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May 29, 2018
Shoal Creek, Alabama
THE MODERATOR: Welcome everyone to the 73rd U.S. Women's Open. Thank you for being out here despite the rainy weather.
We are here this afternoon to provide an update on both the weather and the course conditions. Up here with me is John Bodenhamer, Senior Managing Director of the USGA, Shannon Rouillard, Championship Director and Matt Sawicki, Championship Director.
With that, we're going to turn it over to John.
JOHN BODENHAMER: Good afternoon, everyone.
When I came over I was lamenting the fact I left my sunglasses at the hotel room. Couple minutes ago we had a little bit of Seattle weather. I see the sun is peaking through again. I'll fetch my sunglasses a little later. We'll take that sunshine, and every bit of it we can get.
Before we get started, I just want to say and share with you a couple of thoughts on the USGA. The first thing I'd like to share a little bit about is safety. It is not lost on us and we are mindful of Alberto upon us in recent hours. You should know that safety for the players, the caddies, our fans, the great staff at this club that's been out working with these conditions, our own staff who has been out working on these conditions, has been paramount in our minds.
High winds and debris flying around and other conditions that comes with the a tropical storm and all those things, that's been something we've been focused on in recent hours.
I should also mention and would remiss if I didn't, it's not lost on us of what is happening here in the great State of Alabama, in this region as a result of Alberto, and we understand there is some flooding, there are some other challenging situations around the State. The State government has had to deploy some resources. We've been talking about that. We're mindful of that and just want to be respectful of that. It's also important to us. We're thinking a lot about that as well.
Also, I want you to know that this is a great place, Shoal Creek is a great, great place. We love this golf course. We love this club. And they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to do everything that they can to make this a great championship and we are super excited about what's coming and crowning a great champion at the end of this competition.
I would also say, challenging weather, this isn't the first time we've had challenging weather in a USGA Championship and it won't be the last. We had it last week, we get it several times a year and we deal with it.
We also know and recognize that it's not fun for the players, the caddies and those who have to work in it, and it's not fun for us. As I said, we're golfers, too, but we have a lot of tools at our disposal. We're going to use every single one of them to have a great championship week.
Finally, I would say it is our intention to play 72 holes to identify our champion, and play the ball as it lies.
So, I'll stop there.
THE MODERATOR: Any questions?
Q. John, we had this conversation last year, and at that time you said it's been 122 years and we never played it down and we're not planning on starting now.
Is it the position that with 2.41 inches in 48 hours and more expected, that that is still the position, you're going to play it down?
JOHN BODENHAMER: Well, I would say this way: I think we're evaluating everything. We're looking at the weather, we're looking at all the conditions. You know, we have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.
As I said, this isn't the first U.S. Open or even one of our amateur championships where we had challenging weather, as you rightfully referenced our conversations at Scioto. A lot of predictions there. We entered the weekend about going to either Wednesday or Thursday and we ended up Monday.
We had a darn good finish with Gene Sauers emerging under bright sunshine as champion. Lot of things can happen on the way to the bank. We don't talk in hypotheticals, we talk about what we can react in the moment and that's what we're doing today.
Our intention is to rely on our considerable experience. We played 72 of these U.S. Women's Opens, in fact, 117 U.S. Open Championships playing the ball as the lies, finishing the competition and so it's our intention to do that this week as well.
THE MODERATOR: A phone question. What's a bigger concern, more rain or lightning, could this look like Oakmont in 2016?
JOHN BODENHAMER: I think they're both a concern. I think all of that is something that we watch. It's unpredictable on the remnants of a tropical storm, it's certainly challenging. I wouldn't classify it as any one of those or other challenges is anymore important than the other. We've got to address it all and we have ways to do that.
Q. John, can you tell what the forecast is, as you know it for tomorrow, and the next couple of days?
JOHN BODENHAMER: I'm going to turn to one of my colleagues. I think it's still a bit unpredictable. We're still evaluating that but I think as was previously said, we've had 2.41 inches of rain. Expecting a little bit more. It's still uncertain at this time.
Matt, do you have anymore to share?
MATT SAWICKI: Yeah. Just for the remainder of the day and we've notified this to the players, the expectation is we just experienced there could be more showers. There is the possibility of electricity building and storms throughout the day and I think later this week we're looking to resume a typical Alabama summer weather pattern which are nice, warm temperatures with the chance each day of precipitation and storms late in the day.
As John alluded to earlier, our intent is to play 18 holes each day. If we can't do that we'll get in as much golf as we can. Ultimately, we're going to play 72 holes to crown a champion.
