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July 8, 2009
RHONDA GLENN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the annual USGA and U.S. Open Women's Media Conference. My name is Rhonda Glenn, and I'm a member of the USGA staff. We're going to answer any and all of your questions this morning about the Association and about the Championship.
Just wait, if you will, until one of the rovers puts a microphones in your hand before you ask your question. First, we would like to introduce the chairman of the 2009 USGA women's committee, Barbara Douglas.
BARBARA DOUGLAS: Thank you, Rhonda. Good morning.
Again, we're in for a very exciting Women's Open here at Saucon Valley. I believe that the women's side of the game is really quite strong today, and you if you take a look at the field today, I think you will agree with that.
In addition to the professionals that we have here in the field, we also have 28 amateurs competing this year.
I think that tells us that the future of women's golf is very bright. Here are a couple of statistics that I just want to throw out at you. If you look at girls golf in high schools across the country, there are 69,000 girls participating in golf programs in high schools. I think that's really a great number.
Also, the LPGA USGA girls golf is now today celebrating its 20th anniversary with over 6,000 participants in over 190 clubs across the country. So I think the future is very bright.
Back to the 2009 Open, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Saucon Valley Country Club membership for allowing us to showcase their wonderful venue and help us seek out and find the 2009 U.S. Women's Open Champion.
I also want to thank the many volunteers who we could not conduct this championship without, and the USGA staff headed by Mike Davis, who does just a wonderful job with the golf course setup, that will cause us to get to the best player in the field.
Thank you. And at this time please welcome Mike Butz, Deputy Executive Director of the USGA.
MIKE BUTZ: Thanks, Barbara.
As a resident of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I'd like to welcome all of you to what we anticipate to be a great week of golf in the Lehigh Valley. Some of us are very fortunate to be able to live in a place like Bethlehem and be able to commute over to Farhills, New Jersey, where our headquarters is located, about an hour east of here on I-78.
If any of you have not been there, we hope that you'll take an opportunity sometime, whether it's this week or some other time, to come and visit what we think are some pretty world-class facilities over there, with the museum and Arnold Palmer Center For Golf History. It's a great place, so we hope that you'll come and visit.
I've been asked to touch on a couple of points related to USGA Championship History in Pennsylvania, and as a resident, I'm proud to say that Pennsylvania has hosted 77 National Championships in the state, this one marking the No. 78 and the 7th Women's Open in Pennsylvania.
To put that in perspective, the runner-up in this category, New York, just marked its 66th championship at Bethpage a couple weeks ago.
With the recent announcement of the U.S. Open Championship going to Oakmont in 2016, we have slated another seven championships -- six championships over the next seven years, including the Walker Cup Match, which is coming up at Marion Golf Club in September, 2010 Women's Open next year at Oakmont; the 2013 U.S. Open in Marion, and the 2015 Women's Open in Lancaster Country Club right up the road.
This is going to be the 6th National Championship at Saucon Valley dating back to the '51 Amateur, and we also had two very successful and fairly recent Senior Open Championships here in 1992 and 2000.
So obviously there is a very rich USGA history in the Commonwealth. Not only have we had four past USGA presidents from the state, but we also have a number of pretty famous home-grown Pennsylvanians as USGA championships, the 2003 U.S. Open Champion Jim Furyk is from Manheim, not too far away; our seven-time USGA champion, Carol Semple Thompson from Sewickley, who also is going to be the co-general chairman for the 2010 Women's Open at Oakmont next year; and two-time Women's Open champion Betsy King, who is from the area in nearby Redding.
So I think all that speaks not only to our history and the quality of the championship venues in Pennsylvania, but I think particularly to the incredible support that we see from the state, the counties, the local communities, and especially the volunteers who make all of this happen.
So we hope that the invitations continue to come, and we are just very appreciative for the opportunity to be able to conduct our national championships in Pennsylvania with some great success.
I've also been asked to speak on the topic of our ticket policy for the week as it relates to weather and suspension of play and delays and so forth.
With the weather outside right now and with the forecast for the rest of the week, it may seem a little bit silly to even be talking about that, but as many of you know, we went through a really rough week of weather at Bethpage a couple weeks ago, and it created conditions, delays, suspensions of play. There were unlike any we've seen at the U.S. Open, in fact, created a condition that caused us to take the fourth round of play into Monday for the first time in over 25 years.
