2014 USGA ANNUAL MEETING
PRESS CONFERENCE
 

JOE GOODE: Good morning, everybody. I'm Joe Goode, managing director of communications for the United States Golf Association, and we'd all like to welcome you to Pinehurst Resort and Country Club for the 2014 USGA Annual Meeting and this morning's news conference.

I would particularly like to thank Pinehurst president and COO, Tom Pashley ‑‑ Tom is in the front here ‑‑ and his team for their hospitality and support this week and the wonderful partnership that I know we will enjoy in June when we're back here for the back-to-back U. S. Open and U. S. Women's Open championships. So thanks, Tom.

We're pleased to be joined by several members of the USGA leadership team for this morning's proceedings.  Executive Director Mike Davis, who will speak to the excitement and preparations that we're making for the historic back‑to‑back championships.  Joining Mike here in the front row is Reg Jones,   U.S. Open Championship senior director, who oversees the operational planning for our national competitions.

But first it is my honor and privilege to introduce you to Thomas J. O'Toole Jr. , who will be installed this evening as the 63rd president of the USGA.

Tom's rise at the 119-year-old organization is no surprise to anyone who has watched his quarter century of volunteer service to this organization and his genuine love for this game.  He's been associated with the USGA since 1988 serving as a rules official at more than 150 USGA championships, including every U. S. Open since 1990.  Since 2004 Tom has been a member of the Rules of Golf Committee and is entering his seventh year as a member of the USGA Executive Committee, three of which he has served as vice president.

Throughout this time Tom has continued to pursue improvements to the USGA's diverse service functions as chairman of the championship and compensation committees and through service on the audit, commercial, handicap, international team selection, management, rules of golf and joint rules of golf committees.  Unarguably, Tom is uniquely experienced and well prepared for a most important role in a game he has spent a lifetime serving.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tom O'Toole, Jr.

TOM O'TOOLE JR. : Thank you, Joe.  Good morning, everybody.  Thank you for taking time to come out here and visit with Mike and I about the state of the United States Golf Association.

First of all, let me commend all of you for your efforts, not only previously, but going forward for all you do to cover not only the USGA but the game.

Joe, thank you for those kind remarks.  I want this group to know, and hopefully I can communicate this this evening, that I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to find myself as the 63rd president of the USGA.  I'm excited about the opportunities and where the USGA is headed, and I can tell you that the USGA Executive Committee is a group of 15 men and women in a general council, who many of them are in this room here this morning, I can tell you are more aligned than I've ever seen in my time with the USGA.  So this group is energized; they're excited, and I'm humbled to have the opportunity to lead them with Mike Davis.

This effort on behalf of our executive committee and staff, I want you to know, will be one of great collaboration.  There's great respect and honor for each other, and we want to make sure that as we take on this very important stewardship to govern this game and impact this game's health, that we do that in such a collaborative way.

I know Mike leads a very professional and highly competent staff,  much of who he could tell you is new in the last several years, but we have assembled a great collection of employees and leaders at Golf House led by Mike, and I know the entire executive committee is excited about moving forward into 2014 with them.

I think most of you have heard discussions, and if you're around today, there will be further ones and more in depth led by Mike and our senior managing directors about what our strategic direction is right now.  Some of you know that two years ago we adopted a strategic plan.  We basically have three core strategies within that plan, and I can tell you that they're operating on all cylinders.

Again, this staff and this executive committee is energized about the prospects and the endeavors surrounding these strategies.  And of course, they are that we will conduct, No. 1, the best and most exemplary championships in golf, that we will cover the game around the world in our joint efforts with the R&A with a great degree of diligence and convention.  And we'll excel at that effort.  And then, finally, the third, what our staff affectionally calls a bucket, is that of servicing the game and its golfers.

So most of you know that the two primary core strategies, which I am generally reminded by the staff that I shouldn't do, but I kind of lump together because, although I am old and I have been around here a while, contrary to popular belief, I wasn't in that room in New York City in December of 1894, but two of the things besides our mission statement which still guides us was that we were going to conduct national championships and write and interpret the rules.  We've acquired other rule‑making responsibilities have been vested in us since, but those are the two core governing aspects of what the USGA is about.

