U.S. Open Press Conference: Mike Davis and Dan Burton
BETH MAJOR: Good evening. Thank you for joining us in the media center following the 2014 U.S. Open championship at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club. We're very happy to have with us USGA executive director Mike Davis and USGA vice-chairman and chairman of the championship committee Dan Burton. Gentlemen, can we ask you to offer a few thoughts in terms of the 2014 U.S. Open championship?
DAN BURTON: This is totally unrehearsed, so I hope I don't say anything too stupid. What a week. This is my first year as championship chair. You never really know what to expect. I just could not be more proud of our whole team. I couldn't be more proud of our partners at Pinehurst. I think the golf course played magnificently. I think it was what we want, which is a comprehensive examination of your skills. And I think what came out is that Martin Kaymer has the skills, because he sure played beautifully. I think we presented the last two days a very fair but demanding test of golf. I think that's what we would hope to do on Saturday and Sunday. The golf course is in beautiful condition. The greens were in absolutely magnificent shape. I don't think I've ever seen putting greens roll as pure as these putting greens rolled the last four days. And they're in great shape heading into next week. We anticipate they'll be equally as good next week. The surrounds held up well. The golf course held up well. The weather turned out to be great. But I think we saw great play, but we also saw that if you don't hit a precise shot on these greens then you have a difficult shot. And I think that's exactly what happened. And I think the restoration also proved itself to be exactly what we'd hoped. I think if you look back we keep -- I saw the stats through the first two days, I haven't seen them for the complete tournament, but the per penalty as a rough calculation that we make is not much different from '99, 2005 and this year, which I think says that the restoration is not only is a great sustainability project, but is also -- creates the same kind of penalty that the deep rough did. In almost every respect, I can't think of a single thing that just didn't go marvelously. I suppose at the end we'd all like it to come down to one shot, but Martin Kaymer played spectacular. So hats off to him. Hats off to everybody. I just think it's a tremendous, tremendous success for us.
MIKE DAVIS: Sure. Not many comments before we open it up to question and answer. I, too, thought the golf course played beautifully. What's interesting about this is what you see out there right now is not significantly different than what a resort guest would see or what the women will see for next week. I think the difference is for normal play, the greens simply aren't this fast, they aren't this firm. One of the things is they can literally, if they wanted it, open it up for resort play tomorrow, just slow the greens down, and bingo, there you are. To Dan's point about the restoration, it was just marvelous. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, along with the leadership here at Pinehurst, deserve so many accolades for the job they did. In terms of our champion, it is fun to watch somebody not only execute that well, but think that well around the course. And he really did both. His course management skills were just outstanding. And his execution was great. When he got into trouble, he fought himself out of trouble well. So it was great. I think we're excited about going into next week. The golf course held up beautifully, ergonomically, in terms of its health. The greens could not be healthier. They will get a nice drink tonight. And I think we're extremely well positioned for next week. The closely mown surrounds, hardly any divoting in terms of how it's going to affect play at all. And I think the divoting out in the drive zones, while it's there, I just don't see it being much of an issue next week. It's nice firm turf. And watching some of the LPGA players walk around today, I think they were very excited about what they saw. With that, we'll open it up for questions.
Q. The success of the U.S. Open, it seems like Oakland Hills would be a great choice for a roughless U.S. Open because of all the uneven lies and terrific terrain. When are we going to go back to Oakland Hills and when might we see another roughless U.S. Open?
DAN BURTON: The selection -- I think all of you know the selection of where we go is a complex selection that involves a number of us, Mike and several other people, including me. We try to evaluate literally hundreds of items. So we really don't discuss in public when we might go back. As far as roughless, I'll have to turn that one to you.
MIKE DAVIS: Sure. On that one, we have tried to the extent we can, while still trying to make it a challenging comprehensive test, we do try to fit the architecture and the personality, if you will, of each golf course to a U.S. Open. So here, this is very much what Pinehurst No. 2 is like on a day-to-day basis. Certainly not as firm and fast, but this is how it is. And when we were at Merion last year, when you go to Merion, any time you go there it has -- it's got very thick rough. That's part of its personality. Go to Oakmont, fast greens. Pebble Beach, firm, fast conditions in the summer. Wind. So if we went to an Oakland Hills, I would look at it and say, well, what's Oakland Hills -- what's it normally like? What's its personality? And it's got fairly thick bluegrass rough. So I'm not sure we're looking for roughless golf courses. And I wouldn't even define this as roughless. I think when you got off the fairway, it was just a different type of situation.