Amidst all that, we were trying to clarify a lot of our long-standing ticket policies during the week for those ticket purchasers.
Even though we have a really good forecast for this week, it is July, I live in this area. For those of you who were here yesterday, we had close to a half inch of rain at my home about 20 minutes from here and hardly got any drops here.
So we thought this would just be a good time to sort of clarify what would happen during the week of the Women's Open at Saucon Valley should we run into similar circumstances.
First, our policy begins with the premise that there are no exchanges, no refunds, no rain checks for the Women's Open. You know, the Women's Open, like all of our championships, it's an outdoor event. It comes with some risks. It's not like baseball where you have makeup games, and so we don't quite have the same -- and our championships move from year to year, so we don't have the same opportunities or options to maybe be able to accommodate spectators like other sports do.
But because of the logistics and the capacities and the sheer numbers of the Women's Open being much different than at the men's open, we have some opportunities and some options available to us that maybe we didn't have at Bethpage, and as we continue to look at our policies going forward, we thought it would be a good time to just sort of tell you how this would all play out at Saucon Valley.
So it all starts with, there is a no refund, no exchange, no rain check policy in place for the Women's Open. But generally behind that policy is a principle, a general principle, that if play has been conducted for less than two hours during a championship round day, a daily ticket purchaser would be entitled to use that ticket for a subsequent day of play.
If play has been conducted for two hours or more, that ticket would be deemed to have been used for that championship day, and therefore, the obligation to the ticket holder has been fulfilled.
However, again, we're going to use a standard of reason, some commonsense here. All of that is subject to the USGA's flexibility to extend that time limit, depending on whatever those circumstances might be.
And that's part of the difficulty that we have in writing a very specific ticket policy that's going to apply to every situation and at every championship, because there are so many different scenarios to try to anticipate that if we're not flexible enough, then we're not going to come up with the right result and the right decision at the end of the day.
So the other two pieces of this, if there are -- if there is inclement weather during the week, there would be weather warning signs posted at the admissions area, and ticket purchasers would be able to purchase tickets during that time. However, they would do so at their own risk. But if we are in suspension of play at a particular period of time, we would post those signs and tickets actually would not be available for sale.
Obviously if we release suspension of play and we start play again, we have a good forecast for the rest of the day, we would be able to, you know, continue to sell tickets.
So that's basically the way that the policy would work, and, you know, any specifics we can address later on, but at this point I'd like to turn over the rest of the program to Mike Davis, our senior director of rules and competitions, to talk about course setup, course preparation and a few other championship issues.
MIKE DAVIS: Mike, thank you.
Welcome, everybody. To start out with, Mike mentioned that I do want to talk a little bit about the golf course setup, the current conditions out there, and then also address two other things as it relates to the Women's Open. One has been, and I think most of you know, it's been somewhat controversial, we made a few changes in exemptions. One of the by-products is unfortunately we don't have Michelle Wie nor Natalie Gulbis and a few other players here this week. So I will speak to that.
And then last, I do want to make an announcement that we will have a change in qualifying for 2010 and beyond for the Women's Open beginning next year.
But to start out with, you know, as Mike said, and certainly Barbara as well, we are beyond delighted to be here. This is our 6th National Championship at Saucon Valley. It started with the '51 U.S. Amateur and then the last couple in 1992 and 2000 have been Senior Opens that have gone quite good.
Candidly, that's the reason we keep coming back, that it's a very good test of golf. Logistically this site works quite well for us, and the community and the areas surrounding Bethlehem and Allentown, Easton are incredibly supportive, too. It just works for us.
What you're going to see out there and what the players are going to see this week, truly, is an unbelievable test of golf. It is, you know, for those of us that do set up at the golf courses, you dream of getting these kind of conditions along with this kind of weather.
Because, you know, Mother Nature can truly do so much to help or hurt you. And we saw that a couple weeks ago at Bethpage where, you know, we just got no cooperation whatsoever, and as good as Craig Courier and his team were in prepping that course, and ultimately dealing with what happened there, the golf course, was somewhat disappointing in that it just didn't play firm and fast, which really brings out championship conditions.
So, you know, if you hit a fairway, it was going to stay in the fairway. If you hit a green, it was like throwing a dart, it was going to stay on it.
So to see us get a little, you know, a little bit of luck, and we haven't had a lot of luck at the Women's Open the last several years with weather, is just delightful. And I will tell you, I've never seen a better conditioned golf course in my tenure at a Women's Open. This thing is truly perfect. I only wish we were playing today, because it's hard to give up a day that's just perfect golf and perfect conditions.
With that, I do want to introduce Jim Roney, who is sitting to the right of our president, Jim Vernon. Jim? Put up your hand. He's the golf course superintendent here, and I cannot give enough accolades to him and his staff. They have just done a miraculous job. I will talk about some of the changes they've made on the golf course, the old golf course specifically since the last Senior Open.
For those of you that don't know, this facility, it's actually got 60 holes of golf, and it's, honestly, the other two golf courses are easily good enough to play this championship on as well. It's just logistically this one is a bit closer to the clubhouse and the other things, and it works. But to have 54 holes, plus a 6-hole golf course is amazing.
Setup philosophy this week, no different than we have for a U.S. Open or any of our national championships.
We want it to be a very, very stern yet fair test of golf. We also, as best we can, we want to give players choices when they're out there and allow them, you know, to kind of think their way, play their way around the golf course, and hopefully introduce some risk-reward, as well. Some of that risk-reward we really are now focusing on the weekend. Not that we don't have some risk-reward out there rounds 1 and 2, but you will see more of it come rounds 3 and 4.
Just so you know, the routing of the course for the championship, and we did the same thing for both Senior Opens, we rerouted the back 9 for just logistical reasons. It wasn't like we didn't like the routing of the course the way it played, but the club 18 simply does not have enough room around it for us to really do the Grand Stands, the television announce, et cetera. So what you see out there, if you happen to see some club literature, is we've taken holes 10 through 12 and they've become 16 through 18 for the Championship.
The yardage is 6,740 yards, and that's a par 71. To put it in perspective, in 1992 at the Senior Open we played it 6,700 yards par 71, and in 2000 we played it 6,749. So this golf course is definitely a long golf course. We think it works as a long golf course for the players this week, because there are a lot of holes that you can run a ball into.
It's actually great, because the long holes tend to be holes that you can bounce a ball in. They've done tremendous work, which I'll talk about on the putting green approaches. They've gotten them much, much firmer than they were at our Senior Opens in the past.
So that's essentially the maximum length we'll play at. You will probably see us play that length at least one or two days, and then where we're going to use some alternate teeing grounds, primarily going to be more on the weekends rounds 3 and 4. It will play shorter than that.
With the mogul teeing grounds, we do to some extent show our cards a little bit on certain holes. For instance, the 9th hole. The players know, because there is the tee sign that we're going to play at both 210 yards and 178 yards, but there's other holes where we don't really want to let them know because to some extent it depends on how firm the golf course is, what kind of wind conditions we're going to get on a certain day, so in some cases we really don't know until the morning of. We've got a very good idea what we think we want to, but we'll wait until the last minute to do it.
But there are some very neat opportunities out there to really showcase some of the architecture that you wouldn't see if you played from the back teeing ground every day. And to really mix and match some hole locations that you wouldn't maybe necessarily use from the back teeing ground.
The putting greens this week, we believe coming into this week that they were going to be somewhere between 12 and 12-and-a-half on the stint meter. They are now basically 13 and in the low 13s, and we just found after really getting them prepped the way we wanted that they can handle that speed.
They are some of the neatest putting green complexes in terms of the design that you'll see. They're a little bit like a prairie dunes we played the Women's Open a few years ago. They're like Oakmont to some extent where we're going to play next year. With these speeds you've got some wonderful humps and ridges through the greens where you can play your ball to certain parts of the green, almost to the fall line and it will fall right to the hole location, so they become very, very strategic at these speeds. It's just a great, great set of greens.
On the greens, and I'll talk about in a little, they were redone in terms of regrassed. And they are truly 100% hybrid bent, and they are just a beautiful putting surface. The ball just hugs to the ground. So if somebody really starts to putt well, she can make a lot of putts this week because they're so true.
The one note I will make, the 11th hole, the uphill par-3, that will be purposely prepped somewhere between 12 and 12-and-a-half on the stint meter. Players were notified about that in advance when they went through registration. Simple reason there is the contours and really the back-to-front slope is so severe that if we got it to 13, we might never finish.