The third bucket is one that even if you are absolutely attached, and my background would suggest that those things that were decided in that room in December of 1894 and those governing responsibilities we've acquired since are paramount to everything that we're doing in the game.  But if you look at where the game sits today and if you're not concerned about the game's health, then it really asks the threshold question about whether or not we would have a game to govern.

So while certainly our primary responsibility is not to grow the game.  It is, as evidenced by this third core strategy, to be concerned with the game's health.  And we've seen many of the initiatives that have been started the last several years that answer the questions that the game's too expensive to play.  It takes too long to play.  It's not welcoming.  We launched last year an awareness campaign our pace‑of‑play initiative while we're young, and now this year we'll go into more data collection and not just an awareness, but what's the solution to this, and will continue to be an important part of the initiative.

One of the things that we'll focus on beyond that is this accessibility issue, and the game, frankly, is just not welcoming and if we are going to govern in these areas that we've been governing in for almost 120 years, then we need to lead in these other initiatives as well, and my remarks tonight will center around that subject of accessibility, making the game more welcoming.  I have some background in that and it's certainly of interest to me, but more importantly, it's an interest to our entire board and staff.

So I certainly think that we will continue to do all the things we do in the USGA with great degree of excellence and performing to the best of our abilities in our core functions, but we are going to be diligent of focusing in on this sustainability and the health issue, because if we are leaders in this game ‑‑ and it's our view that we are ‑‑ that we're going to lead in these initiatives as well and see if we can make some impact.

So in that regard, in 2014, we will be committing significant resources to address this issue of accessibility.  And you know, there are a number of audiences that have been in this debate, this discussion.  We don't seek to supersede what they're doing, but we seek to obtain best practices and solutions of how we can assist those audiences in addressing this issue.

So I know that you'll hear more about that this evening, but opening up the game is important to the USGA, and most of you know many of the initiatives in which we've begun to be engaged with that have already indicated that that's our direction, like our Drive, Chip and Putt initiative that we've joined with the PGA of America and the Augusta National Golf Club.

Mike was in South America a couple of weeks ago and announced a new Latin America Amateur Championship to open up the game in that area of the world.  Our national amateur four‑ball championships, which we’ll launch qualifying for this year to bring in to another level of our menu of exemplary USGA championships, incorporating the format that's played by weekend golfers across this country every week.

So those are some of the things that we've already tried to demonstrate that what are focusing in on opening up the game, and I certainly look forward to interacting with you on that subject as we move through 2014.

I will be available for any other questions.  I'm sure there are things that you might want to inquire about those remarks or I'm sure that our communications staff will or have already embargoed my remarks for tonight.  So at this point I turn it over to my long‑time friend and our leader and executive director, Mike Davis.

MIKE DAVIS: Tom, thanks.  Good morning, everybody.  You see these two trophies up here, which I wasn't aware they were going to be here, but it's a nice little touch.  But I do want to talk about these, what we really hope are two magical weeks this June.  This is something that the United States Golf Association has not done before.  We have in the past done joint championships with men and women.  We've twice done joint junior championships, and we once did a joint Amateur Public Links and Women's Amateur Public Links, which were just wonderful championships in the sense that there was great synergy with those.

But what was interesting when you look back, they weren't necessarily on the same course, and I'm not sure they did exactly what we're trying to do this June, so I really want to talk a little bit about why was I intent with doing this and then a little bit of some of the questions that are out there of why the women's open is the second week, and then talk a little bit of our setup strategies and some of the what we think are some great story lines for the two weeks coming up.

So I guess to start out with, you know, our staff and board from day one have really viewed this as while they're clearly, it's two different championships, we are looking at it as one big event, and that's how, you know, with Reg Jones, and also in the back of the room, Tim Flaherty, who respectively oversee the U. S. Open and the Women's Open, that's how their teams are approaching this, so whether it's ticket sales, the corporate involvement or just things that are happening that week, it is viewed as two weeks of just wonderful golf.  And we're excited.  We're real excited to be here at Pinehurst, because this is one of the you can call it a home of golf in the United States.  It's really a national treasure when it comes to Pinehurst No. 2.

