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June 15, 1999

Paul Jett

Tim Moraghan


LES UNGER: The two gentlemen to my right know more about this golf course than anyone else around. Paul Jett, at my far right, is the greens superintendent here and admits to an even-zero handicap. And Tim Moraghan, to my right, is his counterpart with the USGA, and every time I call his number at the office, he's out playing golf; and he says he's only a 5. They know how to play it. They know how to make it work. Do you fellows want to say anything about the general condition of the course, or do you just want to field questions? It's up to you.

PAUL JETT: Generally, I believe the golf course is in excellent condition. The fairways, we're mowing them lower and more often than at any other time, at least since I've been here. They are three-eighths of an inch in the fairway. Rough is consistent; three inches from the edge of the fairway to the rope line. Bunkers seem to be very consistent. And greens, although, with the humidity and the little bit of rain we've had this morning, have tended to stay on the soft side. Speeds are still right in the range of the 10 1/2 to 11 that we've been asked to provide in the mornings. We're having to do a lot of evening mowing to maintain those speeds from day to day, because they do seem to be dropping a little bit in the afternoon. But generally, I'm very pleased with the golf course and with the condition of it and the setup, as well.

LES UNGER: Tim, do you have something to add?

TIM MORAGHAN: Good morning. From the USGA's standpoint, we couldn't be happier. Tom Meeks and myself have been coming in and out of here quite consistently forever since the Senior Open in 1994. I would like to compliment all of Pinehurst, especially Brad Kocher, Bob Farren, and, of course, Paul for the exquisite work they did in rebuilding the putting greens in 1996. The Resort and ClubCorp was extremely cooperative with the United States Golf Association in fulfilling that request, and Paul put in countless hours in making those greens what you see today, which I believe will be an extreme challenge for the competitors this week. Overall, I'm very happy -- not too happy with the weather today, but I can't control that. As Paul stated, the greens and fairways are outstanding. We did ask Paul to lower the cutting height on the rough. Originally, we requested four inches last fall. Paul went above and beyond that and gave us four of the best inches I've ever seen. And we asked him to lower the cutting heights earlier this week, due to the fact that we really don't feel -- we felt we don't want the players hacking the ball back out into the fairway and proceeding from there. We'd like to give them a real good opportunity to go for the putting greens and see what happens from there. We're real happy.

LES UNGER: With that, we'll entertain questions.

Q. Some of the players were a little bit -- scoffing a little bit about the rough staying at three inches all the way through the tournament. They might say it would be three inches on Monday and Tuesday, but Thursday it might be a little higher than that. Are you going to stick with three inches?

TIM MORAGHAN: Yes. We want it to play Monday like it plays on Sunday. That's a goal, whether we maintain that or not, due to certain weather conditions. The rough will be three inches, and at this point, it's my understanding, also Trey Holland wants to raise the cutting height; it will stay with three inches through Sunday afternoon.

Q. Paul, I was just curious: I know a lot of players have been coming through here, particularly Jack Nicklaus; you've spent a lot of time on the course. How much input do the players have in what you've been doing out here?

PAUL JETT: Nothing that we've done has been a direct -- at least on my end, has been a direct reflection of any comments by the players. What I'm interested in doing is watching and seeing how their ball reacts when it hits the green. I'm not used to watching these Tour players come out and play. I'm used to seeing our regular members, resort guests, and I pretty much know how the ball reacts when it hits the green when they hit it. There's a lot more spin on these balls, and I've tried to gear the management of these greens over the last month to where the ball when it comes in, even with the amount of spin that these guys put on it, it will take at least one big hop before it starts to check. And a lot of the shots I've seen hit today, although the greens are still a little bit soft, watching some balls come into 18 and 5, that first bounce is 15, 18 feet, and then it stops. So the good shots will be rewarded, but the player that thinks he can throw the ball all the way to the pin is going to have a 20-footer, 25-footer coming back. So it's always, I think, a fairly safe bet that most balls need to land short of these pins, and just plan on one big hop.

Q. This is for Tim: This change in the length of the rough, is that a change in philosophy, or is that going to be just for this tournament and this week here?

TIM MORAGHAN: I think it would be safe to say it's due to this week. This is a warm season grass, Bermuda grass, a little thicker. It has a tendency to grab the club a little more; harder to play out of. We have an issue, too. I think if we had the traditional U.S. Open rough in a cool season scenario, where the height of cut was above five inches, we could have a lost ball, five or six feet off the edge of the fairway. And I don't think we want to do that. We're not out here, as Sandy Tatum said years ago, "to embarrass anybody." We try to make it more equitable for the player. Let them try to advance the ball more than 20 yards, but I don't think that's going to be a change of philosophy at all. We'd like to set it up like we'd like to have it be played.

