May 18, 2021
Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA
The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
JULIUS MASON: Good morning, everyone, and thank you very much for being with us this week for the playing of the 2021 PGA Championship, as we get back to our regular May date. Before we tee off on Thursday morning at 7:00 we want to make sure you have some quality time with the PGA of America president, Jim Richerson, CEO Seth Waugh, and chief championships officer, Kerry Haigh.
Jim, this is always a very special week in golf and the sports world, but there's a little something different about this year's championship, isn't there?
JIM RICHERSON: Yeah, thanks, Julius. Obviously the last year has been really challenging for everyone in the country. This event is our championship, and we like to treat it as our 28,000 are like family and our players and our champions are like family.
First and foremost we're missing two of our champions this year, two-time PGA champion Vijay Singh had to pull out, and four-time PGA champion Tiger Woods won't be here. We wish them both a speedy recovery. Hopefully Vijay feels well enough to play next week in the KitchenAid Senior PGA in Tulsa.
We all hope that Tiger has a speedy recovery and gets back to being 100 percent as a father and hopefully we see him back out on the TOUR and our events later this year.
Last year was a big challenge for the entire industry. 2020 at Harding Park was a really interesting PGA Championship. Kerry Haigh and his team did an unbelievable job in a lot of respects. It may have been our most successful PGA Championship, being able to pull it off in the way that Kerry and the team and the PGA did in that type of environment.
Fast forwarding to today, we're here at the Ocean Course at Kiawah. Unbelievable amount of work and the team that put it together. Really have to thank the owner, Bill Goodwin here, of Kiawah Island Golf Resort; Roger Warren, who's the president of the resort and a PGA member, past president of our association; Brian Gerard, the director of golf operations; Jeff Stone, the superintendent who's just got the golf course in phenomenal condition.
I think you've heard that from players already this week, how firm and fast and what a test the Ocean Course is going to be this week.
And our Carolinas PGA, the section here that covers the state, both North and South Carolina, almost 1,800 PGA members and the job that they're doing as part of this championship and all the work that they're doing to grow the game has been unbelievable.
Even though we had to adjust like everybody did this past year, we saw golf really kind of bounce back in record numbers. Rounds of golf were up 14 percent year over year. We had over a half a million new juniors that got introduced to the game, and our 28,000 men and women around the country were at the forefront of that introducing and inviting new players into the game and keeping them engaged as we move forward into 2021.
There was a lot that we had to deal with as an association, as an industry this past year. A lot to be proud of. And then we are now here today for the 2021 PGA back in May, and we've got some exciting things.
Our week kicked off yesterday with our PGA HOPE Secretary's Cup, which if you're not aware, HOPE stands for Helping Our Patriots Everywhere. We've got hundreds of PGA members around the country that are involved in that program. It's the only golf program for veterans that actually is approved by the VA as rehabilitation.
So it's not just teaching them golf but it's helping with life skills and kind of acclimating back into society. When you hear those veterans talk about how much that program means to them, how it saved their life, how it saved their relationships and their marriages, it's pretty powerful to think that the game of golf is utilizing a way to do that is pretty special.
And then of course this week it's about our championship, our major, and part of that is our team of 20, our 20 PGA club professionals that qualified for this championship. We're very proud of the work that they do in representing all 28,000, not only operating and teaching and coaching the game at the highest level, but playing the game at the highest level.
Kind of led by our champion, Omar Uresti, and we've got some other really skilled players, Danny Balin for instance, or Rob Labritz are both playing in their eighth PGA Championship. They're great players. Rob made the cut at Bethpage Black a couple years ago, so we're looking forward to cheering that team of 20 on and hopefully seeing them play on the weekend, as well.
We've had a lot that's gone on the last year. The entire staff of the PGA of America led by Seth and the championship team led by Kerry and really our 28,000 men and women have bounced back and I think really helped drive the industry forward, and we're seeing those rounds continue to be at record numbers into 2021.
Hopefully we'll be able to shine a spotlight this week not only on the greatest players in the game, but also on some of the great work that's being done by PGA members around the country.