Q. Obviously as y'all have explained, the winter and the cool spring created difficult conditions. Some of the players have expressed concerns like the patches at 17 and the layup area and some of the spots that were on the green.
How do you plan to handle them, will there be ground under repair?
JOHN BODENHAMER: Randall, that's a great question. I think we're evaluating that as we speak. I think we really need to see what moved through on top of us today and see how it impacted the golf course. So, we have some thoughts. We've obviously been looking at the golf course. We want to see and we're evaluating what the impact is now with all of that.
As far as -- as I mentioned, tools in our tool kit. That's one of them, how we mark the golf course and we're certainly taking a close look at that and we'll know more later tonight and tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions from the room?
Q. As far as tomorrow, John, what's the plan for opening the course to players?
MATT SAWICKI: John, why don't I take that? We ultimately notified players yesterday that we had two possible scenarios today, the first scenario was that we would open the golf course in the afternoon and push back all starting times.
The second was that we would have to cancel play entirely today but we would try to open up the practice range. Ultimately we fulfilled that second scenario.
As far as tomorrow is concerned, for players, we fully intend to operate practice rounds as scheduled. We plan to open the gates for fans, volunteers and everyone as scheduled.
There will be an update with respect to parking and transportation. At least later today and, of course, certainly to anybody in the area, USGA.org is where fans and volunteers can find all those updates.
JOHN BODENHAMER: Can I follow that, too, I think there's a really important point in that and that is we really want people to come out and watch. These are the greatest players in the world, truly the greatest players in the world.
They would do things and hit shots that nobody can imagine in many instances. We want people out here to see those greatest players in the world in their backyard, wherever they come from in the region.
We want people to know that they can come out and watch and we would encourage them to come out and watch. It's an experience that just isn't seen all that often.
By every measure, the U.S. Women's Open is the most important championship in women's golf. We're proud of that and people in this region should be proud to come out and watch those greatest players play to golf's ultimate test.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions?
Q. Just one follow-up on ball in hand versus playing it down. Philosophically, how do you evaluate what's the truer -- mud balls creates an element of muck and misfortune. Ball in hand, also, you're not getting true conditions.
How do you weigh that in what's best?
JOHN BODENHAMER: Well, every situation, Randall, is different, as you know, an we evaluate every situation and what it is.
I would say this, too, and call back on what we've done over 72 years of this championship and all of our other championships, and to use all the tools in our tool kit to address those issues and others. We have some tools.
But you know, not every U.S. Open has been played on pristine, perfect fairways or perfectly dry conditions or in bright sunshine. We play an outdoor game. Unless we're ready to put a dome over our golf courses, we always will.
That's part of the charm and the greatness of our game is that there is randomness to our game and I think that's what makes it the greatest game, in my opinion, and there is some of that, at times a little bit more challenging than otherwise because of what Mother Nature brings.
We'll use every tool in our tool kit to address it.
THE MODERATOR: Another question from the phone. Does the desire to play the ball down affect decisions on when to call or resume play?
JOHN BODENHAMER: No. We will -- whether to suspend or resume play will be based on golf course conditions, safety issues and just playability of the golf course as we've described. It really doesn't come down to anything else.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions? As John these are -- go ahead.
Q. It was your intention to play 72 holes. Does that mean you're not ruling out a short tournament?
THE MODERATOR: The question was we mentioned there is an intention to play 72 holes. Are we not ruling out less?
JOHN BODENHAMER: I would, just again, address that it is our intent and we fully expect to play 72 holes. We've done it for 72 years. We don't see not being able to achieve that again, absolutely.
THE MODERATOR: Matt, as John alluded to, these are the best players in the world and they deserve this sport, the support of the golf community.
When fans do make it here, hopefully under some sunshine, what should they expect?
MATT SAWICKI: First of all, a wonderful time here at the championship. We've done a lot. We've gone to great lengths. The superintendent and his staff, our staff is going to work tirelessly overnight to prepare a pristine set of grounds, the way it was before the storm game.
But in terms of the fan experience, there's one thing about golf that's unlike any other sport and that is I tell people this all the time, for the price of a general admission ticket anybody can stand on the rope line within three feet of the greatest players in the world and here at the United States Women's Open, kids 18 and under can do that for free.
I go back to when I was six years old and went to my first championship. It sparked a life-long interest in golf. It ultimately resulted in a career in golf. It's why I love the game. It's a great opportunity to bring kids out this week.
This community has been wonderful in supporting this Championship so far and we can't wait to see people here during the Championship.
THE MODERATOR: Any other questions before we wrap up? Anything else to add? All right. Thank you everyone for being here.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports