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June 19, 2004

Walter Driver


RAND JERRIS: We're now joined by Mr. Walter Driver, chairman of the USGA Championship Committee, and he will take questions from the floor.

Q. I think the question a lot of people want to know is the 7th hole, do you feel that it got a little bit away from you guys today?

WALTER DRIVER: Well, let me give you a little history on this. It's a rodean hole. Rodean holes are always difficult par 3s because they slope away from the players. There's one at National Golf Links that's far more difficult than this.

The hole is designed to play into the wind or slightly left to right. The wind changed and it was therefore blowing straight across and down the hill of the rodean. I think the change in the wind had a great deal to do with it.

The green is very firm. We had given instructions to stop rolling the green as of Tuesday, and it had not been rolled since Tuesday, except I will tell you that I found out after play was completed today that for some reason a different person on the grounds staff rolled that green today, despite the orders that we had given not to roll the green. I do not know how much difference that one rolling made, but obviously we would not have rolled it -- the instructions were not to roll it.

We have had the four hole locations on that green we think are about the fairest and most benign because of the design of the green, so we have not tried to put that in difficult hole locations, but it was very difficult and frankly it got more difficult as the day wore on because the wind got stronger from right to left and down the slope. So it played progressively more difficult.

Q. Are you concerned that by the last group Maruyama and Mickelson, it really got scary? Maruyama's caddie was running to get the bag out of the way so Phil's second putt wouldn't go in the trap.

WALTER DRIVER: Yeah, obviously it was getting -- the wind was drying it out, they were putting downwind, downhill, downgrain, downworld, and it was very difficult to stop those putts. In fact, as I was standing there with the last group, I said to the person I was standing with that if Maruyama got that ball to the left of the hole, I didn't think it would stop, that he had to hit it up into the hill and hit a lag putt, and instead I think he hit a slightly aggressive putt with very unfortunate consequences.

We were trying to moderate the green and have been trying to moderate the design of the green since Tuesday, but we can't do anything about the wind and we can't do anything about the design of the hole.

Q. How did it happen that the guy rolled it this morning? How did that come about?

WALTER DRIVER: I don't know, I heard about it on the radio, because after I saw that, I called in and said I want to make sure that we did not roll that since Tuesday. I want that confirmed because I knew I would be here with you this evening. They called me back on the radio and said a member of the grounds staff had inadvertently rolled it notwithstanding the instructions not to. It will not happen tomorrow morning.

Q. If you should decide that something needs to be done, will even watering it help? Is there anything that can be done if the wind is in the same direction and you've got some concerns?

WALTER DRIVER: We'll look at it tomorrow morning. I've made arrangements to meet the staff at 8:00 o'clock on that hole.

Q. From a big picture standpoint, the entire golf course, is today, with the conditions you have, the way you want this golf course to play?

WALTER DRIVER: Generally, yes. We expect about the amount of wind that we had late this afternoon. That's a typical day at Shinnecock. Although, as I said, typically the wind comes into the players' face on 7, so it's a little different than what you normally would expect here at Shinnecock. This was not the prevailing wind today, but the golf course otherwise I think is really doing well. It's playing very well, and other than the 7th green we've gotten nothing but compliments from the players about the course setup, the design. They like the closely mown chipping areas around the greens, it gives them a lot of variety, so we've gotten a lot of positive comments about everything here.

Q. In the next to last group, I believe it's Maggert played into the front trap and blasted up. Are we reaching the point where that may be the preferred line on that hole?

WALTER DRIVER: I didn't see Maggert so I don't know. You do want to keep the ball under the hole one way or the other.

Maruyama in the last group hit the ball to the right of the hole and it stopped nicely in the middle of the green. Mickelson's ball was going right at the hole, maybe even a shade left of it, and then the wind knocked it down and kept it going left. As with all rodean holes, you cannot hit the ball at the hole, you have to hit it out to the side and let the slope take the ball down.

Q. I don't know if you saw Phil Mickelson play the hole, but did you get sort of the impression of what Payne Stewart had at the 18th at Olympic standing over the ball watching it go down? Did that bother you seeing that?

WALTER DRIVER: I wasn't at Olympic so I didn't see that. I was the rules official with Mickelson's group today, so I watched that, and I could tell when I saw Maruyama's putt keep going downwind that it was going to be a very difficult putt.

I don't think the hole location was the issue there. When you get greens like the 18th at Olympic and like this green that have a lot of slope in them, it frankly is hard to find four hole locations for four days of a championship that don't bring some risk of the slope into play.

We actually tried to find four relatively easy hole locations on 7. I don't think it's a hole location issue. I think it's the issue of the slope of the green downwind as well as having a firm green.

Q. I apologize for not knowing this. I know you've already chosen the pin position for tomorrow, but could you change it to another one depending on wind angle, et cetera?

WALTER DRIVER: Sure, I'll be out there at 8:00 o'clock in the morning to look at it.

Q. Are you concerned personally that this might be embarrassing for the USGA or for golf, or are you concerned that the public may perceive the U.S. Open as having something of a goofy shot element to it?

WALTER DRIVER: Absolutely not, and I think if they get that impression, that's a gross misdeed on what is one of the best golf courses in the United States. The players have been very positive the whole way. It's just a great experience. They like the golf course, they like everything about it, and one hole -- the wind changed on the field, and at the end of the day it was a very difficult hole. But I think you've got to take into consideration they've played 54 holes, and we've rotten rave comments on 53 of the 54 holes, so I think you need to put that into perspective.

Q. Were any other greens rolled by design or inadvertently?

WALTER DRIVER: Yes, we roll every green twice every day, and we have continued that on all greens other than 7 since Tuesday, so we stopped rolling 7 on Tuesday in order to monitor it. I want to make clear, this is not inadvertence on 7. This is a design and a wind issue and a firmness of the green issue, not that we were asleep at the switch. Some poor guy rolled it when he shouldn't have, but other than that, we were doing exactly what we thought we needed to do.

Q. When exactly was it rolled? You said you heard about it on the --

WALTER DRIVER: The rolling generally takes place between 5:30 and 7:00 in the morning, and I heard about it after I saw the last group play it and got on the radio to make sure that our instructions had been followed and found out that the instructions had not been followed.

Q. Pardon the ignorance on this one, but how heavy is the roller and how much difference would that make to roll it once?

WALTER DRIVER: That's a good question. I don't know how much difference it makes. We were trying to not -- trying to take the pressure, if you will, off that. The roller is a machine that goes sideways, and we roll all the greens in the mornings at the U.S. Open every year, all the greens, so it's standard procedure. It's not anything new. It gives them a better roll and firmer and more typical for U.S. Opens.

Q. Do you happen to know how much slope there is in that green from the front right to the back left?

WALTER DRIVER: I do not know. I don't know mathematically what it is. I would say that the slope on this rodean hole is not as severe as the slope on the rodean hole at National Golf Links next door.

RAND JERRIS: Walter, thanks very much for your time.

End of FastScripts.

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