Transcript Of Morning Drive Excerpt From Winged Foot Announcement

By USGA
January 28, 2013

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Give us a sense of how long this has been in the oven cooking.

TOM O'TOOLE JR.:  Well, as you know and your viewers know, we played here in '06, as the lead‑in said, and had a great U.S. Open with Geoff Ogilvy winning on the last hole in an exciting finish with [Colin] Montgomerie and [Phil] Mickelson in the mix and Jim Furyk, as well.  And the USGA at that time had interest to come back because Winged Foot is really one of these quintessential U.S. Open golf courses and one that you can almost walk out there today and test the greatest players in the world.

And there was some discussions at that time, the membership was not as keen, because look, this is a significant imposition to place on a club, particularly when you're in the confines that Winged Foot has, their other East Course is impacted by a U.S. Open.  So we stayed in touch, kept those lines of communications open, and about almost two years ago, Mike Davis and I reconnected with Colin Burns, their general manager, and began discussions with the club again, which then ultimately results in today's announcement.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  John, there's an old saying that the only reason people continue to have more children is because they forget how difficult pregnancy and infancy is.  Perhaps a little bit of that applies here.  In 2008 the membership voted against bringing an Open back, but you've had a change of heart.  Tell me why that is.

JOHN SCHNEIDER:  We just thought it was too soon.  The sacrifice the membership has to make, we restrict guest play, everybody is delegated to the West Course, we give up the East Course in November, and by the time we do the restoration, it's a good full year before we get that course back again.  So it is an inconvenience to the membership, and it's something that we've addressed, and we're going to try to modify that this year, or 2020.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  As many of us know, that was one of the bigger issues is that Winged Foot is 36 spectacular holes of golf, and you lost the East Course for a long, long time.  How can that change this time around?

TOM O'TOOLE JR.:  Well, you know, Jimmy, in the discussions with Brian and the club's board and our staff at Golf House, to try to minimize the impact of the East Course and return it to them and deliver it back to them in a quicker fashion, and then not occupy as much of the golf course in our operational production of the U.S. Open, which is significant.  Our ops people Reg Jones and Mike Butz have been here several times and Danny Sink and worked with the club to say how can we have a win‑win for both parties, and I think we've reached an accord and it results in us coming back here, and the USGA couldn't be any more excited.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Let's talk a little more about the specifics of this golf course.  7,268 [yards] par‑70 in 2006.  What's going to change from the golf perspective this time around?  Any idea?

TOM O'TOOLE JR.:  Well, Mike Davis and I talked about that a little bit.  I don't think very much.  Again, this is one of the really gems in American architecture and one of the great tests of golf that we've seen five prior U.S. Opens, and certainly the scores suggest that this golf course is a difficult test.  The club has got some plans to do some things, just some updating to the West Course.  They had some storms here with Sandy and has impacted them somewhat.

But I don't think you're going to see much change to the West Course because it's such a wonderful venue, and why touch the Mona Lisa.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Let me ask you, what did the club learn the last time around that you think you'd like to do differently this time around?

JOHN SCHNEIDER:  I think it's all about getting the membership back on the East Course as quickly as possible, and the USGA acknowledges that.  To me it's a team effort and it's a trust between what we need to satisfy our membership and what the USGA needs to put on a good event.  We've established that trust.  We've had 12 championships here over the years between the East and the West, and it's like friends coming home.

We respect these individuals, and I think they respect us, so we'll get it done.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Of course the United States Golf Association not only involved in conducting great championships but also making the Rules of Golf along with The R&A, and this week some news, TaylorMade CEO Mark King had some rather harsh comments about the United States Golf Association in regard to the anchoring ban.  Let's take a look at his quote:

He said, "Here's the prediction.  The USGA within 10 years will be a non‑entity, they will be a non‑factor within golf because they are choosing to be on the outside, and no one is signing up for what they represent."  He goes on to say, "Industry is going to move away from them and pass them.  They're obsolete.  I hate to say that, but that's their behavior."

Some rather strident talk from him.  Your thoughts on that, Tom?

TOM O'TOOLE JR.:  Well, unfortunate Mr. King has that point of view.  I'm sorry to have read those remarks.  As you know when we suggested the proposed ban on anchoring, we said that we would have a comment period until the end of February, and the USGA has maintained that we would not speak during that comment but listen, and we've done that, not just Mr. King's remarks but from a variety of mediums, and we'll hold pat until the end of February and then we'll along with our partners at The R&A have some response.  But that's our position at this juncture.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  I think a bigger question, though, is there any concern about bifurcation, two sets of rules?

TOM O'TOOLE JR.:  Well, that bifurcation has been a discussion around the golf game for a long time.  I think you know and many know that it's a difficult thing to govern the game, and it's not popular, and our position has been that the game would not be benefitted by bifurcation, and that's still our position.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Tom, John, congratulations to both the United States Golf Association and Winged Foot on this memorable day here in the game of golf, certainly at Winged Foot and for the USGA.

Let's get some perspective from a couple of folks who can perhaps provide a little bit of a different take on what's going to happen here in 2020.  This is Colin Burns to my left.  He's the general manager here at Winged Foot, been the general manager for 21 years, and this is Mike Trostel, who is the senior curator and historian of the USGA Museum.  Colin, let me start with you.  As Tim was saying, most people probably don't have any idea what an enormous undertaking it is to stage a U.S. Open, and certainly at a place like Winged Foot, which is really smack dab in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  What's the biggest challenge?

COLIN BURNS:  Yeah, it really is quite a challenge.  The fact that we are in ‑‑ we're basically landlocked by a neighborhood, and we have a second course, a top‑100 golf course, the East Course, that we have to deal with, as well, as our spot for infrastructure.  It's funny, the general public I don't think realizes what's involved.  We have to begin working with the governor's office, the county executive’s office, the amount of security that's involved is tremendous, the coordination of the traffic, the coordination of the bus traffic, the coordination of the MTA to get people into this neighborhood, that will begin at least five years out.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  MTA is the Metropolitan Transportation Association or Authority, right?

COLIN BURNS:  Yes, so it's quite an undertaking.  We don't have a big open field somewhere or we don't have an adjoining large college campus that we can use, so we have to get all of these people here, 25,000 or 30,000 people into this neighborhood that clearly was not designed for that.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  When will you start having those discussions?

COLIN BURNS:  We will start immediately at certain levels.  We'll get into greater detail about five years out, but we will start immediately now that we have this agreement with the USGA.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  Mike, let's turn to the history of this great place.  It'll be six U.S. Opens here now, and I think it's safe to say that each and every one of them has been certainly memorable.  But there are a couple that you can pick out that go kind of next level memorable, and you've brought a couple of things along from the museum.  Let me go back in time.  This is the putter that Billy Casper used in 1959, and of course the great story here is the third hole.  The third hole, 217 yards, a par 3, and the great story is that when Billy Casper won the U.S. Open here in 1959, every single day before, he laid up.

MIKE TROSTEL:  He laid up.  He laid up short of the bunker every day, he just had so much confidence in his short game that he had no problem with doing that.

He only had 114 putts throughout the championship, 28 and a half putts a round.  At the end of the third round, he four‑putts ‑‑ excuse me, one‑putts the last four holes, and then in the final round, one‑putts the first five holes, so nine consecutive one‑putt greens.  Really the strength of Billy's game and really one of the most underappreciated players of 1950s and 1960s, wins his first U.S. Open here at Winged Foot in 1959 and then of course seven years later comes back and beats Arnold Palmer in 1966.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  I think it's probably safe to say he was one of the more underappreciated players of all time, certainly one of the greats.

And then in 1974 what Dick Schapp in his great book called the Massacre at Winged Foot, winning score 7‑over par, Hale Irwin, and this his sand wedge.  Back then I guess they weren't stamping how many degrees each wedge was; it was either a pitching wedge or a sand wedge.  But he certainly needed this.

MIKE TROSTEL:  Yeah, 1974, as you said, called the Massacre at Winged Foot for just how difficult it was.  Jack Nicklaus putts on the first hole, putts his ball off the green, three‑putts; Johnny Miller takes four out of the bunker on the seventh hole.  But Hale Irwin outlasted them all.  He bogeyed the 15th and 16th hole in the final round, comes to the 17th, hits his drive in the rough, chunks his second shot, was able to get up‑and‑down with this wedge to make par, pars the 18th and goes on to win by two.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  So many great courses around this country have hosted the U.S. Open, but there really are a handful of special ones that the USGA keeps on coming back to time and time again, and I think you would have to put Winged Foot in that classification.  Is there a Winged Foot moment from history that you think stands out?

MIKE TROSTEL:  Well, I think you can go all the way back to 1929, the great Bob Jones leads by six with only six holes to play, triple bogeys the 15th, three‑putts for bogey on 16, and then has to come to the 18th hole and make a 12‑foot putt to force a playoff with Al Espinosa and then goes on to beat him by 23 strokes the next day.

JIMMY ROBERTS:  This is truly a special place.  We are in the East Room, as I mentioned, and we talk about Bob Jones and Al Espinosa, and if you look around this room, perhaps we'll get a chance to see it later throughout the day here on Morning Drive, these great portraits painted by one of the members here, Paul Dillon.  Such great tradition here at Winged Foot.

 

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