JULIUS MASON: Jim, I also know you're really excited about a new programming element that we're launching this week. Can you talk about that?
JIM RICHERSON: Yeah, the PGA Coaching Live and the Coaching Channel, for the first time we have it on the driving range. From today through Friday that'll be on PGA.com as well as ESPN+, but some of the best coaches in the country really analyzing the best players in the world, but also how to help the recreational golfer, the everyday golfer.
We have our teacher of the year, Mark Blackburn. We've got professionals like Joanna Coe, Joe Hallett, Rich Jones, and then Collin Morikawa's coach who helped him to a major victory; Rick Sessinghaus is here, too.
He's been splitting time between the golf course with Collin, obviously getting him ready to defend this year, but also giving tips to the recreational golfer but also analyzing the best players in the world.
This is something we've already gotten a lot of positive response back from our PGA members, from members of clubs and golfers around the country talking about how this is going to help them in their everyday games.
Hopefully they'll be able to watch the best players in the world this week but also get some tips that'll help their game, as well.
JULIUS MASON: Jim, golf has seen a huge rise in popularity and rounds played over the last year as a result of the pandemic. That increase has raised a huge demand for more employees within the industry. How can the PGA of America help?
JIM RICHERSON: Well, it is a large industry. $84 billion industry. Over two million jobs are created by the golf industry. We've seen -- we talked about record numbers this past year, not only in rounds of golf, but club sales and the industry as a whole is in a really positive place.
Now it's really our job to keep those new golfers engaged, keep them playing the game, but it's also a great thing to get involved with.
We have 18 PGM universities and colleges around the country that offer a professional golf management program, and it's a great time to get into golf as an industry. People that are involved in the industry are very passionate about golf, very passionate about growing the game, and right now it's a great time to get involved.
The industry is thriving. We're looking to hire very qualified young men and women or those that are looking for second careers. We'd love nothing better if somebody is excited about the game and wants to get involved and make it a career, we have opportunities either through our partnerships with the university programs or just through PGA of America itself.
It's a great industry with a lot of great people and a lot of really passionate people, and the PGA professional is a big part of that.
So we'd love to invite those that are interested in getting involved in the game to play it, interested in going into it as a career or interested in being involved in any way possible, we've got opportunities and options for them.
We've got our own career services department at the PGA of America, led by Scott Kmiec and the team, and they're doing great work in elevating the status of PGA members into? General managers positions, executive positions in the industry.
We have PGA members going into the media, so all aspects. Our career services department has worked really hard over the last couple years to offer that to different companies and golf courses around the country.
But we'd like to invite anybody from any type of background, if you're interested in getting into the game to play it or as a business or as a job, welcome aboard.
JULIUS MASON: Thanks very much, Jim. Seth, as Jim pointed out, it's been a very busy year already up to this point, not to mention a Ryder Cup coming at us in September. I know there's another initiative that you're very proud of.
SETH WAUGH: Yeah, first of all, I just want to say hello. It's kind of nice to be back with human beings in this beautiful place. I think we're all sort of smiling a little extra.
As I said earlier, it's sort of a coming out party if you will for the game. We're excited about that.
As Jim said, we're really proud of what we pulled off last year, and I think we were smart about how we did a lot of things.
As an industry as well as us.
And we want to be smart on the way back out. You saw that we've tried to be as responsive to literally situations that are changing every day in terms of CDC recommendations, et cetera, et cetera, to have here.
It's going to be -- this is an amazing site. As Jim said, we have great friends here. All you've got to do is walk on and it's like a happy pill.
Last year when we put tickets on sale here we sold out in a week. Monday after Harding Park, and we were out of tickets by the end of the week. We were disappointed we couldn't fulfill all those requests, but we're proud of what Kerry and the team are pulling off.
It looks like we're going to have amazing weather. The golf course, as Jim said, I've talked to 25, 30 players, all of whom are gushing about what Jeff and Kerry and his team have put together here, and now my job is just to stay out of the way and let Kerry do his thing.
We know, again, as Jim said last year was maybe his finest moment and our most significant championship in the sense that we were the first major back, really the first sporting event that mattered, and what he pulled off on Sunday was amazing.