Q. Talking about the restoration, when you do something like that, as you said, it's very progressive, and it's moving towards sustainability. I think as you've seen this year, there's a traditional mindset out there that green is good, which I disagree with. But my question would be how do I fight that perception and show people that actually this is the right way to treat a course like this?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, I think that the green is good, or the brown is the new green. I think we need to be very careful we clarify what we mean here. What we really are after is a couple of things. One is just less water used on golf courses, firmer conditions. So that doesn't mean we're looking for brown golf courses. Some golf courses with some type of grasses, if they get brown they are going to die. So I think that's a little bit of a misnomer. And the other thing is just trying for less manicured golf courses when you get off the fairway, so the concept of the maintenance down the middle, to literally reduce some of the costs and so on. And I would contend and many other people would contend that it makes for more interesting golf when you do that.
DAN BURTON: I think by having the national championship of the United States at a golf course like this, we hope to -- I don't think you ever change public perception overnight, but over time if we go places where we show there are options and there are sustainability issues, it helps move that perception somewhat.
Q. Mike, did you see anything regarding the greens and the turtleback nature of them, given the firmness and the speed that you have them that causes you any concern that the greens are something that perhaps could be adjusted for more fairness or more pin positions or whatever?
MIKE DAVIS: Good question. I would hope that we're at a point where we adjust our set up conditions to meet the architecture instead of the other thing. I think there's been -- over the years, it's not just for our championship, but golf in general, this desire for speed. That hasn't done golf any favors in terms of the cost of the game, the time it takes to play. So if we get on real undulating or sloped greens and they need to be ten on the Stimpmeter for a U.S. Open, we should have them at ten on the Stimp. There's nothing out there that I would say we need to have less slope on them. If anything, we need to adjust our set up for that.
Q. Just to follow up, you're comfortable at the 12 and a half that you basically ran the greens at, given the slopes?
MIKE DAVIS: I think for this level of play, the answer is yes. What's really interesting about that question is it's not just the speed of the greens, it's firmness with speed. You can get them fast. And if they're soft, they're playable. Or if you get them firm and they're slower, they might not be playable. So it's a combination of the two. And if you watched out there, the last four days, while the firmness wasn't always the same, well executed shots hit to those greens could be held, yet they were still fast. So I think there's -- it's a little bit of both.
Q. You have a lot of interesting balancing act next week with the women. You said you would like to see them hitting the same clubs in. To do that, their landing areas are going to have to be forward. Now some of those fairways are getting narrower. What are you going to be watching for over the next few days? Are you going to be out there a lot talking to women? What are you going to be monitoring and concerned about in terms of setup going into Thursday?
MIKE DAVIS: Certainly Ben Kimble, who is the lead on our Women's Open, and myself and the rest of the team will be watching. And you're right, there are some holes where -- I mean, the first hole right off the bat, you've got to think that the majority of the women will probably play to the same landing zone that the men played. They'll just maybe -- they'll play from a tee ground shorter. But there would be probably special other holes that we may make up that difference. So if the women are hitting, say, two clubs more into the first hole, we might look at another hole, and say let's catch up on this particular hole and have them hit two less clubs into it, something like that. But the thing that we'll have to be mindful of is just like there is on the PGA TOUR with the men this week, that from top to bottom there's a pretty big difference from the longest hitter and the shortest hitter. We say the same thing with the women, too. You can't look at a Michelle Wie or Suzanne Pettersen or Jessica Corda and look at their difference, you've got to look at the whole field. That's what we'll be spending a lot of time -- we've actually collected a lot of data this past week from the men. So we know the caddies have been tremendously helpful for us. We know, not for all the players, but the vast majority of the players, what they hit off tees, what they hit into greens. So it will be helpful. And we obviously know their landing zones, as well.