So to get to the intent, contrary to what some people think, this was never about trying to make it operationally easier or to save money.  This was all about comparing the world's best men with the world's best women.  That's what it got down to.  And you know, you go back to the whole how did this get started.  This was really my predecessor, David Fay, this was his idea.  I can remember it like it was yesterday, him coming into my office.  Literally we had offices beside one another, and he said, hey, I've got this idea; let's do the men's and women's opens, and I kind of looked at him like, have you lost your marbles, but then you start to think about some of the wonderful things you can do with this.

So before Pinehurst ever entered the picture, we started thinking about some of the challenges of how do you set the golf course up for the men versus the women, and while we really want to test, in a lot of ways, the same things for both championships, there are differences on how men and women play the game.  So when we started thinking about where we could do this, it quickly became apparent that Pinehurst would be the one place that would make sense.

And roll back a little bit.  This was done before Pinehurst ever did its restoration on Pinehurst No. 2.  So back then there was Bermudagrass rough everywhere.  But the difference with Bermudagrass rough, for those that kind of follow agronomics and golf course setup, for the men we probably would have had the rough about two‑and‑three‑quarter inches, for the women, maybe two‑and‑a‑quarter inches, so that difference would have been something that we easily could have done from one week to the next versus if we were trying to do this at Oakmont, at Merion, at the Olympic Club.  There was enough difference that practically speaking we just couldn't get the roughs right from one week to another.

So, you know, this is clearly very innovative.  I, you know, when you innovate things, there's always risk with it, and we know that going into it, but we think that there's so many more up sides to this than potential down sides, and ultimately when I talk about intent of showcasing the world's best men and the world's best women, I think there's a secondary kind of intent here.  It's really to showcase women's golf, because I am a big believer and I know others within the USGA are a huge believer that the women just don't get enough credit.  They just don't get enough credit, and I guess I saw that firsthand years ago when I started getting involved with the setup of the Women's Open and quickly learned how good they really play.  And going into 2010 at Oakmont, recall that we had had the 2007 U.S. Open there that Angel Cabrera won.  And I can remember that spring leading into it, there were a lot of people questioning saying how are you going to put the women out on Oakmont.  They'll never be able to play it.  And you know what, we set the golf course up the same way, relatively speaking, same greens speeds.  Obviously they played different teeing grounds, but the rough, relatively speaking, was the same.  And guess what, they handled it beautifully.

So this is really a chance on the same golf course to test the world's best.  And unlike other sports, whether it's tennis, football, soccer, pick your sport, the arena in golf being so much, it really is ‑‑ it's a much bigger part of the sport of golf than say a football field is or a basketball court or a tennis court.  And I think that here what we're really trying to do is set the golf course up the same way, relatively speaking, for two weeks in a row.

So ‑‑ and I'll talk a little bit about setup here in a second, but the question of why Women's Open second week.  Simply put, one reason, agronomics.  We felt that ‑‑ when I say we, it's really the experts.  It's the superintendent and it's our greens section staff who felt that we had a much better chance of getting the golf course right for both championships and how we want to set it up with the men going first and the women going second, and it really gets down to the putting greens, that they're going to be the same greens speed for both weeks, but the first week, and if Mother Nature is cooperative, they're going to be slightly firmer.  But underscore this is on a relative basis, and they felt like they could go from very firm greens to slightly ‑‑ underscore slightly ‑‑ less firm greens that second week, and it just agronomically was much easier to do than the reverse.

So that's the reason the women are second.  I suppose one of the things when we talk about showcasing women's golf, we really do think we're going to have more people follow this Women's Open than we normally do.  That's a great thing.  And again, we want to showcase the world's best.  And so I think, you know, just having played the men's Open, I think people will have watched that and say, I'm really curious on how the women are going to do the following week.

So I think there's that aspect, too, on women going second, why you want to do it.  So there's some good things.  But really it did get down to purely agronomics was the reason.

In terms of setup, we plan to set it up exactly the same way both weeks.  There's two relative slight differences.  One, it gets down to distances and the teeing grounds they play.  The idea is here ‑‑ and Ben Kimball, who now sets up the Women's Open, and I spent a lot of time, at least on paper, trying to figure this out.

There will be some adjustments which I'll talk about during the week, but the idea was on a given hole, if the men are hitting drivers, we want to see the women hit drivers.  If the men are hitting, say, 6 to 8‑irons for their approach shots, that's what we want to see the women do.

You know, obviously easier said than done on paper.  Mother Nature can affect it.  And we know that the top to the bottom of the field, both for the men and the women, there's a pretty big difference between the longest and the shortest hitters, but that's the goal.

And I think that, you know, again, we will have to adjust the week of.  We could easily get one very dry, crisp week, and the next week it could be just thunderstorms and hot, humid.  So we would adjust things accordingly.

But the idea is, you know, the women will play teeing grounds, relatively speaking, same way as the men, and then the firmness of the greens I talked about, if Mother Nature is cooperative, they would be the same way.  So we like to say if they're hitting a 6‑iron out of the fairway and it goes bounce, bounce, stop on the green, that's what we want it to do for the men and the women.

In terms of trying to integrate the two weeks, our staff, you know, Reg and Tim have really done a good job in thinking about things like hotel rooms, thinking about what's going to be happening, not only on site, but outside the gates that week.  And the players will be told well in advance.  Certainly the women are going to be welcome that week beforehand just like the men come in.

During the week, too, we've said how can we integrate the two weeks.  So I think that you're going to hopefully see with our broadcast partners, maybe women on ‑‑ maybe popping in the 18th booth and kind of talking about what they're seeing week one as it relates to week two.

The practice facilities on that weekend before, the short game area, if the women want to come out and practice on it, wonderful.  I think that's just going to add intrigue to the U. S. Open week.  And in terms of actually hitting balls on the range after the men are through on Sunday, we're going to open it up for the women.  Should we have a playoff on Monday, you know what, we're going to figure out a way to get the women out practicing here.  And if you're a spectator coming to it, it's wonderful.  You not only get to come and watch the two or three players playing in the U. S. Open playoff, but you get to watch the women practice.

In terms of other story lines, I think a few things should be noted.  The restoration of Pinehurst No. 2 ‑‑ and I think it's right to call it a restoration, maybe a little bit of a renovation, too, in some respects with some new teeing grounds, but that is ‑‑ you know, Pinehurst No. 2 has always been one of the great courses in the world, but what Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have done here is just spectacular.  And I think credit to Pinehurst from, you know, the owner, Bob Dedman, to the president Don Padgett, Tom Pashley, that this was a group that, listen, it was a risk to do this.  They closed the golf course for quite some time, and look what the end product is.  It's wonderful.

And I think, you know, for us, looking back, this will be the first U. S. Open and really the first Women's Open, too, where we're not playing with long rough grass.  Think about that.  We've never done that before.  So when you miss a fairway here, you may be on a sandy, hardpan lie.  You may be in a soft footprinted sandy lie.  You may be up against wire grass on pine straw.  You name it.  But it's really neat.  And I think, you know, that is a story in itself.

Another great story line is just what this restoration ‑‑ it's really a by‑product because I don't think they went into it thinking this, but they removed roughly 35 acres of grass.  That's grass that, guess what, they don't irrigate anymore.  They're not mowing on a daily basis, and they removed roughly 700 irrigation heads.  They're using roughly 40 percent the water they used to.  It's really a throwback to the old days of maintenance up the middle, and that's something I will tell you our greens section is really focused on that.

This, we believe, is ‑‑ not necessarily sandy wire grass areas, but the concept of more maintenance up the middle.  Instead of irrigating, fertilizing fungicides on your rough, go back to the way golf used to be; use less resources, reduce the cost of the game.  This is a great story line here, folks, for this coming U. S. Open.

And then I would also say, you know, the fact that we just announced yesterday that Payne Stewart is going to be the Bob Jones Award winner, or is for this year, and we would typically award that Saturday night at the annual meeting, so tonight.  But that's going to be done Tuesday of the U. S. Open week.  And what more fitting thing to do than to give this award to Payne Stewart, that magical moment in time in 1999 and all Payne's character, the way he respected the game, we are very proud to have him as our Bob Jones Award winner.  So with that, I think, Joe, we'll turn it over to you for Q and A.