Obviously the players helped, but we hope to have that same sort of theater again this year and hopefully a playoff, right, Kerry, if we can pull that off.
As I said, it was a long, hard year, but we entered the crisis, if you will, with a concept that if we could be both smart and human and sort of try to get everybody to the other side of this thing, that we could actually come out of it stronger in a variety of ways. Not necessarily financially, though we've done well there to shore up things, but more importantly with our brand and our relationships and our culture.
I'd say that that is not only true across the PGA of America, but I think across the industry because of how we worked together, which I'll really get to Julius' question in a second.
By the way, if everybody thought I was going to talk less because you had me stand up, it's not working.
We started out with sort of Jim talked about the members. We're so proud of what they did. If you think about it, and I don't want to be overly dramatic, but they were the front line workers. We had this concept that golf could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, and we had -- working with Jeff Price in the back and John Easterbrook, head of membership, we had Back-to-Golf program which followed CDC guidelines. We approached the CDC and said, We think we can be part of the solution here, which they totally agreed with, and reintroduced golf through the industry back to playing.
And then I'm really proud of the industry in terms of what Jay did in terms of being the first sport really back and on television. When he was talking about playing in June and May, I think everybody thought he was crazy, and yet he pulled it off. We pulled it off as an industry and worked together to create a schedule.
We tried to help the most in need and we created an emergency relief fund, which gave about $8 million to those in the industry that were most in need.
We also wanted to approach every one of our partners and say, Okay, what problems do you have? How can we help? And they were great partners to us and we think we were great partners to them in creating generational relationships.
Every one of those partners has stuck with us. Every one of them is here in some form this week. And we've added some. Notably Rolex has come back into the family.
Not only did we take advantage of a crisis, if you will, but we've come out of it sort of stronger than we went into it.
The other thing that's really happened is the industry has come together. We've sort of coined the phrase "Golf, Inc.," and we can accomplish a whole lot more together. We're sort of the board of directors of the game, if you will. There's lots of things that we can do together.
So last June as golf was sort of coming back and as Jim said, we were starting to see this kind of wild participation growth fueled by our members, I made a call to Jay and to Mike Whan and said, Look, we have both an opportunity and an obligation to do two things. One is let's assume Tiger bursts on the scene now. What would we do differently that we didn't do 20 years ago to make sure that was generational growth as opposed to six months of fame, right.
So how do we grow it -- how do we sustain this growth. How do we make it not a year of golf but a decade of golf, if you will.
And then number two is how do we make the golf look different than it has. How do we make it look more like the world so maybe the world will behave a little bit more like the game. It was right in the height of the social justice sort of movement that has sprung.
Since then we've convened a call with all sorts of industry players, club manufacturers, management companies, all the other golf bodies, and from that we've created six workstreams that are looking at everything in the game to make it both grow and get more inclusive, as well.
There's procurement, there's employment, there's a marketing campaign, there's all sorts of things. From that, a number of things have happened. Last week or two weeks ago, we held what is called our PGA Collegiate Works Championship. It is the old essentially HBCU National Championship. We have owned it for 20 years or so. When it struggled we took it on and we've done really good things with it. Created a job fair. Kept it alive. Hosted it at our home in Port St. Lucie. But we thought we could elevate it.
We talked to our friends at Comcast who's come in as a partner both on the broadcast side as well as financially, and the TOUR, as well, who hosted it at TPC Sawgrass. So these kids got that opportunity. They had a job fair at the new world headquarters of the TOUR.
We're opening eyes to what Jim referred to, which is an $85 billion industry with two million jobs. You don't have to play it to be in it. There's all sorts of other things you can do. The idea there is to elevate it around this event to ultimately hopefully do a lot towards endowing HBCU golf programs around the country.
Exciting stuff that's going on. The industry is working hugely well together. We have a marketing campaign that you'll see soon, which is called Make Golf Your Thing. We think that will also kind of elevate how to play the game in all forms. It's not 18 holes as a measurement anymore. It's sort of -- if you went to Top Golf and you played three holes or nine holes or swung in a mirror, that's golf. And how do you do it in whatever sort of digestible form that there is.