Q. Two questions. Was there a video review by the committee of Martin Kaymer's third shot on the 10th hole?
MIKE DAVIS: Yes, there was a check. There was apparently some question about whether Martin double hit his third shot. And we looked at it from -- I didn't personally look at it, but the USGA, our rules committee looked at it from several different angles, and there's absolutely -- we talked to Martin before he returned his scorecard, and he felt absolutely no chance he double hit it. We looked at it in slow motion, high def. We didn't see any indication that there was a double hit.
Q. Earlier today there was a lot of criticism from Andy North, Dottie Pepper and people like that, feeling like the setup was set up too much for good scoring. Of course, it ended up not really working out that way. But how do you feel philosophically about going into Sunday where you are trying to encourage scoring, and people not liking that element of the U.S. Open?
MIKE DAVIS: Well, what I've learned over the years is that what people want out of a U.S. Open, there's a lot of different flavors. What I like may not be what Dan likes, and may not be what you like. But that's okay. I think there's some that want to see pitch out rough every year, some that don't want to see any rough. At the end of it, what we really did was try to make Sunday, today, a good, stern, comprehensive test. But we also wanted to give some opportunities where we could see some spread in scoring. So whether it was one of the drivable par-4s, whether it was the par-5s that were reachable in two, where you might have seen an eagle, birdie. But you also may have seen a bogey or worst. That was the mindset going into it. I think it did play well.
DAN BURTON: I would say the numbers don't support their conclusion. They were wrong, I think.
Q. Mike, a lot of estimates before the championship that par or right around par or 1-under would be a good winning score. Didn't turn out that way, not to say you're picking a winning score, but 9-under is pretty significant. Are you comfortable with that winning score, if that was a validation of the setup or perhaps it might have been easier than you expected, I wonder what your views were on that?
MIKE DAVIS: You know, very good question. For me, I just don't tend to look at what the score -- that for me is not a metric on whether it was a good set up for the week. I look at it as how the golf course played. I can remember we got some criticism in 2000 because Tiger shot 12-under at Pebble Beach. And I kind of scratched my head thinking, okay, the best score for the other 155 players was 3-over. So to me we should celebrate what Martin Kaymer did this week. He executed beautifully. He thought beautifully. Course management went well. It was fun. I walked with him the last two days, and to watch his course management and his execution was just brilliant. I mean, to me I like a course setup where if you do all the right things you get rewarded. And to me that's what this restoration and this golf course gave. So I thought it was terrific.
Q. Mike, a lot of talk about sustainability this week and Pinehurst has been showcased now to the general public. Do you hope that the general public embraces this kind of course with its native areas and less water use as a way of changing golf in the future?
MIKE DAVIS: Very good question. You know, to me, this movement, which we hope is a movement, has to start with the golfer. It can't start with the superintendent, because the superintendent is going to do what the owner, the operator, the president, the green chairman, whoever is running it ultimately wants. So they're going to think in terms of what my customers want. What does my member want? So if the average golfer can be accepting of firmer conditions, of conditions that maybe aren't as perfect out in the periphery, that's what's going to start this movement. And I think that if you get outside of the United States, you go throughout Europe, you go to South America, you get to Africa, Australia, there is a different mindset for golf there. People are more accepting of that mindset. And here in the United States it seems like lush conditions are celebrated. And all we're trying to say is firm conditions probably are the future of the game. They're better for the environment. Water is a precious resource. And frankly, I think for most golfers, firm conditions are more fun conditions. And that's the thing we've got to get across is that enjoy firm conditions, because you get more bounce. You get more roll. You can bounce balls into greens. It just makes golf more interesting. So to me it has to start with the golfer. It may take a generation or two, but I think that to the extent that we can start to slowly change mindsets, because this mindset of just perfect conditions, whether it's a bunker, fairway, rough, and lush conditions, this is really only happened in the last generation or two. When I was a kid -- it was not long ago that it wasn't like that. It can change back.
BETH MAJOR: Mike, Dan, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate you taking some time with us.
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