JOE GOODE: Great, Mike.  Thank you very much.  Before we open it up to questions, just a couple of housecleaning items.  As Tom mentioned, we will have some press materials for members of the media.  We'll have an embargoed version of Tom's remarks tonight.  We will have some other press materials, but we're trying to help with your reporting today.  So get with the staff of the end of the press conference for that press packet.

With that, let's open up to questions both here in the room and on the phone.

Q.  Can you quantify the U. S. Open green speeds and the distances you expect the men and women to hit?

MIKE DAVIS: Good question.  So I forgot to bring the exact yardages, but I believe for the men it's roughly 7,500 yards, par‑70, which we've been par‑70 the last couple Opens we've been here.  I think the women were 6,700‑ish.  I can get you that information.

But there is a little bit of ‑‑ we basically when we did the setup in our mind, we went hole by hole, and you know, you are look at a lot of data.  You look at what the average drive is on the LPGA.  You look at the average drive distance of the PGA Tour, the European Tour.  You also look at what are the longest players doing, what are the shortest players doing.  Then you have to think architecturally about every hole.  There's some holes out here that, guess what, they're going to be laying up to the same area, the first hole, the third hole, the seventh hole, the 13th hole.  So that's just the way the holes were designed.  But then there's other holes where in theory, the drive zones for the women are going to be a little bit closer to the greens than the men.

Q.  Green speeds?

MIKE DAVIS: Green speeds, we usually are right around 11‑and‑a‑half at Pinehurst No. 2.  That seems to be the ideal speed for these greens where you can get hole locations in most of the quadrants of the greens we want, but if you start getting much higher than that, you start to lose good hole locations, which you don't want to do.

Q.  Will you adjust that for the women?

MIKE DAVIS: No.  Same green speeds for week one and week two.  And we did that at Oakmont.  Contrary to what some people think, the women handled the greens speeds beautifully.  Oakmont we were over 14‑and‑a‑half, and the women handled that just beautifully.  But that's Oakmont.

Q.  Mike, with some bunkers running in the waste areas and vice versa, have you guys defined that yet going into the championship?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, very good question.  I think what you'll see out there at Pinehurst No. 2 is really a great statement on maybe what bunkers should be.  They are hazards.  They were never intended to be perfectly consistent ‑‑ when you get your ball in there, you should have to deal with different lies from time to time.

You will see that at Pinehurst No. 2 where some of these bunkers, you get fluffier sand; others, it's more hard panned.  We love that.  In other words, it forces the players to feel with their feet, look with their eyes and determine what kind of shot.  Now, in terms of where you go from through the green into a hazard, we'll have a walking official with every group, but in essence, the prepared areas, really where you've got a depression, those are going to be treated as hazards, and then kind of the sandy wire grass areas aren't.  If there's any question, we've got a walking referee with each group.

You'll also notice we're not going to be manicuring these bunkers.  What you see out there today is what they're going to see Open week.  So you're going to see some of the faces that aren't raked every day, that may not be perfect, that are a little bit firmer, when the bottoms may be firmer.  Have you ever seen that look to Royal Melbourne, I think Pinehurst has incorporated that here.  We love it, because there's just too much money being spent on bunker maintenance in this country right now.  There are the expectations of players that I need a perfect lie in the bunker at that time and every lie ought to be exactly the same.  We don't buy into that logic.

Q.  Mike, to sort of specify the previous question, there is going to be a distinction between essentially the waste areas and bunkers with rakes.  At what point will that distinction be made? It can't just be up to a field official.

MIKE DAVIS: When you're out there, the bunkers will be prepped beforehand enough where we really believe the player is going to be able to tell where it's in an area that is never maintained, in other words, it's that ‑‑ it's that hard pan area, it's a sandy footprinted area, because when you get into a bunker now, in almost every case you start to see a depression going down.  And that's either been raked flat or it's been packed flat.