So we're excited about where we're going. We think the industry, again, has never been more aligned towards doing this together. We obviously have our mission is to serve our members and grow the game. But now we've got a lot of company doing it, and hugely excited about it.
From a Ryder Cup perspective, we're excited about -- obviously we worked with the industry last year to postpone it for a year. We have every hope and every desire and we're working very hard to make it an absolute full fan experience.
We're working obviously with the state and local governments to have all those conversations. It'll be fluid. But our plan is to have a Ryder Cup in a way -- have it be the greatest Ryder Cup in history. I think the world as we've seen is ready to have a party.
The Olympics is going to happen it looks like, but not in the way that you would hope it would. And so this is really going to be the first time to cheer for your country, to have that sort of tribal -- in-person anyway -- to have that sort of tribal atmosphere that is so important.
We're hopeful that September will be one of the great events in golf and a great sort of exclamation point to the end of this thing. We think it's all going to happen fast from here, certainly from a U.S. perspective. I realize the world still has a lot of challenges out there, but from a U.S. perspective we're really hopeful we'll be able to pull it off.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you very much, Seth. Kerry, you were here 30 years ago setting up this golf course for the Ryder Cup. Since then a lot of other major championships. The one thing that remained constant was the discussion about the wind out here. What can the best men's players in the world expect this week?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, well, thanks, Julius, and firstly, it's an honor to have returned to the Ocean Course. Some great memories here starting with the Ryder Cup. We've had our PGA Professional Championship here, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, and two PGA Championships.
What a great golf course. I think it's probably one of the most difficult golf courses in the country. Pete and Alice Dye did an unbelievable job designing it, and I'm sure Pete is looking down on us and excited for what is coming ahead this week.
I can't tell you how excited I am. I think the golf course is just in beautiful condition. Jeff Stone, superintendent, and all his team, have done an unbelievable job preparing this golf course for what I hope and we hope will be one of the most interesting, challenging, and exciting championships we've ever had.
The forecast, obviously we've got a pretty good forecast, and hopefully that remains. One of the fun things or potentially good things about that is we're going to have this -- potentially this east wind for a couple of days and then it may switch to the west, totally 180-degree switch.
Which if it does, again, Pete and Alice will be just lapping it up. That's in part why they designed this golf course as they did. 7800 yards is certainly the longest golf course in championship history, but they designed it for that reason. So because of the wind and the effects it has downwind, Pete was the first to say, Yeah, you need plenty of length. But into the wind you have that ability, they built enough tees, enough teeing options for us to give some variety and make it playable for the players.
Could not be more excited.
As we have in previous championships, the sandy areas will not be bunkers, and we've notified all the players of that. So players will be able to take practice swings out of the sand areas. It's part of the general area. But if a ball is embedded in that sand, there is no relief from the loose sand.
We've notified the players and the caddies of that, and hopefully they're plenty aware of it as they were at our previous championships.
Distance measuring devices we are allowing for the first time in the PGA Championship. We have allowed them for a number of years in our other championships. We feel potentially here it can certainly help if you hit the ball off line, which occasionally could happen. That potentially will help the speed of play in those circumstances.
But obviously we realize the yardage book and the other information that the caddies and the players learn over the practice rounds will still be just as important as it ever was.
Now it's part of the rules of golf to be able to use them. We think now is the time to allow it at the PGA Championship.
Finally, we're proud of the strength of our field. 99 of the top 100 players in the world once again are playing here in the championship, and it's something we pride ourselves on at the PGA Championship, that we have the strongest field as measured by the Official World Golf Ranking.
It's a great field. Hopefully we can set the golf course up in a way that challenges the best players in the world, and I can't wait for Thursday morning to start and see how the best players in the world play this magnificent golf course.
JULIUS MASON: Kerry, thank you very much. We'll go ahead and go to the Q&A right now.