We will graduate the rough as we've done the last three years. That -- the first cut of primary rough which is 20-foot width, which is closest to the fairway, but not the 6-foot intermediate, that's prepped at two-and-three-quarters inches on the long holes, and we're considering seven holes long. And then the other seven holes which are shorter holes -- and by that really it's holes that we think they're going to be hitting wedges, 9, 8, 7-irons in. We're actually getting up to about 3 inches, 3-and-a-quarter inches.
The idea there is those lengths we feel that that puts enough grass between the ball and the club head so they lose some distance control, but they also have an opportunity to play to the green if they want to and really show their skills.
Then if you get beyond that, the second cut of rough is up to 4-and-a-half inches, and that's probably what people think of is true U.S. Open rough.
The bunkers, the bunkers are prepped, you know, much like we do at U.S. Open where in the bottoms they're a bit fluffier so it makes it more of a hazard. We try to keep the faces of the bunkers firmer so we don't get a lot of fried eggs into the faces, but at the bottom by softening them up you simply can't spin the ball as much as you can if they were real firm.
And probably the biggest thing, if we're lucky, and we have been with weather so far, to get firm conditions, it's so wonderful when we can dial and really the ground staff can dial in how firm the conditions are versus letting Mother Nature influence.
And we've got the firmness as of today really exactly where we want it. In other words, when you see a well-executed shot struck out of the fairway and it hits the green, it tends to hit, maybe bounce, bounce, and then starts to grab.
And we use a device that was invented by the people in our equipment standards who do the testing of balls and clubs called a True Firm device, and it really measures firmness of the putting greens and we can do other areas, you know, putting green approaches, fairways, et cetera, but when you get lucky like this with weather, what's great about this device is it allows you to basically compare and make sure all 18 greens are essentially the same firmness, which from a player's standpoint, that's an important thing that they're not hitting the one green and it really releases and another green it hits and stops, and that happens, particularly on older courses, greens like that where some are in the shade, some sit up high, and we're able to take that information, give it to Jim Roney and his staff, and there are certain greens that may receive more water, some less water and some may not get any water, and some areas of the greens that maybe sit high on a ridge may get more water, but if it's low in a valley, very little water.
So it's really -- that's where science has helped us tremendously, and I think from the players' standpoint it's been a welcome thing, as well, when you're lucky enough to get firm conditions.
A few comments on the changes of the golf course from the 2000 Senior Open, the course was originally designed by Herbert Strong in 1922, open in '22. A lot of what you see out on the old course is still Herbert Strong, wonderful designer. Did Canterbury where they played the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year.
And then in the early 1940s, Perry Maxwell came in and redesigned a few of the holes and did some of the greens, and he's the guy that did Prairie Dunes, he did Southern Hills down in Tulsa, and really truly one of the great designers in this country.
And then two years ago, Tom Marzolf came in and Tom works the Fazio Group, and he redid all the bunkers. He took five of the putting greens and adjusted those to some extent, three of which he did just because there was too much slope on some of them to handle speeds that the members were seeing on maybe a daily basis, and certainly for us for a championship. Those greens were 11, 15, and 16.
And then you take the third green as an example, that green was brought right down to the front of the stream, and really where it was not -- the stream wasn't in play for past championships. It very much is in play now.
And we ended up shaving the bank, I don't know how that happened, but if your ball hits short, it will come back in the water.
The other things that were done, and probably the biggest thing is huge job with drainage here at Saucon Valley. If the club suffered from one thing in the past, it's that because so much of the golf course sits in floodplain that when you had a rain event, you could never get it soft, and they've done just tremendous work not only with the greens, with the bunkers, the fairways, but they've also done some stream restoration work down actually south of here or I guess it would be east of here downstream on the Weyhill Golf Course and that's allowed when they get heavy rains for the stream not to flood, which was a problem that we had in the past.
And I guess with that, before I touch into the exemption thing, does anybody have any questions on the golf course side of things? I'm happy to speak to any specific holes, although I'm not going to necessarily show our hand on everything we plan to do this weekend.
Okay. Next section, this is the issue that certainly has raised some eyebrows in the last few weeks about, you know, why is Michelle Wie, why is Natalie Gulbis and a few other players, how can they not be in your Women's Open Championship.
The answer is, you know, periodically, and sometimes it's every year, sometimes it's every few years, we review all the exemptions for all of our 13 national championships.
That's what happened here. We made, you know, a fair number of changes across the board, and our amateur championships, and some in our Open championships, as well. We do that because we really want a fair balance between what players are good enough that they shouldn't have to play their way in through qualifying and then we want to keep that balance of with all of our championships having a certain number that are out there that you can qualify for.
