WEDNESDAY AT THE U.S. OPEN: USGA: "We are ready"

Jun. 11, 2014 @ 09:12 PM

Think of a kid on Christmas Eve, a diehard baseball fan on the Sunday before Opening Day, or perhaps soccer/football/futbol fans around the world today.

Dan Burton, the USGA championship chair vice-president, had all of that passion ready to roll during Wednesday morning's USGA press conference - to give the state of Pinehurst No. 2 on the eve of two U.S. Open Championships.

"Finally," Burton started, "the thousands of hours of planning, preparation, contingent planning for this historic two weeks is over. Let me say succinctly and clearly, we are ready."

The bottom line - it's finally just time to play.

"Golfers and golf fans alike are in for a treat the next two weeks," Burton said.

There are still questions, not only about leaderboards, to be answered.

At this point, most of the answers are out of any person's control.

Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, has been involved in a daily, on-course meetings with Pinehurst staff for about a week.

"At our 2:30 (p.m.) daily meetings," Davis said, "the first thing after we talk about the weather forecast is we talk about the greens. I can honestly say, we wouldn't be doing anything differently if we weren't having the Women's Open next week than we are right now."

Davis called the greens "perfect" and while fast and firm, with a target of "mid 12s" on the stimpmeter for both tournaments, "they're so healthy right now, we're confident into next week."

"Once we get through Sunday, we'll assess where we are," he said. "I'm quite certain they'll get a drink and then we'll come into the Women's Open just like we did for the Men's Open."

That's been the same plan throughout the course set-up. Pinehurst No. 2 will be up to 7,560 yards this week; then a little over 6,600 yards for the women.

"Our intent is to try to test both groups of golfers in a like manner," Davis said.

There's some art and some science, some skill and some waiting on the weather, Davis fully admits.

"Whether we're actually able to pull that off or not is another story," he said.

Green speed, preparation - or for the most part, lack of manicuring - the bunkers and waste areas and general hole locations will be the same for both championships.

There were the USGA's version of shout-outs. USGA president Thomas O'Toole Jr. thanked the more than 6,400 volunteers and the First Tee of Sandhills which is running Pinehurst's Thistle Dhu Putting Course for the two weeks.

Davis complimented Robert Dedmon Jr., owner of Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, for being a fine keeper of "a national treasure." He continued praising the work led by Bob Farren, director of golf course maintenance and grounds for Pinehurst, and the course staff.

"Folks, if you don't get the support of the grounds staff, this thing is never going to work," Davis said.

The restoration led by Farren and the course architecture team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw received a final, at least concerning the back to back Opens, seal of USGA approval.

"(Coore and Crenshaw) are masters at their profession, but they're two gentlemen, too," Davis said.

"It really - as Bill Coore likes to say - we're looking back in time," he said.

"It's marvelous to see how it turned out."

While the restored course turns back the clock to some three generations ago. Davis said, "in some respect we're looking at the future, too."

Greens, Davis said, followed by bunkers are the two biggest budget expenses for golf courses.

Pinehurst No. 2 before the restoration used 55 million gallons of water a year. It's now using 15 million gallons per year.

If bunkers, meant to be hazards and penalizing anyway, are largely left in a natural state, it winds up being less maintenance throughout sand and rough areas on a course.

Even though Farren, Coore, Crenshaw and Pinehurst didn't go into the last few years with conservation in mind, Davis believes some course superintendents, pros, owners and managers across the country might watch these Opens are see some lessons.

The Pinehurst and USGA relationship will continue as the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships, for men and women, will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 and No. 4 in May 2017.

"We are grateful to the leadership people at Pinehurst," Burton said, "for our long-standing partnership and their support of the amateur game."

For the present and through next Sunday, gratitude for all the work which has been done in getting Pinehurst ready will be characterized in the opportunity to enjoy the game.