So I really think this is much to do about nothing.  I think, in most cases, when that ball gets to a point of a bunker, it's going to roll to the bottom.  When you really look at how these bunkers are built, most of the time the ball is just going to roll down, it's going to be pretty clear.  But there could be instances where it's right on the edge, it's still up on the flat part, and that's where on that rare occasion we've got a walking official that'll make that determination.  And ultimately if it's too close to call, we're just going to treat it as a hazard.  That's the way we've historically done it.

Q.  (Question of keeping spectators out of the waste areas. )

MIKE DAVIS: I think it's a little different than what happened to Dustin up at Whistling Straits because there they had a lot of bunkers outside the rope lines.  I don't see that happening here at Pinehurst No. 2.  Certainly you get some sandy wire grass areas outside of the ropes, but I don't know of a hole out there that's going to have a bunker outside the ropes.

Q.  You mentioned coming up player concerns you're aware of.  Can you give us a preview of what you're going to be talking about with the LPGA players? And then also maybe give us an idea if there's anything you can do about divots, because we know after the men's open, we know how a course looks the following Monday in certain areas with divots.  Is there anything that can be done that second week?

MIKE DAVIS: Well, Jeff, on the first one, yes, Mike Whan, who was actually here yesterday, spoke to our board and staff.  I'm going to go to a player meeting sometime next month and really talk to them about the intent of this.  We really haven't communicated at all in terms of, you know, why are they playing the second week, how are we going to set the golf course up, and I think when they hear, you know, what we're going to communicate, I think they're going to view it as, wow, this is great for women's golf.  This is going to showcase it.  We're going to have people watching who ordinarily wouldn't have watched.

You know, in terms of the divots, what's interesting, I think, first of all, we're on Bermudagrass.  Bermudagrass, the divots just simply aren't as big when you're on a bentgrass, where sometimes you see divots that are this big.

But yes, we will sand fill those, and on most of the holes, your drive zones are actually going to be for the women ahead of where the men played.  But as I mentioned, I can think of four holes, four par‑4s are just the way the drives are in either a cross bunker, the way they pinch in, I think you will see both groups kind of laying up to the same area, and certainly on the par‑5s you may see a lay‑up areas.  But I think our view with divots is it's just part of the game.  We've played U. S. Opens before ‑‑ I can think of Pebble Beach we've had Opens there where the public is playing up till right at the end, and there are divots all over the place, and the reality is that's just part of the game.  When you hit it in the fairway, sometimes you're not going to get a perfect lie.  When you hit it in the rough, sometimes you're going to get a perfect lie.  So one of the things I will tell you is that particularly on those four holes I mentioned, we'll certainly convey to the men before the U. S. Open, listen, this is an area of concern, because they're all short holes where they're going to be hitting wedges, nines, you know, concerns for themselves, but also concerns for the next week to say, listen, in the practice rounds, don't be back there hitting three or four shots and making all these divots.

Anyway, so that's the plan.

JOE GOODE: And I would say, Jeff, too, and I think Mike would agree with this.  Suffice it to say a lot of what he relays to you today would be largely what he relays to the LPGA as well.

Q.  This is for Tom.  I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the USGA's perspective on the movement to have ‑‑ play outside the rules for beginners, alternative golf formats.  How does the USGA look upon that when the goal is to help grow the game?

TOM O'TOOLE, JR. : Well, there have been some initiatives recently and one currently that contemplate larger holes and different implements in balls.  You know, our view is that if these programs or these initiatives will ultimately draw people to our game, then that's a good thing.  We're not going to call them golf, nor are we going to bring them in our governing of what we do in golf, nor will we have them operate under our golf rules, equipment standards.

So I think some of these things that would enhance or entice people to play golf by playing a different game, that's perfectly okay with us.  We certainly will never call them golf and won't treat them as such, but if they ultimately can get people to improve that skill of what would be a less burdensome game, not as difficult a game and ultimately move them to our game, that's good.

Q.  I'm not sure for which of you three guys this would be.  In general after the marriage of the R&A and the USGA and the Rules of Golf, the announcement of the local rules for range finders didn't seem to sound like the marriage was working all the time.  There were different dates?