As long as you've got the handicap or the game to file an entry, you've got that dream. That's really what, you know, that number that we traditionally stay at, somewhere between 68 and 75 players that are fully exempt for our Women's Open, U.S. Open, Senior Open. We don't want that number to change, because every year, we get more and more players trying to go through qualifying.
I mean, this year we set records in the U.S. Open and this championship, the Women's Open.
We had over 9,000 in the Open and over 1,200 in the Women's Open.
So we're cognizant of that. Now, with that, what I will say is specifically for the Women's Open, the four changes we made was that No. 1, it used to be that the low 20 scorers in a Women's Open, low 20 and ties would get exempt to the next year's Women's Open.
We reduced that to the low 15 and ties. Reason being, first of all, that made it consistent with our U.S. Open and Senior Opens, and we really felt that number was good, because, you know, if you just had one, you know, pretty good week where you finished tied for 20, we didn't feel that just one week should necessarily get you in next year.
So that was reduced for consistency. And really we only had one player affected, Jessica Korda, which she was grandfathered in, so she is playing because of her performance last year.
Second one is we used to exempt the top three money winners from the three major foreign tours, which are Japan, Europe, and Korea, and we upped that to five. Why did we do that? We looked at the relatively new world rankings of the women, and it was justified. In fact, truth be known, we probably could have gone a bit more.
So that was justified in that the rankings looked at those other tours, gave certain weight to it, and we felt that to be just, we should give more full exemptions to those foreign tours.
The next thing we did was we changed from the top 40 money winners, from the previous year LPGA money list, and we increased that to the top 50. So we went from 40 up to 50. Again, that was consistent what we do in the U.S. Open, and the reason we did that is that we just feel like over the course of an entire season, that really gives us a good measure of what somebody's performance is, versus -- I'm going to get to the next thing where we reduce the year of, so this year.
I believe the LPGA played 33 events last year that counted towards official money. So with that we ended up having 8 out of 10 players that became exempt for this Women's Open that otherwise would not have been exempt. So I know nobody's talking about that. There were some very good things that came out of that. And again, we felt that over the course of an entire year that was a better barometer than just what happened in the first part of this year.
Then the last one, which ended up being somewhat controversial because of the players that didn't make it, was that we used to give the top 35 on the current year's money list, as of our cut-off date right before sectional qualifying, and we reduced that down to 10. That's consistent with the U.S. Open; it's consistent with our Senior Open. And the reason we did that, folks, is that there's only 10 events prior to this one, and we just felt to give 35 spots, you could have a scenario where one player maybe has a decent event and has nine bad events, and all of a sudden she's in the Women's Open. We just didn't feel like giving out 35 was enough.
Now, in Michelle Wie's case, she's a rookie this year, so she didn't have money last year, so even though she had a pretty good year last year, she had no LPGA earnings versus Natalie Gulbis, she finished 56th last year on the Money List.
And by the way, both those players did go through qualifying, so they had that chance to play their way in, and obviously neither one made it.
So, you know, is this system perfect? No. And we would readily admit that. I mean, trying to come up with exemption categories that work every year is just something that you're never going to be perfect on. You know, one of the things that we do not do for the Women's Open is we do not use the world rankings, but we are looking at it very, very closely, and actually have been looking at it very closely, you know, because we do it for the U.S. Open where the top 50 in the world rankings get in the U.S. Open.
And something that I think these -- I can speak on behalf of the Association, we want to do when we feel these rankings are really at a point where they're solid. I will tell you, looking back, it took us the better part of 10 years on the men's side to actually adopt those rankings.
So we didn't -- and I think the LPGA and the other three international tours, I would speak of, would all readily admit that those rankings haven't been perfect, but they keep getting better, and we do have a member, in fact, Mike Butz sits on that panel with the world rankings. So it is something we're looking at.
Finally, the last thing I want to mention is an announcement that starting next year the Women's Open will be going from two-stage qualifying back to one-stage qualifying.
The two-stage was started back in 2002, and the reason we did it was to try to grow women's golf a little bit, and also the year prior in 2001, there had been, you know, to some extent an unfortunate incident where Nancy Lopez tried, she got paired with a couple people that apparently shot a bit -- shot pretty high numbers and it just wasn't a good experience, and I suspect that the USGA reacted to that, along with truly wanting to grow women's golf.
