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June 16, 1999

David Fay

Trey Holland

F. Morgan Taylor


F. MORGAN TAYLOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll be seated, we'll begin the proceedings. Thank you for joining us. My name is Buzz Taylor. I'm the president of the United States Golf Association, and with me on the dais this morning is Trey Holland on my right, who is chairman of the Championship Committee of the USGA, and I think all of you know the man on my left, our executive director, David Fay. We welcome you, and as we do, I think it's totally appropriate for us all to acknowledge the job that the Pinehurst organization has done in preparing for this championship. Everything that I have seen, and I'm sure most everything that you've been able to see so far will be handled as well as we've ever seen it at a U.S. Open. And we are grateful for the ClubCorp Corporation and the Pinehurst organization for what they've done in setting up this championship. Our main purpose here this morning is to talk about the 1999 playing of the U.S. Open. And I'd like to turn the meeting over to Trey Holland to talk about the course setup at Pinehurst, which I know will be of interest to all of you. Trey Holland.

TREY HOLLAND: Thanks, Buzz. As all of you know, this year's championship presents an entirely different appearance than a traditional U.S. Open setup. And obviously, the main reason for that is simply the golf course architecture that we're lucky enough to have available to us this week. We have talked extensively over the last year or so about changing our set up from the traditional setup, so that the nuances of Pinehurst architecture can shine through. The crowned greens that are here with the large run-off areas simply won't be of any real utility if the players are having to hack their ball out of six-inch rough and then carry on. And with the rough cut at three inches, we find ourselves, I think, in a situation where the players, at least in a lot of instances, may be tempted to hit a long shot toward the putting green, and on that basis they play have little or no control over the golf ball and where it ends up is going to be anybody's best guess. We think that's going to result in a very exciting championship and something that the fans and the players have not experienced with a U.S. Open setup in years. We're very excited about it and Brad Kocher and his staff and Paul Jett and his crew, and Tom Meeks and Tim Moraghan with some input from David Fay have all been instrumental to bringing this setup to fruition.

F. MORGAN TAYLOR: Now we'd be pleased to entertain your questions.

Q. Trey, this is going to produce one of the most exciting championships, and the previous ones haven't been so exciting, is this the course USGA is going to follow in future events, or you aren't going back to the traditional six-inch rough, sloping fairways?

TREY HOLLAND: This is going to produce an exciting championship, but I wouldn't go so far to say other U.S. Opens haven't been exciting. We think they have been very exciting. The golf course architecture lends itself to this setup, where as others do not. We'll find ourselves going back to similar, if not identical style, for example, when we go to golf courses that lend themselves to that style. Our focus will continue to be trying to put on the supreme test, if you will, for the United States Open Championship, and those objectives will not change.

Q. Now that you have brought the Open here, is it the matter of getting the greens to where they could take the speed for an Open. Why haven't you come to Pinehurst before now?

DAVID FAY: That could be a long answer, and there are a number of factors. I don't think the USGA in years past contemplated, let's say, before the Shinnecock Open of 1986 taking the U.S. Open to places that are fairly remote in terms of being near a major metropolitan area. In fact, I think the '72 Open in Pebble Beach was the first time we had an Open at a site that was more than an hour away from a really large metropolitan area. It had to do with the condition of the course, the grasses, and I don't know if they ever expressed an interest in hosting an Open there. But I'd rather deal with the present and the future, rather than the past.

Q. The players have been very complimentary so far, and along with that, they have also made remarks to say that it was not fair last year, the setup at the Olympic Club. I would like you to address that. Is that because of the way the USGA set it up or the way the Olympic Club is designed? Your thoughts on that.

TREY HOLLAND: Well, I think that it's very safe to say that the rough here at Pinehurst is a little bit more along the lines of what the players are used to. It's not as long. It's not pitched-out rough consistently throughout the golf course, as it has been with prior setups. It's hard to -- I think it's hard to make a comment when a player says: Well, the golf course was set up unfairly. I don't feel that the Olympic Club was set up unfairly. It was set up the way we set up U.S. Open courses. It's not what the players see typically every week. We feel the U.S. Open arguably should be the toughest golf tournament in the world, and we set it up that way. We don't want it to be unfair, and if players feel that way, that's not our intent. But I think that your comment is right on par, that we do feel the rough is much more fair, and it's going to allow them to do things with the golf ball that they haven't been able to do at prior U.S. Opens.

Q. This is the second U.S. Open to be played in the East, are that any future discussions to bring this tournament back to the East?

TREY HOLLAND: In terms of future sites, we're always in various states of analysis with clubs and courses around the country, and there are some sites down here in the southeast that we are looking at for the future.

Q. Can you elaborate on them?

TREY HOLLAND: I cannot elaborate on them.

Q. Talking to the players, it seems that they appreciate the fact that the rough is not as high. They almost get a little gleam in their eye, thinking that it's going to be easier than most U.S. Opens. Do you think they're going to be surprised when they get out there, regardless of the rain or whatever happens on Saturday and Sunday? Do you think they'll find it harder than they might expect?

TREY HOLLAND: I think a little bit of that is going, obviously, to depend on what the weather does, and how firm the golf course gets over the next few days. I think our overriding goal over the last few months has been to make sure that this golf course does not get away from us. We want the greens to be firm, but fair. We want the rough to be playable. A penalty, but fair; so that as we talked about earlier, the architectural nuances of this golf course can shine through. So we're going to do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.

Q. Get away from you in what sense?

TREY HOLLAND: Well, we don't want the greens, for example, to get so hard that they're not playable. Or that the rough -- typically in an Open Championship, we might cut the rough on a Thursday or top it off on a Friday and not touch it until the end. We're going to top it off three inches every day. What the players have on Wednesday during the practice rounds, other than the golf course firming up from the rain, they are going to appreciate and have on Sunday.

F. MORGAN TAYLOR: If I may add, we're talking about Bermuda grass, as opposed to the grasses that they're normally using at the United States Open, and there's a difference. If this weren't Bermuda, we wouldn't be talking about three inches.

Q. Obviously, you wanted to set the greens up so they would be fast. With the rain being forecast for today and tomorrow, any chances the players will be able to go after pins? Is there any concerns that the greens might be speeded up for later?

TREY HOLLAND: We started the week at 10.6, and our plan was to gradually speed them up over the course of the next five days to have them where we wanted on Thursday morning at 6:30. And this morning they were running about 11.3. So we're getting just about where we think they ought to be.

Q. Just a follow-up on the rain. If we get two inches today, you're confident that the greens will continue to soften up, it would kind of defeat the purpose of the playoff if we don't have the opportunity of the greens being so fast.

TREY HOLLAND: Unfortunately, we can't control what falls out of the sky, but we have something here that will be very helpful in that regard, and that is they have the ability to literally suck the moisture out of the putting greens with an underground system, and that's going to be very, very helpful for us maintaining the greens at a level we would like to have them this week as we enter the latter part of the week.

Q. It's been Pinehurst's stated mission once the whole process of getting the U.S. Open here and conducted and underway, to get into the USGA's rotation of U.S. Open sites. When might you make a decision on that, or how much do you want to see this week to make that determination?

TREY HOLLAND: Well, I guess, first of all we don't have a true rotation of sites, much like the British rotation is set up. But I think that if this week is successful, and I can't imagine that it would not be, I'm certain that there will be some ongoing discussions with the Pinehurst community about coming back at some point. And I can't begin to tell you when that might be, but I'm sure those discussions will take place.

Q. Do you guys want to address that, also?

F. MORGAN TAYLOR: Excuse me?

Q. Would you like to address that also?

DAVID FAY: I have nothing to add to what Trey said. He stated it properly.

Q. What's the current situation with the equipment in USGA? Where do things stand? After what happened last year, where exactly are we right now?

DAVID FAY: It's a little less hectic than it was a year ago. This seems to be less filled with people. I think relatively speaking, things are quiet and under control. In the area of the spring-like test that was the issue last year, it's been in effect and understood by the players. With regard to the golf ball, we maintain committed to a new test, optimization, an indoor test. But I think that anyone who has been through a renovation of the house can appreciate that sometimes construction delays can just drive you nutty. And that's where we are now. We really don't have anything to say of any substance at this time.