Q. Kerry, you talk about the difficulty of this golf course. Could you address a little bit of the difficulty of setting it up and just the many challenges that come here with the shifting conditions?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, well, great question. Yeah, I'd say I certainly get to know our weather team who are onsite very well and talk with them every night before we sort of set up for the next day and then every morning because, as you know, these winds can shift around during the day.
All you can do is make your best effort and best estimate on how you're going to set it up based on the information that we have. That's exactly how we always do it. We'll try and do it fairly with all the information that we have.
To your point, you've got to take into consideration every aspect that's out there.
Part of Pete's design, as I say, he has tees that are there and available for us to use based on those forecasts.
Q. Seth, I appreciate you entered a statement two weeks ago, but the super league topic has still rumbled on as we've approached this tournament. Could you please expand and articulate on why that project is troublesome for the game or bad for the game and what your wider thoughts are?
SETH WAUGH: Yeah, sure, let me just reiterate our statement first and then I'll talk a little bit personally. I probably have a little bit different perspective than some who have been in the game forever.
First of all, I think we were pretty clear, but our view is that the ecosystem of the game works very well. It's never worked better. The partnerships that exist with ourselves, with the TOUR, with the European Tour and really all the golf bodies are strong.
It's not perfect. I don't think you design -- if you were doing it today you wouldn't have all these bodies, but it doesn't mean you can't make it very functional and work well.
If someone wants to play on a Ryder Cup for the U.S., they're going to need to be a member of the PGA TOUR -- excuse me, a member of the PGA of America, and they get that membership through being a member of the TOUR.
I believe the Europeans feel the same way, and so I don't know that we can be more clear kind of than that. It's a little murkier in our championship, but to play from a U.S. perspective you also have to be a member of the TOUR and the PGA of America to play in our championship, and we don't see that changing.
The majors and the Ryder Cup are obviously a huge part of the ecosystem in the game. I think that's part of their design, and we think it's a flawed part of their design, to assume that that would be the case, because in our case, it's not the case.
That's hopefully pretty clear.
I think, look, I come from a world of disruption, and I think it's inevitable -- I actually think it's healthy. You either disrupt or you get disrupted. That's what this is.
You know, should it be a hostile takeover of the game I think is way too far. They've created this conversation, which by the way isn't new. It's been around since 2014 in different forms, has created change. It's created an alliance of the European Tour and the PGA TOUR which we think is really healthy for the game.
We encourage that, and I personally did, you know, had a lot of conversations with both sides, and we think that's healthy to be even more coordinated than we even have. It's created the Player Impact Program, which is a direct result of that.
I think -- so change is happening, and I think it's healthy change. Is it enough? I'm not sure yet. I don't know -- I struggle with what they're solving for. The game is not in crisis. Like the players -- the game has never been better from a participation standpoint. I think the players have never been better served than they are right now.
If you think about, this is a member-owned Tour, both of them are. And so they're for the benefit of the players. That's how it's designed. That's how we're designed. Like that's my job, is to be a fiduciary for the game and a fiduciary for our members and leave the room better than I found it, and that's exactly with a Jay and Keith and the guy who is standing behind you are doing every day.
If you think about what they've done over the years, whether it be the FedExCup and back to Deane Beman in creating the best pension plan on the planet, and then FedExCup, those are all designed with the players in mind.
So you're going to have a great life if you can get here. You're going to have a great life with a body that cares about you that is going to do everything they can to deliver that.
If you introduce a financial element, that all changes. I've, again, lived in that world. There has to be an exit. There has to be a profit. There has to be shareholders. There has to be a lot of things that change that dynamic of not-for-profits doing the right thing and always thinking about the game first, and their players.
I think you've just got to be careful sort of what you wish for. If that's a better way to watch a game, if a team format or less players -- we should talk about that sort of -- they should talk about it as an industry and think about whether there's better ways to conduct tournaments.
But I don't think anything is hugely broken, so I'm not sure what the solve is for totally, other than an outside body trying to disrupt and get into the game in a way that I don't think is in the best interest -- long-term interest of the game.
Q. Should we also be careful or mindful of where the money is coming from?
SETH WAUGH: Yeah, I think very mindful. I think enough said. But I think very mindful.
