areas, that they'll want to do it again.

It was 1987 when Newport Country Club approached us about hosting the 1995 U.S. Amateur. I'd like to believe that they were so taken by that experience that they then started setting their sights on other events, being this one this week.

The club did, in the 80s, host some event. It was the Senior Tour event. I think it was called the Merrill Lynch something or other. But we certainly hope it's not going to be another 100 years, just like we hope that we can return to Cherry Hills.

Whenever we take the U.S. Open, Women's Open, to a course, it's in the expectation that it's going to be a success and that we'll be talking at some point about returning there. You build on your successes.

Q. Is this the biggest USGA championship Newport can hold infrastructure wise?

DAVID FAY: Is this the largest one? I would say that you would have a limit, yeah. The golf course isn't long enough to play the U.S. Open if that's what you're getting at.

Q. I'd like to get your feedback on Winged Foot, and are they like some other clubs that have immediately invited you back in the future?

DAVID FAY: Well, you're looking at me, but I'm going to throw that to Mike because what he did in terms of setting up the golf course was a large factor in the successful week.

Q. I talked to him already (laughter).

DAVID FAY: Well, not everyone did.

MIKE DAVIS: I think the USGA was very pleased with how Winged Foot went. Ideally we want those of you in this room to be talking to the championship and about the play of it and not about some controversy or the golf course setup or so on. So given the fact of what won score wise, and I can tell you the USGA really is not fixated on even par, plus 5, minus 5 winning, we're just trying to set the golf course up in such a way that it's a good test of golf. Really if we do that, to a large extent it really depends on what Mother Nature gives us. For the PGA TOUR players, if you give them soft conditions, generally speaking, they're always going to shoot lower. If you give them windy conditions, they're going to shoot higher.

I think at the end of the day, we were pleased just because the competition itself really was the story.

DAVID FAY: And I think that Winged Foot confirmed that a great old golf course can still be a great championship site for contemporary golf. It's remarkable that 32 years ago the story line from Winged Foot was the massacre at Winged Foot, the unfairness of the golf course, the trickery of the golf course. The winning score was 287. Two weeks ago the winning score was 285 and the greatest criticism I heard was that the greens were a little slower than they expected. There was no comment about fundamental unfairness of the golf course or it's not playable or it's not rewarding good shot making. It certainly punished errant shot making?

Q. Did they invite you back?

DAVID FAY: We haven't gotten to that point. I certainly would hope they would invite us back, yes. I think that the club you'd have to talk to again, I don't want to speak for the club, but I got the sense that the leadership of the club was delighted. Everything worked well, both the golf itself, but the things outside the ropes, from the parking to the concessions to the movement of people. I thought it went really well.

Q. If you were to write a book about the last U.S. Open, what's the title?

DAVID FAY: I'd ask my ghost writer (laughter).

Q. Typically how long does it take the east course to recover?

MIKE DAVIS: Question about Winged Foot's east course on recovery, that I will tell you has been a long discussed issue, in fact, before we even signed a contract with Winged Foot some seven years ago, we looked at the course, did an analysis of it, and you try as best you can seven, eight years in advance to lay the whole logistical plan out. Part of that plan does, in fact, include what happens when everybody leaves, all the damage. As we saw there, a lot of the holes at Winged Foot's east course, which by the way is a so called top 50 golf courses on a lot of architectural lists, so we went to painstaking lengths to have a plan that as quickly as we can get the golf course back to the members, we're going to do so.

It's going to include a lot of sod work on those areas that had tents, which that's a big extra expense versus just seeding it, but we felt that it was important to try to get the golf course back to the members.

We hope that by mid July that everything is out of there, everything is sodded and it's being repaired, and in terms of when they can actually play on some of it, they're hoping maybe by August 1st. But one of the need, I guess, by products of the whole thing is they rebuilt some new greens that needed to have some things done on the east course because they knew the golf course was going to be down. They rebuilt some bunkers, did some irrigation work. So they really were using this downtime to kind of make some other improvements that otherwise would have taken the course away from them.

RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

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