Q. Paul, I constantly read and I constantly hear that if we have a lot of rain, that Pinehurst will be defenseless. Yet everything I see about what you've done with the greens, and from my knowledge of the area, how well it drains, I don't see this. And I wonder your thoughts, please.

PAUL JETT: My thoughts are that if we do have some rain, we do have ways to get water out of the putting green. We can mechanically vacuum the water out of the putting surface. But the surface that we would like to have would be one where we can control the amount of water that goes on, preferably through a hose in the morning and in the evening, and not have uncontrollable amounts of rain put on the golf course, which will, no matter how well it drains, soften it more than what I think it needs to be for this week.

Q. Have you seen a weather forecast updated for Thursday?

TIM MORAGHAN: We're kind of just going hour-by-hour, at least I am. I'm assuming it's going to be possible thunderstorms and what-have-you. I think tomorrow, from what I've heard, is supposed to be the worst of the remaining days of the week. I hope that's not the case. But I haven't heard anything other than what the Weather Channel has put forth.

Q. Could you address some of the interesting things you've seen players do around the greens, chipping-wise? And also, has the tightness of the grass around the greens taken the sand wedge chip shot out of the players arsenal?

PAUL JETT: No. If you want to go watch and really get a good area to where they're doing a lot of different things, go to the back of the 8th green. And from the back of the 8th green yesterday, I saw everything from 3-woods to putters. And the guys like Olazabal were standing back there with sand wedges lobbing it up; balls taking two hops and stopping. So the sand wedge is definitely not out of their hand, but every other club in the bag is an option, as well.

TIM MORAGHAN: I agree with Paul. I've seen everything from a 3-iron to a 3-wood down to whatever kind of wedge they carry in the bag. The 8th hole is a classic example. Paul made a great decision this morning to try to get the surfaces as tight as heck, and change the mowing pattern a little bit to enhance the different type of ball response and I think it was a great move, they only enhanced the difficulties of the surrounds. I hope we see some imagination. I hope it's not a putting contest, both on and off the putting surface.

Q. Paul, can you explain exactly what you did with the mowing patterns and how it changed the greens?

PAUL JETT: Typically, we mow these areas, and we would start on the edge of the green and mow a circle around the green, and just work our way out to the rough. And over the last two to three weeks, in an effort to eliminate a little puffiness of the Bermuda grass around the greens, we took the triplex mower and started at the rough edge and mowed directly into the green through the swales and up the slope. Last night and this morning, we made a little change to that and backed the triplex mower up to the edge of the green, set the reels down and mowed from the edge of the greens down the slope, against the direction we've been mowing for the last two to three weeks; and we pulled off a little more grass. The areas around the greens were a little bit tighter. The ball rolled a little better when we were through, and we'll be alternating these mowing patterns from now through Sunday.

TIM MORAGHAN: Really, no different -- same concept of the changing the direction of cut when you cut a putting green every morning.

Q. Tim and Paul, could both of you comment to how amazing it is that a golf course this old can still be standing up through the modern technology and players' abilities in the latter part of this century?

TIM MORAGHAN: Well, I think, how do you define greatness? Just walk outside the door here. It's an outstanding golf course. And I don't care if it's 1940, 1990 or 2030; I think it's going to hold up. Even with advancements in turf grass, in agronomic equipment, and in the players' ability and their equipment, you still have to make the golf shot. And Ross was no dummy, and he knew what he was doing, as any great architect did and will do; it's a great challenge to any player of any era.

PAUL JETT: I think to me -- I believe this golf course could stand for a long time, just because of the greens. Nobody is going to get scared playing this golf course from tee to fairway. The fairways are ample width, and all the regular, I guess, 28 to 30 that USGA normally makes, they play fairly wide, because I think, obviously, they're pretty flat. But with the penalty of a bad iron shot around -- from the fairway into the green, I believe this golf course would stand for many, many years, no matter how good the players got, because you're never going to get every shot exactly where it needs to be hit. With certain pin placements and different conditions, at least if it were a little drier, you have to be so precise with the irons; and then if you're not, then the chipping game has to be exceptional.

Q. If you do get heavy rain tomorrow, could you talk just a little bit more about the logistics of what you would do to defend with that, and give us a few more specifics, if you would?