Money is money, right, and so money needs to have a return and have all those things that are associated with it, but some money is better than other money.
If the only weapon you have is money, you're going to keep -- that's what you're going to leave with, right. I think that's what's going on.
I don't think, particularly for younger players that are going to have a 20-year career out here, I just don't think they're going to be better off in that format than they already are. I honestly look -- I've talked to a bunch of them. As you can imagine, you look them in the eye and you just say, Be careful what you wish for, because short-term gain feels good for a little while, but long-term gain is what makes lives.
Q. You said about disruption, you guys just signed a deal with IMG Arena, which is gambling. Of course we're at a state where we are having the PGA Championship and we can't gamble here, so we can't bet this week. Are you looking at states where you've picked championships to go and working towards getting that changed to support what your efforts are on the gambling side?
SETH WAUGH: Well, I'd say two things. I should have mentioned in my opening we're really excited about that partnership with IMG Arena and the TOUR who is doing a lot of data. I think personally and we all think it's going to be great for the game.
We talk about new entries from a participation perspective but also from viewership, and if you look at -- just look at what's happened in Fantasy Football and DraftKings and all these things that are creating games within a game. You look at cricket internationally which a lot of it is around the betting part of it which creates a lot of that interest.
I'm for anything that grows the game. I'm for anything that makes it better. Obviously we want it to be regulated. We want it done well, which is why we have great partners. We're excited about it, and I think it can really be a growth engine for viewership and hopefully participation, as well.
I've seen it firsthand in my 20 somethings, my kids and their friends. That that's what they like to do. It's happening in the stock market right now, right? It's also what gamification is already happening.
So I think it's all good. In terms of finding states, it's all happening pretty fluidly, and frankly we're committed pretty far out on our championships, not our -- certainly our men's majors, so we really don't have a lot of flexibility.
If we did, I'm not sure that would be a huge factor in what we're doing. I think it's -- again, this is a personal opinion, not the PGA, but I think it's going to happen state by state. It's too valuable to a state to not do it, and I think it will become the norm as opposed to the exception as states figure it out.
To predict 10 years out which states are going to have it or not, that's pretty hard. That's beyond my pay grade. We're not picking states by that, but we're excited about the trend.
Q. Could you see the PGA of America lobbying legislatures in places where you are having tournaments to try to get this changed?
SETH WAUGH: Probably a bridge too far. That's not our job. We hold championships and we grow the game and serve our members. If we thought it added something to our members by adding something to our championships I guess we could get our head around it.
If there was an industry effort we'd be a part of it, but I don't think we'd drive that.
Q. Do you agree with that, Jim?
JIM RICHERSON: Yeah, absolutely. I think we've got bigger regulatory things we're looking at that affect the golf industry.
Water rights on the West Coast and relief efforts for different golf courses have been left out of different relief bills in the past and things of that nature. Our efforts from a lobbying standpoint are a little more concentrated on those areas.
But absolutely, Seth is right. If it is a push for the industry and our other partners and other associations, it's absolutely something we'd look into. Just not a high priority right now.
Q. Seth, obviously last year was a one off, but how has the move to May strengthened this championship?
SETH WAUGH: That's a great question. Look where we are. We think this is a very different experience in May frankly than it would have been in August. Kerry should speak to that.
But we had a great event here in August, but you do get some rain and probably a little less wind; course conditions probably aren't quite as good.
We think -- I'll let Kerry jump in because he's lived it. It obviously shuts out certain parts of the country which is disappointing, but there's no perfect date for that, and we think it opens more than it closes.
And we think the cadence of the schedule is just better. If it's better for fans, I think it's better for players. Obviously it's exhausting for them to go April, May, June, July, and then if this year you've got an Olympics and then you've got a Ryder Cup and you've got a FedExCup in there, that's a long grind.
But as far as creating fan and engagement and how it should work and how it's given some breathing room to the Ryder Cup -- and Olympic years are a little different -- but to the Ryder Cup and to Presidents Cup and to FedExCup, we think it's a better schedule for the players.