But, you know, we looked at it now and said after 8 years of doing this, our entries have only increased by 300, and we really think that has more to do with just the growth in women's golf, period. And secondly, it's just harder on the players, that they've got to go through two stages instead of one, so it's more expensive. They have to give up an extra day, and it's much harder on our qualifying officials, because they have to find more golf courses. So I think when it was all said and done, we said -- so now, the only championship we'll conduct with two-stage qualifying is the U.S. Open.
If you look at the Women's Open, there's only -- I shouldn't say only. We are very proud of it, but we have 1,200 people that file entries for it, and the U.S. Amateur has just shy of, I think, 8,000 this year, maybe over 8,000. And it's only one stage. Some of our mid am and junior events, senior am have close to 4,000.
We just thought it was appropriate, and I think that it allows also a wider time frame for qualifying that now, in second stage for this championship, it was conducted on a certain date, and if you weren't available that date, tough luck.
Now they're going to have different dates for this. So we think all in all, it's going to be received very, very positively by the players and it certainly is going to make the qualifying officials' life a little bit easier. Anyway... So with that I guess I'll turn it over to questions for any one of us.
RHONDA GLENN: Questions?
Q. All that being said about Michelle, we all know when she's in an event, she sort of moves the needle in terms of attendance and ratings. Had there been some thought about giving her a special exemption, and if not, is part of the reason that there might have been some resentment from other players?
MIKE DAVIS: Very good question, because, you know, recall several years ago when Michelle did get a special exemption, that didn't necessarily sit well with some, both in the media and some of the players.
So it was never -- it was never seriously considered. I think that back then, Michelle had won the WAPL Championship, and I think given the fact she had done that at such a young age and was such a up-and-comer, that's really the reason USGA did it at the time.
But I think now we just felt that, listen, whether you like our exemption criteria or not, it is a very democratic process, and it does -- you know, everybody knows what it is up front, and we really try to limit those special exemptions for, you know, those cases where, you know, all of a sudden Jack Nicklaus isn't exempt for the U.S. Open anymore and he's won four times or you look back when Ben Hogan was in the bus wreck and all of a sudden he comes back from that, well, he wasn't exempt anymore.
So I think that in this case we just felt that, you know, she hadn't played her way in and there was a lot of players that hadn't played their way in. So it was really never seriously considered, even though we got some arrows and darts shot our way from the marketing people anyway...
Q. For anyone up here, has the, you know, USGA ever considered doing what they do with the U.S. Open which is end it on Father's Day, have you ever considered ending the Women's Open on Mother's Day, moving it up and sort of giving it its own place?
MIKE BUTZ: Not that I've ever heard that suggestion. You know, there are times when we, you know, continue to look at the dates and particularly around July 4th and seeing what other sorts of, you know, conflicts may come along with that, whether it's July 4 itself or whether it's other, you know, sporting events that may conflict with that, but, no, we've never really looked at a May date or Mother's Day date.
Q. Would that be something you might consider at some point, or...
MIKE BUTZ: I don't know that -- I mean, we're always open to new ideas, and, you know, I guess if it fit with television schedules, if it fit with, you know -- some of that actually, if you think about it, we have the same problem with the U.S. Open, but if we have events too early in the spring, we've got a lot of qualifying that happens in the months before that, so trying to create qualifiers in, let's say, March and April in the Northeast probably wouldn't work very well.
MIKE DAVIS: And just to add to that, that's the reason you see the U.S. Open in the week that it's in.
It goes way, way back to, you know, a time when the U.S. Open was really just played in the Northeast and the Upper Midwest, and the powers to be said when can we get the golf course in the best condition, and the answer was it was that second week of June.
So that was done originally for agronomic reasons, and to Mike's point that we struggle right now with some of the local U.S. Open -- first-stage qualifiers for the U.S. Open when they're up in Minnesota or Massachusetts or some of those states like that when all of a sudden it's a late spring and it's hard to get the golf courses right in certain areas.
Q. Would you talk about fairway width and in the process tell us how you evaluate the performance and abilities of women compared to men? I'd like you to compare the Women's Open and the U.S. Open.
MIKE DAVIS: Sure. Well, the fairway -- if we do modify any of the fairway widths, that generally is done two to three years in advance, because sometimes you're on a golf course such as a Pinehurst or Southern Hills that have the same grasses in the fairways as it does the rough. But most of the time you're at a place like this with cool season grasses that have the bent and poa annua in the fairways and then have the bluegrasses ryes and so on in the roughs. So it has to be done for agronomic reasons early on.
And we really, when we do that, we go hole by hole, and really try to set up that hole for the way we think it would play best architecturally, and that obviously if it's a longer hole, it tends to be wider. If there is some slope to the fairway, it might get wider. If it's a dogleg, it might be a little bit wider, versus if it's a straightaway short hole, it's narrower.
Those are some general things, and we're always very mindful to try to keep fairway bunkering into play or any type of architectural feature that's put in that if we narrowed it too much, it just wouldn't work.
But you ask a great question about the men versus the women, because we saw some stats from Bethpage that were staggering about the percentage of fairways hit, and it just goes back to it was so soft there, if your ball hit the fairway, it was staying in that fairway.
We had some rounds where you had 70% of fairways hit. We never see those numbers at a U.S. Open.
But again, that's a function of just, you know, soft condition. But I do think it's fair to say that in general, if you have the same width for a male versus a female, in other words, pick 28 yards, let's say, it's going to be easier for the female to keep it in play, because they, you know, they just don't hit the ball as far, and if you hit it in the same exact angle and it's just, you know, you're going to the left side of the fairway and all of a sudden you add another 30 yards, it would, for the males, go into the rough.
But I think -- to answer your question, we think that we tend to see -- if anything, the fairways for the Women's Opens ought to be a bit narrower than the men's open. In practice, that's probably not the case, because we are ultimately -- just made that statement, but ultimately, we're looking at the golf course, trying to make sure that it works architecturally more.
If you go around Saucon Valley here, you'll kind of notice that if you started to narrow up any more than what was done, it just wouldn't work. You'd be sending a bunker way out into the rough, which we don't like that idea unless we can help it.
But next year, at Oakmont, I mean, that's a pretty good barometer because we're not changing a thing at Oakmont. In fact, our mindset going into next year's Women's Open we want to set it up just like the U.S. Open, understanding it's going to have to be a shorter golf course, that the greens are going to have to be slightly softer because they don't spin the ball quite as much and their trajectory is a bit lower, and last but not least, the rough won't be as long, but for them it will be as penal as what it was for the men.
In fact, I'm not talking about next year, but we actually added two new tees grounds to make a couple of the holes that were drivable for the men at Oakmont drivable for the women, because they didn't have that and we really are focused on, we liked how it played in 2007 and that's how we want it to play for 2010 for the women.
Q. What holes were those?
MIKE DAVIS: Holes 2 and 17 at Oakmont.
Q. We all know there are changes in the equipment for next year. There has been speculation what that would mean to the PGA TOUR, elite men players. How do you think that will affect the women players?
MIKE DAVIS: Good question. I will speak to this a little bit, but then we've got Carter Rich in the room, who can give you the absolute. Carter, in fact, Jim Hubble, I see him back there as well. They're both on our, in our equipment standards on staff with them, and they can give you the lowdown.
But the condition will be adopted at the U.S. Open, Women's Open, Senior Open. It will also be adopted at our qualifying portions of those, particularly -- we're a little unsure about the first stage of the U.S. Open. That's still being talked about internally, but they will be adopted.
We believe that this groove change will absolutely positively make a, you know, make a pretty big difference. In the case of the U.S. Open next year we're at Pebble Beach, we can dial in that firmness, because we just don't get rain there.
So when you get in the rough at Pebble Beach next year for the U.S. Open, because they're firm greens, you're just not going to be able to stop your ball as quickly as you can right now and you're going to tend to get more of a flier.
How it affects the women, I think, I defer to Carter Rich. I think that what I have heard and read would say that the grooves change will affect them slightly less, but it will certainly slightly affect them.
CARTER RICH: We expect the effect to be a little bit less on women. You touched on it earlier. The women statistically tend to be more accurate in hitting fairways than the men, and where the change is really going to occur is hitting out of the rough. So we expect a little bit less effect on the women because of that.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you so much for being with us. The media interview room is now scheduled for another interview with Lorena Ochoa, but I'm sure that Mike Davis, Mike Butz and Barbara Douglas would be happy to meet with any of you outside of the interview room. So thanks very much for being with us.
End of FastScripts