JOE GOODE: Yeah, you're right.  I'll take this one, Joe.  We did, our championship committee on Wednesday and then our full executive committee on Thursday did issue a press release saying that in 2014 we would allow the local rule or condition to be adopted in all of our USGA amateur championships for 2014, the use of the electronic distance measuring device.

Now, it's not that there was out‑of‑sync announcements with the R&A.  They didn't occur at the same time, but when they were prepared to make their announcement, we had been in discussion with them.  Our championship committee had not met and fully vetted, and we didn't want to do that telephonically, and so we told the R&A that we would wait till our group assembled here in Pinehurst at our annual meeting and we would vet that subject.  So there's a little bit out‑of‑timing perception that occurred here, but there was ongoing discussion between ourselves and the R&A on this subject.

And remember, I'll remind you that they, if you recall, the vice chairman on the Rules of Golf committee, as did Mike in those years, there was great resistance to us having this local rule by them, and it was a long time bringing them along, and so the fact that they've accelerated and altered their point of view on this, I think, was a good thing.

And we think this will be a good thing from some of the other sustainability issues that we have in the game about its pace and from an optic standpoint, we're excited we can implement that for our amateur championships going forward.

Q.  Just wanted to know if there's been any movement on the idea of grandfathering long putters, anchored putters for people that do it now.

MIKE DAVIS: Well, as you know, John Paul, we issued a statement of our determination on the proposed Rule 14(1)(b) in July of this year, and we said that we would implement that in January 1 of 2016, and that's been our announcement.

So you know, when we went through this long and what was a polarizing issue to some people, we had a very mindful and thoughtful process internally and externally with people in the game.  We had a notice and commentary.  We had Mike and Mark Newell, who is the chairman of our rules committee, had a lot of interaction with people in the game and the respective allied organizations.  And so this issue was absolutely contemplated and part of that process.  So we're looking past that journey that we went through on anchoring, and we think the game's embracing it and we're looking forward to implementing that January 1 of '16.

Q.  Would you address the issue of the firmness of the fairways on No. 2 and how quicker they might play in '14 versus when you had the amateur here in '08?

MIKE DAVIS: Surely.  First of all, one of the neat things that Pinehurst as a resort decided to do two years ago ‑‑ and Tom Pashley may know the exact time ‑‑ they don't overseed with ryegrass anymore.  So when you look out there today, you're looking at dormant Bermuda.  So that in and of itself is always going to help the fairways.  They're not going to develop as much thatch organic matter as time goes on, and they really do play faster that way.

So you're going to see a U. S. Open relative to 1999 and 2005 that's absolutely wider.  I don't know how much wider, 40 percent, 50 percent wider, but it's a wider golf course than it used to be, and we want fast fairways.  I think that's thinking about what happens when your ball lands is, you know, we think a great part of golf.

One of the things you're also going to see, and we did this last year at Merion, is that we have really come to the conclusion that one of the ways to help the game of golf to make the game more enjoyable is looking at mow heights, and this is mow heights at championships and it's mow heights for day‑to‑day play for the recreational game, and in my time with the USGA, I've watched fairways.  When I first joined, the USGA cut it a half an inch, and they went down to a quarter of an inch, and guess what, it was like an arms race with greens speeds.  Same thing.

So we really think that it's better for the game to get the heights of grass in the fairways up.  It allows golfers to get a club under the ball.  And so we did that last year at Merion.  We literally went from a quarter inch almost up to a half an inch, and I don't know of one single player that complained about that.  But you know what, the members at Merion loved it.  And I think that's a message we're trying to send.

It's the same thing with green speeds.  There's been that kind of arms race with greens speeds.  And guess what that's done.  It's made the game more expensive; it's made it more time consuming.  In some cases it's compromised architecture.  It's caused more disease and other things, so this is a ‑‑ you know what, if we're going to try to message this for the everyday game, we should do it ourselves.  So we're going to have higher fairway cuts this time, but that doesn't mean they're going to be slower, because when a higher cut, believe it or not, you don't have to use as much water.  It keeps the plant healthier.  So that's our game plan for this year.

JOE GOODE: Thank you all for joining us today.  Enjoy the rest of the day.    

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

 

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