PAUL JETT: Depending on how much rain we would get between now and Thursday morning, there's a system called SubAir that we can attach to the end of our drain line, that we can vacuum water out of the putting green; and it would eliminate any free water that was in the putting green at that time. But it would also begin a little hydraulic conductivity to continue to pull, even after the system was unhooked, continue to pull water out of the top two to three inches, and move it on down farther in the profile to within 12 to 24 hours. With no additional rain, we could be right back in the same firmness we had before it rained. That's really the only thing that we can do.

Q. I just wondered if this system you're talking about is used in other Open venues or unique to here?

TIM MORAGHAN: We had a similar situation back at Congressional, but it's really a product of modern putting-green construction. When you build a putting green to USGA recommended specifications, the ability when you drain the sub profile out and away from the green, the inventor of this machine thought: Why not blow air up into the profile and put oxygen in there, or maybe with water. And this is only the second golf course that we've had a major championship golf, from our standpoint, with the capability to do this. It's relatively a new function.

Q. Was it helpful at Congressional?

TIM MORAGHAN: I think so. We had some rain at Congressional at Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and it helped us leading into and then during.

Q. Some players have said to me that this course reminds them a lot of Augusta National. Do you see that any way, shape or form?

TIM MORAGHAN: I can't comment. I haven't been to Augusta for years. I just watched it on TV.

PAUL JETT: I guess what they're referring to is the fact that, obviously, Augusta has no rough around their greens, as well, and the short game comes into play a lot more. There's a lot more creativity around the greens at Augusta, as compared to obviously hitting a sand wedge out of rough from close to the green. Our greens, the shape of our greens is completely different from Augusta. Theirs have a lot of internal movement, mounding, sloping. These are -- in the middle these are fairly flat, and all the contoured slope is on the outside of them. I'm guessing where we're talking about the similarities is in the short game areas around the green.

TIM MORAGHAN: To add to that, we won't have this in the future. I don't think you can -- I can safely say that next year at Pebble Beach, or the year after at Southern Hills, that we're going to try to skin all the surrounds, because the architect may not allow that to happen. You try to set the golf course up and play it as the architect intended. Here, having half a foot of rough around these greens would be blasphemy. It would are awful; you couldn't do it. But to go to Pebble Beach next year, we had some areas we started, back in 1992, if the architect allows such an area to be incorporated easily without doing damage to the golf course, we'll look for those areas. But to have 18 holes, no; it's due to the architecture.

Q. What specific skills are these guys going to have to have to play this?

TIM MORAGHAN: From my standpoint, they're going to have to have patience. It can be extremely frustrating in that if you don't hit your primary target on your approach shot, well, now you don't know what you're going to do. So there's going to be an opportunity to get frustrated very quickly. If you're not successful on the recovery, first recovery shot, you'll have the opportunity to try it again. And I think that will also enhance your frustration somewhat. So a guy that's very patient and has the ability to say: Okay, I didn't do exactly what I wanted to do, to regroup and get back into play, will do very well here.

Q. I'm wondering if either of you guys have seen some of the comments from a few of the players about how during the practice rounds, the course maybe hasn't played quite as difficult as they thought it would. Any concerns to that, or is that maybe because the setup here may be different than what they expected coming in?

PAUL JETT: I think the setup is different than what they felt like it would be. Our local paper here has been running articles for the last six weeks, since Greensboro, where they had talked to several players or had press conferences and the setup of the U.S. Open came up, and that was the whole topic of each article. To the man, every player, was concerned about the length of the rough; they were concerned about the firmness of the greens. They were concerned about the tightness of the areas around the putting green, that it would take options away from them. And I think they've come here a little bit shocked that they've found a golf course that's -- although it's probably not what they expected, I think it's going to be a lot to their liking.

Q. I apologize if you answered this, when you first started, I was a little late. What are you going to do with the rough the rest of the week? Are you going to let it grow?

PAUL JETT: I've been asked to mow it at least every night I guess through Saturday. So we will maintain a three-inch rough from here through the end of the tournament.

Q. I know this is not strictly your area, but there's been a lot of speculation that European players, because of the courses they play on their Tour, will have some advantage that they haven't had in previous U.S. Opens. Could either or both of you address that, please?

TIM MORAGHAN: I think Pinehurst is very similar to what they will encounter on the other side of the ocean. I think that was Ross's intention when he came over here. I think he had the material on the ground here to work with, and I think there's a lot of similarities to where we originated it out there. So I suppose you could speculate that that player that's more familiar with that type of shot sequence would do better here.

LES UNGER: Thank you very much, and we'll be interested to see what the week will bring us.

End of FastScripts….

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