Q. I was just wondering, you guys moved up the tee times to 6:30. Are you still worried about slow play the next couple of days, and how are you combating that?

TREY HOLLAND: We're always worried about slow play. And part of the change in the time was to help insure that if the players do play in accordance with our pace of play guidelines, that if we run into some weather delays, which is certainly possible here, that we've used all the available daylight that we have during the course of the day so we don't leave players out on the golf course Thursday and Friday. It's not so much a slow-play issue, as much as it is -- we'd feel bad we had five groups that are out on Friday, and we need to make a cut, and we started at 7 o'clock in the morning and lose a half an hour over the course of the day.

Q. With all the storms in the area, and always a threat of lightning, and there does not seem to be a lot of places for shelter out that, what are you telling spectators to do if there is a lightening warning or a pending storm? Where are they supposed to go to get shelter?

DAVID FAY: Well, we have a plan in place. And you're right, when you have 40,000 people you can't flip a switch and say: Everyone go into an inside area. The key to our process, and it's followed by all the professional Tours, is an early warning system in the form of weather alert signs that are put on all of the scoreboards. And we hope to put those in with enough time so people can take shelter. Now, there's no building, per se. They just have to -- and there's no fast and quick answer. I think the key is to get those signs up at a time when people will recognize there's weather coming in, and start moving back towards their cars, or if they have a ticket that allows them to be inside, get back to a shelter. That's really the key.

F. MORGAN TAYLOR: We do have a weather station right on the site, of course.

Q. Follow-up on the gentleman's question over here about slow play. I gather that the pace of play has gotten slower and slower through the years. Would you ever consider cutting back on the size of the field, if slow play became a problem?

TREY HOLLAND: I haven't been involved long enough that it has slowed down consistently over the years. In the U.S. Open championship, at least in the last ten years, the pace of play, I think, has been fairly stable. To be sure we've got some race horses out there and we've got some guys that would stay out for two days if you let them, to complete their ruined. And our pace of play policy has certainly evolved over the last few years. And we made some minor modifications in it last year, which helped. But I think that we will continue to play late in the day on Thursday and Friday, probably somewhere around five hours.

Q. Would you ever consider cutting back on the size of the field?

TREY HOLLAND: The Committee has very briefly considered that as a possible solution, not so much for a pace of play issue, but simply to help eliminate some of the problems that arise, again, with weather delays. And you can't get the entire field around, and the logistical problems, there's not enough support to do that right now. We'd like to keep this field at 156.

Q. This morning Davis Love says he thinks most of the players would favor teeing off on 1 and 10, and it would help the speed of play. Any thoughts on that?

TREY HOLLAND: We're solidly opposed to that. We believe the Open Championship should be played the way the golf course architect laid out the golf course, and we'll continue to use the 1 tee format.

Q. (Inaudible.)

TREY HOLLAND: With respect to what happened last year, we really did our homework for that. And we knew that that could be a problem. There were a couple of possible solutions, and the one we picked didn't work out very well. But if we had picked the other solution, having the three hole locations down in front and one in back, the result may have been equally as bad with no grass down there. So we knew that we were headed for problems, and certainly, if we go back to The Olympic Club, something is going to have to be done to the 18th green, to accommodate some additional hole locations. There are no shortage of hole locations here. And we've continued to use the same process that we used at the Olympic Club and have used in past Open Championships to determine where those holes should go. Certainly, after the incident last year, we did what I think anybody should do after an untoward result. We analyzed it and asked ourselves what could we have done differently; should we do anything? Should we amend our procedure? And we concluded that our procedure is solid, and it's the same procedure this year.

Q. Has the USGA given any serious consideration to an alternative to a playoff, other than a fifth day on Monday, such as the British have done on the three- or four-hole playoff or a sudden death, and what part is given to the interest of the last spectators, plus the people who follow it on TV, that wouldn't be able to follow it on Monday morning?

TREY HOLLAND: With respect to the United States Open Championship, there's no consideration being given to altering the 18-hole playing format on Monday.

F. MORGAN TAYLOR: If there are no further questions, we thank you very, very much for your attention, and let's have a wonderful United States Open Championship.

End of FastScripts….

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