Kerry, you may want to --
KERRY HAIGH: A hundred percent. I think Seth touched on everything, but certainly in warmer climates it's more temperate for spectators and for all of us to be here. Golf course conditioning-wise it's the start of the season in most parts of the country, so that really helps our PGA members to promote the game and get their clubs excited about golf.
Yeah, we love it. You've got a bit more breeze in May than we do in August, so what's not to like?
SETH WAUGH: Kerry made a great point. It's a great chance for us to tell our story, as Jim talked about, our 20 and sort of what we do. We do this one week a year. We do the rest 52 weeks a year. Our chance to kind of light the fire for the game in May is pretty significant.
JIM RICHERSON: Yeah, Seth is right. It's shining a spotlight on the work that our 28,000 members are doing through junior programs, our PGA HOPE program, and Make Golf Your Thing. It's kicking off -- as Kerry and Seth both said, a lot of the country is just opening up to golf because of the weather in April and May, so it's a great opportunity for us to really promote the game and promote the programs that our PGA members are running throughout the country.
Q. Kerry, given how long and difficult this course is, what's a realistic time to get threesomes and twosomes around? And what steps will you be taking to make sure players keep moving along?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, I think pace of play is always a concern. 156-player field, but we do have 11-minute intervals as we did at Harding Park last year, which certainly helped the flow of play.
I think the length of the course itself on its own I don't think is that big of an issue as if the wind blows. Obviously then it takes a little more time to determine clubs, et cetera, but the distance measuring devices will certainly help that potentially.
But no, we have a PGA of America rules committee, including some PGA TOUR rules officials, and we'll be out monitoring the pace of play as we do every PGA Championship, and very hopeful that the pace will be reasonable.
Q. What's the time par?
KERRY HAIGH: The time par is 4:47, I think. And again, with a full field you have two hours and 12 minutes of tee times, so 2:20 is about the quickest a lead group can play, so that's 4:40, so I feel very comfortable.
Q. Is there a chance you'll play the course at the full length or do you plan to move some of the tees up every day?
KERRY HAIGH: It'll totally depend on Mother Nature. We'll make that decision each morning as we set it up. Hopefully it'll be fun and fair.
Q. Kerry, you've got three of your biggest championships, Ryder Cup notwithstanding, in a six-week period. Is that too much to take on? How much stress does that create?
KERRY HAIGH: Having the three --
JULIUS MASON: Nothing is too much for Kerry.
KERRY HAIGH: Having our three major championships, certainly we've had to adjust our staffing model a little bit, but we have such a fantastic staff who work for us at each of the championship venues, both the KPMG Women's PGA, the KitchenAid Senior PGA, and our PGA Championship, that we're a team and everyone gets into it, and we go straight from here to Tulsa next week and we're ready, we're up, we have a daily call with Tulsa.
Yes, it's challenging, but that's our job, and we expect each of them to be the very best championships we can make, and hopefully the players will enjoy all three of them just as much as we enjoy putting them on.
Q. Seth, maybe I've missed the memo or didn't pay attention to this, but when you talk about this exclamation point hopefully for the Ryder Cup, have you begun ticket sales, and how do you mesh that with the confidence level of being a full spectator venue?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, I'll try and answer that question. So the ticket sales, we were sold out as of a year ago, which was great news. Obviously then we postponed it and we offered all ticket holders and corporate purchases the opportunity to either stay in or not for 2021, for the playing of it in 2021.
So the vast majority of the ticket holders and the corporates remained in and ready to go with the PGA Championship. We are working with the county and the state of Wisconsin and have submitted our COVID protocol plan, which as Seth mentioned continues to change and evolve every day.
We're hopeful that by September we will be able to have full attendance. If it were today we could not based on where COVID numbers are, but certainly with the vaccine and the numbers coming down, we are very hopeful and optimistic that we will be able to have a full attendance.
Q. Did you ever put a number on that full attendance?
KERRY HAIGH: No.
Q. Are you going to?
KERRY HAIGH: We're sold out, which is good news. (Laughter.)
