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September 14, 2013

Heather Daly-Donofrio

Mike Whan


MODERATOR:  It's a pleasure to welcome LPGA commissioner Mike Whan and the LPGA's senior VP of Tour operations, Heather Daly‑Donofrio, and also the media.  Thanks for coming this morning.  Hopefully we can answer a few questions based on last night's announcement.
I will let heather kick it off.  Heather, you can comment on the decision to target 54 holes of play here at the Evian Championship.
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  Well, as we all know, we got rain on Thursday morning which caused us to cancel play.  The golf course had really reached its saturation point having had now more than four inches since Saturday.
The golf course last week was very dry.  Actually, when we were here last week before the rain came on Saturday, we were concerned that the greens would be too firm and were talking about ways to make them a little bit more receptive for the players.
The rain caught us by surprise.  It caught the course by surprise.  We've been tracking the weather hour by hour and looking at all the forecasts and all of the models.
Yesterday we had a lot of discussions, and it became very clear from the weather models that we were going to have a challenge to finish 72 holes before early next week.  I even can't tell you what early next week is.  Given the amount of rain that's predicted, our weather consultant has told us we're expecting at least five times as much rain as we received Thursday morning which put the golf course under water and became unplayable.
So it's quite a bit of rain coming.  We're not sure what the weather looks like after that.  There is more rain coming on Monday.
In the interest of the players and the competition, we elected to shorten the tournament to 54 holes.  We felt like it was important heading into the second round that players knew what they were playing for.  Having been a playing, it's hard particularly in the week of a major championship to have a lot of uncertainty as far as how many holes they're going to play?  What's the cut going to be?  What's the plan?
Felt like it was very, very important for the players to make sure they knew exactly when they tee'd it up in the second round what they were playing for.  That's where we ended up 54 holes and a cut of 70 and ties.
MODERATOR:  Mike, from you, just some comments on the perspective of the commissioner in a situation like this.  Obviously not the first time we've had to play breviate schedules at majors this year.
MIKE WHAN:  Yeah, it's a tough week.  It's tough for everybody involved.  It's been a tough week for the players and Evian, and certainly for Heather and the rules officials.  It's funny, last year I said to Heather, I always feel bad for the weather guy.  This year, I do not feel bad for the weather guy.  Everybody talks to him and nobody leaves him alone.  He's right in the middle of the room and no longer in the corner.
It's been a unique year on the LPGA, but as Heather said, and we talked about it yesterday, what was the right thing to do with the players?  We had the same conversation with Evian and they completely agreed.  The right thing to do was give the players clear direction as early as we could give it.
A couple people asked me, What if the weatherman is wrong and it's a beautiful, sunny day tomorrow?  I said, I would love to apologize if we play a beautiful, sunny 18, and the winner walks down the 18th green and 160 countries are watching us on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Evian.  That would be a dream to me if we were wrong and the weather reports were wrong.
MODERATOR:  We'll take questions.

Q.  Can you address the decision to cut to 54 rather than try to get it with the low 50 and ties?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  I think we're to the point where if you look at what the cut is going to be, if you're committing to 54 holes, the difference between 50 and ties, 60 and ties, 70 and ties in the end might not make a difference as to when we finish.
This is one of the biggest purses of the year, and we have players who are playing for the championship, to hold up Evian for the first year as a major; we also have players that are trying to play their way into Asia and secure their status for 2014.
This is a huge week for players, not only because of the major but the level of the purse.  We felt like it was the right thing to do for the players to give everybody that opportunity to play the three rounds.

Q.  If the weather does turn out as bad as you may be expecting, how long would you stay here?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  That's something we'll take day by day at this point.  Today looks good, and we're hopeful we'll get a full round in today.  Tomorrow does not look good.  It's all going to depend on how quickly the rain stops and how quickly we can prepare the golf course on how much we can play tomorrow and/or Monday.
Our goal right now is to finish 54 holes.
MIKE WHAN:  The weatherman said he though there was good window to play on Sunday and there was a good window to play on Monday.  But when we talked about the time of that window, it didn't seem realistic to say, You're going to play 18 holes both days, but rather you have the potential to get 18 holes in in the course of those two windows seemed a lot more realistic.

Q.  Early morning or is it...
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  In the afternoon.  The groundscrew and the agronomists are working around the clock right now to do everything they can to keep the course dry.  We have a lot of volunteers coming in tomorrow to help prepare the golf course.  A lot of squeegees.  I'm going to take one if I have to.
We'll do everything we absolutely can to prepare the golf course as quickly as we can tomorrow.

Q.  Explain to me, not understanding a whole lot about course architecture, when the golf course is more mature will it drain better?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  We expect it to be definitely less of a problem.  Better question for an agronomist.  But as you know, the course s built over the course of the last nine months.  Now that we have another year before next year and the after to implement all the maintenance practices with aeration and top dressing and verti‑cutting.
But we're confident that we've got a really good plan in place, and we'll be working on that when the championship is done as well with Yannick and his team and having a good plan in place for the next year to make sure we do all the right things maintenance‑wise to prepare the golf course to hold water better.
MIKE WHAN:  Sounds maybe humorous or painful to say now, but one of the decisions when we decided to play in September was to play in what we called dry September.  We brought Steve Smyers and a lot of the design crew of here in the September the last two years, middle week in September, and they would send back pictures every day.
We he kept saying, Look at those pictures.  It was a beautiful time of year.  When we talked to Evian and the tournament staff, they said the same thing.  September is a beautiful time here.  Usually the rains come in July and August.  And we've all experienced the rains of July.
We were here in June and July, and in July it was raining a lot.  I remember sitting at the Hotel Royale saying, Aren't we glad we decided to move to dry September?  Maybe that was the final jinx.
I also think we're not ‑‑ you know, in a typical year we're not looking at the kind of rains this has been, but this has been anything but a typical year.

Q.  Usually in September the weather is absolutely gorgeous.  We're having bad luck.  It's like building the course this year, which was a bad year to choose.  The whether forecast for tomorrow must be really awful, really awful, to take such a decision; is that right?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  I think everybody in this room has probably been looking at their weather app for the last few days.  That's what really precipitated us making the call early, is that the weather forecast is pretty extreme for tomorrow.
MIKE WHAN:  It's really the overnight.  It's tonight into early morning that is really the awful part.  My weather app depresses me; my weatherman depresses me even more.  Goes deeper than my app.
It's to be a tough night and early morning of rain, and the we're going to see if we can be ready for that window in the afternoon when it comes if that's how it plays out.  I don't think it's a moderate forecast at this point.  Looks like it could go either way.

Q.  When was the last time major men or women was reduced to 54 holes?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  1996 when Laura Davies won the LPGA Championship.  Similar conditions.  Weather, lots of rain.
Ron, you may remember that.

Q.  Just following up on the September, what is this penciled in in for in the future?  Does it remain in September?
MIKE WHAN:  Second week of September.  Yeah, given what we've lived through this year, too, sounds strange to say sitting here today, but we're more convinced of September than ever.  We see July as consistently rainy.  It's been rainy here and we've played through more than our share of rainy Evian days or weekends.
It's definitely better almanac‑wise, it's good for our season in terms spacing it out, and I think it also gives us more time year to year as we continue to work on course improvements.

Q.  Also, I know you have different scenarios, but do any of them include Tuesday?
HEATHER DALY‑DONOFRIO:  Again, we're taking it day by day, but we haven't ruled Tuesday out yet.
MODERATOR:  We would like to thank you guys for coming in.  We'll certainly keep you guys updated as best we can throughout the course of today and tomorrow.  Thank you.
MIKE WHAN:  Thank you.

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