Q. I was going to ask about range finders, allowing range finders for the first time. What went into that decision, and do you really think it does speed up play?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, distance measuring devices, two years ago the USGA and the R&A made it part of the rules of golf that they were allowed. For a number of years we've been using it as a local rule for our PGA member championships.
We just felt -- the board talked about it at length, actually for about 18 months at least, talking about using it, and we feel it's the right time for the game to use them.
All the information that you can get from a distance measuring device, including some that you're not allowed to use this week, the players have and the caddies have in their yardage book.
The gradient changes, they're already in the yardage book, so they're not getting any more information than they don't already have. But hopefully for balls that may be hit astray, being able to use it would save time of the caddie having to walk into the middle of the fairway, find a sprinkler, pace back just to get the yardage to the hole.
We do think -- I'm hopeful that balls hit wide will save time, but for the general balls in the fairway, probably won't. It's new to the players and new to the caddies, so any improvement may not be seen this year or in the first few weeks of trying it or few years of trying it if we're the only ones, but ultimately or hopefully I think down the line it could show an improvement in pace.
Q. Something you'll use going forward every year?
KERRY HAIGH: I think that's every intent.
JIM RICHERSON: When the board made that decision the intent was for this to stay as a rule, not to try it for one year or just a couple of events.
Our intent is this will be introduced and be part of our championships moving forward.
SETH WAUGH: The only other thing I'd add is the generations are growing up using them. It wasn't necessarily the case, and it is now. So it makes a lot of sense in my view.
Q. Kerry, the captains' agreement between the two captains for the Ryder Cup, when does that get negotiated and signed?
KERRY HAIGH: It's an ongoing process. Hopefully probably the next few weeks I would say. There's a couple of things. The order of play has to be determined by the home captain, which is included in the captains' agreement, so I think once -- we're sort of encouraging Steve to make that decisions so we can operationally make some decisions and that's incorporated into the captains' agreement.
So hopefully the next few weeks.
Q. Are alternates in that discussion?
KERRY HAIGH: Talking about the whole COVID situation, we have not agreed on what the solution will be, but we are potentially going to put some wording in the captains' agreement in the event of COVID, but that's not final. That's also a little bit some of the holdup for it.
Q. Seth, about the championship being a little bit more difficult to deal with with this whole premier golf league kind of thing versus the Ryder Cup, could you see a situation where you would specifically exclude past champions in the criteria for getting into the PGA Championship if a premier golf league got off the ground?
SETH WAUGH: Well, it's not specific to that, but if you're not a member of the PGA of America and you're U.S., you're not eligible. Kerry, I believe that's right, right?
KERRY HAIGH: Mm-hmm.
Q. If you're a past champion?
KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, you have to be a PGA of America member for a U.S. citizen.
SETH WAUGH: So it's not like we put it in to combat it. It's our bylaw.
Q. Kerry, when I was speaking earlier this year with Jeff Stone, he told me that there's now rye rough in May instead of the normal rough that you had last time you were there in 2012. Can you please tell us a little bit how differently the rough will play, and what do you think the cost of rough is going to be for somebody who hits it in there?
KERRY HAIGH: So I think every year here at the Ocean Course they overseed during the winter with ryegrass. Obviously in May some of that ryegrass is still present in what is now predominantly paspalum grass.
To be honest, the rough is not growing that quickly. I think Jeff has not mown it for over three weeks, and it's not growing that quickly. But our hope and intent is that -- and I think we're seeing that you're getting a mixture of lies but there's a lot of balls that are sitting up, which will potentially give you sort of a flier lie, which is obviously difficult to control, and in an ideal world, that's what we would like to see.
The intent is not to make it so thick and so deep that the player just has to hack it out, and yes, there may be one or two lies that get that, but I've thrown balls this morning, last night, and it's just about where we want it to be.
Could not be happier. And as I said, Jeff Stone and his crew have done an unbelievable job in preparing what is just a fantastic golf course.
SETH WAUGH: I had dinner with a major champion last night and I said, How's the rough, and he said, oh, it's rough. So it's a factor.
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, have a terrific week. Thanks for joining us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports