2013 PGA Championship Interview Transcript: PGA Championship


2013 PGA Championship Interview Transcript: PGA Championship

JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I'm The PGA of America's Julius Mason and I'd like to welcome you to our PGA Championship news conference. I think most of you are familiar with the gentlemen in front here, PGA President Ted Bishop in the middle, PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua next to me; and The PGA of America's Chief Championships Officer, Kerry Haigh.

TED BISHOP: Thanks, Julius and thanks, everybody, for turning out this morning. It's already been an exciting week here at the 95th PGA Championship at Oak Hill, and we are obviously thrilled to be back here for the third time to conduct a championship.

I was fortunate enough to be here on June 3 for Media Day. I played with our defending champion, Rory McIlroy, and thought it was interesting when I saw Rory last night at the champion's dinner, the first thing out of his mouth was, "Great golf course setup. Just absolutely great golf course setup."

I think that's been the most gratifying thing for me since I got here on Sunday is to hear all the compliments from players and caddies alike about, No. 1, the condition of the golf course, and secondly, the setup and I know you'll hear a little bit more from Kerry on that in a minute.

But I think the only thing that I want to have the opportunity to say here this morning is how great the membership at Oak Hill Country Club has been to work with. Thanks to Marty Glavin, general chair, and Ron Pluto, president of Oak Hill, for all their efforts and everything that all of their members have done to make this really a special week.

When you come into a venue like this and you have the acceptance and all those members embrace this championship for the interruption that it causes during their summer is pretty incredible. We don't always get that when we bring a major championship to a club like this, but very exciting.

From The PGA of America's standpoint, we look forward to our 20 club professionals that are in the field this week, led by our 2012 PGA professional Player of the Year, Rod Perry, who also, as you know, captured our 2013 PNC at Sunriver.

We take great pride in the fact that this is the strongest field in major golf. We have 99 of the Top 100 players here this week, and I just think  I don't know, I'm kind of like Ben Crenshaw; I've got this feeling that based on as great as the Majors have been all year, that something really memorable is going to happen this year at Oak Hill and look forward to Sunday afternoon.

I'd like to turn it over to our new CEO; he's not really new, he's been here nine months, Pete Bevacqua.

PETE BEVACQUA: Thank you, and thank you everyone for coming out this morning.

Just to echo Ted's thoughts, Rochester is such a golf savvy town and we have received such unbelievable support, it's really been incredible to see these first three days. Also, I think it's absolutely worth noting that the reception we've had from the State of New York and Governor Cuomo's office, almost unprecedented support. I think bringing a major championship into any part of the country is a big endeavor and it's big business for this region, and I want to thank the governor's office in the State of New York.

You'll hear more about this from Kerry, but we are really continuing to try to push the envelope this week of making this a spectator and fan friendly championship as possible, and working together with all of our broadcast partners, Turner, CBS and then on PGA.COM. Certainly looking forward to a great championship week, and from a personal point of view, this to be my first PGA Championship as CEO in New York. As a native New Yorker, it's a special week for me.

I'd like to turn it over to Kerry Haigh, who has been running our championships for over two decades and obviously doing an outstanding job.

KERRY HAIGH: Thank you, Pete, and good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 95th PGA Championship. This is my fourth major championship that I've been involved with here at Oak Hill, and golf course wise, I could not be happier with the overall conditioning of the golf course.

Superintendent, Jeff Corcoran, and his crew are probably the best superintendent that I have worked with in 20 plus years in this business. The work he and his staff have done have been truly outstanding. The overall playing conditions of the surfaces are second to none and we could not be happier with the overall with the conditioning.

I'll touch on the changes to the golf course and what we've done to the golf course since the 2003 PGA Championship. I think most people know that three greens were modified on holes 5, 6 and 15, softened a little bit.

Probably the biggest difference otherwise is what we've done with the mowing. In 2003, we had the step cut of rough, and then it went straight into the primary cut of rough. This year, we have the step cut, which is six, seven feet wide. It goes into an intermediate cut, and then into the primary cut. And the width of that intermediate cut varies depending upon the hole, depending if it's a dog leg, the length of that hole. So the intermediate cut varies in width.

The other major changes, the water comes into play on holes 5, 6 and 7, Allen's Creek there. In 2003, we had the primary rough between the playing area of the fairway and the creek, and in this case on hole 5, the fairway goes  we cut it down from fairway to step cut all the way to the creek, so any balls that may be moving to the right may go into the creek there.

On hole 6, when that green was redesigned, they also had to bank down from the green to the creek, instead of becoming a little more hollow, became a little more concave and smoother, and Jeff was able to put a lower cut of high grass on that bank. So, again, balls that would go or miss that green long, is now automatically pretty much going to go into the water hazard.

Balls that come up short left on that green will not roll down into the hazard. The slope is not as steep on the front end, but it is mowed down pretty low in that spot, too.

And the final hole, 7, where the creek comes into play, where your tee shot actually goes straight towards the creek, again, had rough between the fairway and the creek. And again, we have cut down the primary rough to step cut height so balls can roll certainly closer to the creek or in the creek; and if they do, if you take relief from the creek, with it being short grass, you now actually have a shot to the green which previously you were dropping in primary rough and were basically chipping out back on to the fairway.

They are the major changes to the golf course since 2003. The overall conditions we could not be happier with, and we are looking forward to a truly outstanding and exciting championship.

One other item I would just like to touch on, hole 15, Pete mentioned it, the PGA Championship Pick the Hole Location Challenge, Hosted by Jack Nicklaus. This was a collaborative effort between The PGA of America and Jack Nicklaus, and it is something that we are extremely excited about.

It's a new concept, and the reason for it were twofold. Firstly was to try to educate golfers and non golfers alike on what the best player in the world, 18 time major champion, would think about on that hole to four different hole locations. And if you go to PGA.COM and listen to what Jack spoke about, it is fascinating. I was truly fascinated listening to what he said; the best player in the world, when they are looking at the yardage book, what comes into his mind to play to each of those four hole locations.

The reason we chose hole 15 is that with the redesign, there's an awful lot of wonderful hole locations throughout the entire green. As you know there's water down one side, and a steep drop off behind that green. Any hole location on that green is challenging, is difficult, is interesting; so in terms of setting it up, from my standpoint, it was great. We had the three hole locations that we have already selected for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday, there were actually a lot more options than four for spectators and fans to call in and truly select a hole location to be used on the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday.

And the second reason for doing this is trying to get people more involved that previously are not involved in golf, and what better way than for them to partake, see, feel and touch in a major championship than selecting a hole location.

We are really excited about it and it's been truly well received; the first two weeks, we have had over 250,000 hits and over 55,000 people have already voted. The voting closes this Saturday at 5:00 PM, so people still have a chance to select a hole location on the 69th hole of the PGA Championship.

So with that said, I'm excited about the week, and as I say, looking forward to four great days of championship golf and looking forward to seeing what happens.

JULIUS MASON: Ted, Pete, Kerry, thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to go to Q&A.

Q. With the pick a pin, normally the caddies when they are on the green will walk off where the hole is going to be the next day. On Saturday, they won't have that chance. I mean, is that a possibility, because they close the voting at 5:00; is that a possibility that they might have an idea of where it's going to be?

KERRY HAIGH: It's been quite interesting, had a number of caddies out there when I was out there, so they had a look at all four hole locations that you can vote for. They were certainly studying them, covering all scenarios. So I think it should be good. They, too, can vote (laughter).

Q. Ted, I understand that you've said in 2016, the PGA would move to July. Are you planning to just kick the British Open off the calendar, or what's going to happen?

TED BISHOP: (Laughing). Well, No. 1, I was asked that question yesterday, speculation in reference to an article that Doug Ferguson had written if there was any chance the PGA Championship would be played in October of 2016, and my answer was, at this point, I don't see that being likely.

I talked about the fact that everything was going to be shifted; everything, being possibly The Open Championship and the PGA Championship a little bit in 2016 to accommodate the Olympic schedule. I did indicate that in all likelihood the PGA Championship would probably be played the latter part of July in 2016, but I also went on to say that nothing had been officially decided.

Q. First, along those lines, when you look at how jumbled it's going to be in 2016 with an Olympics and knowing that a Ryder Cup is always going to be in an Olympic year, at some point, do you ask yourself, is it worth it to have golf in the Olympics?

TED BISHOP: Well, I think the worldwide exposure for golf that it's going to gain from the Olympics and the lead up to the Olympics, Doug, is going to be good for the game in general.

I mean, there's no question it's going to present some challenges in the schedule. But, you know, I'd like to think that the major championships and The Ryder Cup are well enough established in the annals of golf that the Olympics is going to have no negative impact on any of those events in any way, shape or form.

Q. Secondly, for Pete, there's been some talk over the last couple of years whether Torrey would be interested in a PGA Championship. Just curious if you could say whether they have asked to host, and where that stands if they have.

PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, Doug, I would tell you, part of our strategy is to look at locations and potential locations, obviously for both the PGA Championship and The Ryder Cup.

We don't have any definitive answers regarding the West Coast, other than we think being on the West Coast makes a lot of sense at some point in the future. So we certainly have our eye on different venues on the West Coast. We think it's important to bring the PGA Championship to that part of the country, as well as The Ryder Cup at some point, and it's certainly a priority of the organizations.

Q. Pete and Ted, either/or, obviously you're signed through 2018 for the PGA Championship. Here in Rochester, you've been on our map for more than a decade, there's always been a PGA of America event coming. What is the situation moving forward beyond 2018? Is Oak Hill going to be back in the rotation at some point, do you think?

PETE BEVACQUA: I would say, and Ted and Kerry, hop in, we have nothing definitive post 2018. It goes without saying that this week has been amazing, the reception we have received from Oak Hill and Rochester and the State of New York.

But again, we have not thought much past this week. This is the most critical week of the year for PGA of America and all of our attention and all of Kerry's attention is making sure the next four days go as well as possible. Kerry, anything to add?

KERRY HAIGH: We have a wonderful relationship with the club and community here in Oak Hill and in Rochester. We love the championships we've had here, and just like other sites, once we are through and finished here, we'll certainly look to be talking and seeing what the interest is of the club, because it's a two way street, certainly.

Q. With the redesign of some of the rough and greens, there's been some talk that many players may not be hitting driver until the 17th hole; there will be a lot of 3 woods out there. Is there any concern about that? Fans love the long ball and there's not going to be very many driving holes this week; is there any concern about that?

KERRY HAIGH: Not in the least. I think that's always been  in 2003, that's recently been the case. 7,163 long yards long, it's not a long course, but you have to position your tee shot on the fairway and on the correct side of the fairway to allow you to play into the hole.

I think that's part of the challenge and the mystique of why it's such a wonderful golf course and a wonderful venue in that it takes  any player can win. It's not necessarily just a long hitter's course. You have to maneuver, position the golf ball to the right spots. So it doesn't worry us at all, no.

Q. About the green speeds, are they about where you want them now, and is your philosophy to try to keep them in place throughout the championship, or to allow them to kind of naturally progress speed wise?

KERRY HAIGH: We are very happy that we are at championship speed today, pretty much all week, and very happy with them. Depending on the weather, there is a chance of rain this afternoon, so obviously we have to modify whatever our process is based on Mother Nature, which we always do. But no, I'm very happy with the greens.

The conditioning of this course is just unbelievable, and I could not be happier with it.

Q. In light of all the incidents with rules we've had in golf and call ins, is the PGA's philosophy still the same with a walking official with just the last few groups on the weekend?

KERRY HAIGH: Yeah, The PGA of America Rules Committee, we have representatives on every hole, positioned on the hole, all 18 holes, throughout the week, as well as ten roving officials who are there to help with timing and/or other issues.

And then on Saturday and Sunday, we have walking officials with the last five groups both Saturday and Sunday, and we have done that for many years, and very comfortable with it. It seems to work well, and very happy with the way we have it.

Q. Mostly for Kerry, but both gentlemen, feel free to chime in. The idea of player input, it's been a big theme in Majors this year. Phil Mickelson in the British Open on Thursday making the comment about the greens being too fast and they seemed to progressively slow down. What is the stance on player input and how much will it affect you this week?

KERRY HAIGH: To be honest, I think we have a plan that we've had in place for 18 months, and we will follow that plan subject to what Mother Nature throws at us. I don't really have a whole lot of time, other than to finish that plan and make sure it happens.

That's my concern, and just like any golfer, we all have opinions of how it should be set up or what should be done, but ultimately we try to make it a fair test for the best players in the world. We have the strongest field in golf and we want to present a golf course that allows them to play, show their skills, and let's see who the best player is to win the Wanamaker Trophy, lift the trophy on Sunday.

TED BISHOP: The only thing I would add to that, and this is a testimony to Kerry over the years, but I think there's a high level of confidence among the contestants at the PGA Championship, year in, year out, they kind of know what they are going to get from a course setup standpoint.

I think if you talk to any of the players that have played in the championship over the years, they love this setup; they know there's going to be challenges, and they know that at the same time they are going to have a chance to go out and be aggressive and make some birdies on some holes.

I think the great thing about the PGA Championship is we have never gotten caught up in what the under par score is going to be to win this championship.

Q. I want to know some numbers about green speed in the few days on this weekend, and can you talk about the big difference compared with the other three Majors, the course setups, the biggest difference?

KERRY HAIGH: The first question, I'm not sure  the green speed?

Q. Can you tell some numbers of the green speed?

KERRY HAIGH: Championship speed. (Laughter).

Q. Can you tell me anything that you think it could be?

KERRY HAIGH: It's a speed that's appropriate to the greens that we feel is right. We don't give out a number. To be honest we don't think that's necessarily good for the overall country clubs out there; I don't. I think everyone hears a number and then everyone starts saying, well, we need it at this number. I think all clubs should set at a green speed that is appropriate for their play and the quality of their members and the slope of those greens. Throwing out numbers, I'm just not comfortable; so it's a green speed that is appropriate for a championship and the best players in the world.

Q. What is the biggest difference compared with the other three Majors, the course setup?

KERRY HAIGH: I can only speak for what we do, and we are very happy for what it is, and I'll leave it to you to judge what the others do. Each have their own unique characteristics?

Q. You mentioned the positive response to pin placements on 15. Yesterday Tiger Woods was asked about the program to choose the pin placement and he was very positive and thought it was a great idea to bring fan participation, and thought it would be great to do it all four days so the fans could be more involved. Any comment to that point?

PETE BEVACQUA: Yeah, I would say, as Kerry mentioned at the beginning here, this is the first year we rolled this out. It's funny, when we talked to Jack Nicklaus, he had a similar thought, he wanted to do it for all four days. We will see how it goes. It's had an overwhelmingly positive reception and that's definitely something we'll consider going forward. We didn't want to do too much, too soon. We only wanted to proceed in a matter if something had a positive effect on the championship.

Q. Forgive me if this has been asked before, but I've been coming for over 30 years and enjoyed looking at the sign that says, "PGA Championship, Glory's Last Shot." Now I come in and see it's, "The Season's Final Major." What caused the change? Have you had grammar lessons, or what?

TED BISHOP: John, you're killing me (laughing). You forget we gave you this award at the golf writer's dinner.

We have had conversations the last few months with the PGA TOUR, and one of the questions that we had of Commissioner Finchem and the players was to consider playing the FedExCup in four consecutive weeks the year of The Ryder Cup in 2014.

Our captain felt like that it was imperative that our players had a week off prior to THE TOUR Championship and the beginning of The Ryder Cup, and in exchange, one of the things that Commissioner Finchem asked us to consider was dropping the tag line of Glory's Last Shot.

He was very provocative and emphasized the fact that the PGA Championship is the strongest field in major golf; that it stands on its own merits and that there was golf that was played after the PGA Championship, most notably the FedExCup. I think that we feel that our championship does stand on its own merits and there is other golf that's played after this championship, albeit not major golf.

And so that was just one example of some of the many things that I feel like we have been able to work together and accomplish hand in hand with the PGA TOUR. I think it was a change that was good for them, and obviously the week off prior to The Ryder Cup, hopefully will be good for our players.

PETE BEVACQUA: And if I can just add, it was interesting, because we were having internal conversations about the same topic: Does this tag line make sense? What is it really doing, if anything, for the Championship? And then to hear the perspective of the TOUR and Commissioner Finchem; and then when we had a conversation with our broadcast partner, CBS, it was three entities that all quickly came to the same conclusion that, you know what, there's just not much in that tag line and we don't feel it's doing much for the PGA Championship, so let's not stick with it. Let's think what else is out there.

The final major is more of a description than a tag line, and we think we feel good about the decision.

Q. Kerry, the discussion of green speed, and you said championship green speed; one of the things we are dealing with is pace of play in golf right now, that's the biggest problem. Your mentioning of the speed itself, country clubs tend to go to  we have a 12.5, a 13.5 and do it as a vanity. Are they slowing down the game by speeding up the greens?

KERRY HAIGH: Well, I think it's a good point. Certainly for recreational golfers, the faster the greens, the more difficult, the more putts you'll have; so the slower it is.

I think part of our initiative is to try to, well, for all golfers, want to play at a reasonable speed and that certainly is one way to help the pace of play and that is not to have too much speed.

From an agronomic speed, it's better for a superintendent to try not to achieve significant green speeds, certainly in the heat of summer, but at any time of the year. You can play quicker, enjoy the game more and that's what we all want. We want people to be playing golf and enjoying the game. That's a good point.

TED BISHOP: I think the other thing that I would add, too, when you talk about the number, the number is going to be affected by the contour of the greens. 13 on flat greens is going to be a whole lot different than 13 on undulated greens. So I think that's why anybody that's running a major championship would be hesitant to throw a number out there.

Q. In the same way, discussing the stressing of the greens, when we go to that quick speed of 13.5, it's a daily stressing of the greens itself and extra cost for the golf course for the superintendent; so vanity seems to be the problem with speed and it slows down the game and makes the cost of the superintendent's budget higher, etc. Is there a solution to that?

KERRY HAIGH: I think education is a solution and I think the more people realize and golfers realize, it does do exactly what you said, so I think we've answered that.

Q. As it now stands, there are a lot of golf fans in the major American cities who don't have the PGA available this week on CBS. I'm wondering if you can share any concerns you may have over the situation as it now stands.

PETE BEVACQUA: Well, absolutely, our goal is to make sure that the PGA Championship is as visible and as watchable to as many people as possible, obviously in the country and across the world, really. CBS has done a great job of keeping us up to speed of their negotiations. I don't think it's really our position to comment on the negotiations that CBS is having with TimeWarner, other than that they have done a great job of keeping us really a breast of any developments, almost on a constant basis.

So we will continue to keep an eye on it as weekend coverage draws closer.

Q. From a question a few minutes ago, from your perspective, The Ryder Cup the last three times, it's been really decided by one match on Sunday, which coincides with the advent of the FedExCup. Do you think the Americans are doing better because they are more in form because of the FedExCup or that they are better players than they used to be?

TED BISHOP: If you look at the history of the last 13 Ryder Cups, seven of the last 13 have been decided by one point or less and nine of the last 13 by two points or less.

I've told this story before, it's pretty interesting. There was a situation at Wales, Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler were playing their second match in the alternate shot and Furyk had hooked his shot outside the ropes in the mud. They got relief from casual water. Fowler took the drop. Just happened to take the drop with the ball that he was carrying in his pocket that he was teeing off with on the odd numbered holes. In match play, it resulted in loss of hole.

Fast forward: Furyk and Fowler win the 18th hole to halve the match with Westwood and Kaymer. So that drop made a half a point difference in the outcome of that Ryder Cup. Had we gotten that half point, that Ryder Cup would have been a 14 14 tie, United States would have retained The Ryder Cup because we had gone in there as the defending champion from Valhalla.

You fast forward to Medinah. Tiger Woods is standing on the 18th tee with a 1 up lead over Molinari, if he halves that hole it's a 14 14 tie and the United States has now retained three Ryder Cups. I mean, that's how close this competition has been.

I don't know if the Europeans are any better today than they were six or eight years ago, but I will say this: I think that the closeness of these Ryder Cups was one of the reasons that we picked Tom Watson as our captain.

I think if you're looking at any intangible that a captain might make in a Ryder Cup, you look at a guy like Watson with his success and his experience playing in Scotland, and you say, hey, you know what, maybe somewhere along the line during the week, he's going to be worth a point or a half a point to somebody and that will be the difference in the outcome.

Q. Do you think the FedExCup will hurt or help?

TED BISHOP: You know, I don't think that it's probably impacted The Ryder Cup much that way one way or the other. Although I do think  and I know Tom was very emphatic about this in my discussions with him, really, from day one; that he did think that due to the number of weeks in a row or six out of eight weeks that these guys play leading up to The Ryder Cup, that he had some concerns that our players, particularly when we were playing a foreign Ryder Cup, and you had to deal with the time change and the travel, that there was a fatigue factor.

As I said, that was one of the things that we openly talked with with the Commissioner, and I thought that, you know, it was interesting. When this topic came up on the PGA TOUR Policy Board and the players such as Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, who were former Ryder Cup players, found out that this was a priority to Tom and it was important; the players on the PGA TOUR Policy Board thought the change was significant enough to The Ryder Cup that they voted in favor of it.

Q. I'm not really sure exactly who might answer this, but with the Olympic situation happening in 2016, and you've talked about the possibility of moving into July, there's two questions. One is, is when would you then make the selection of players at a Ryder Cup, would it change? And then b, will there be points given towards the American Ryder Cup players that actually play in the Olympics?

KERRY HAIGH: Alex, I'll answer that. Until this point, until we know the schedule, how it will fully shake out, we will then determine when points will stop and start or what the captain's picks, etc., etc. All of that will be discussed and talked about, but it is too early to give a definitive answer at this point.

Q. In terms of Official World Golf Ranking, this championship has the deepest field of players out of all major championships this year. However, there are a few players outside of the Top 100 that were selected. For example, Ryo Ishikawa is ranked 163rd. Can you share a little bit about the selection process and the deciding factors in that?

KERRY HAIGH: Certainly, basically our selection criteria is listed and there's a number of exempt categories through which players can qualify.

In addition to that, we have the ability to invite players and we look at many factors, including Money Lists from all around the world: Japan, Europe, U.S., Australia, as well as the World Golf Rankings.

One of the issues with the World Golf Rankings is that it is based over a two year period and there are occasions where a player may not play over the two years or just started and playing extremely well. They are getting points, but because the minimum divisor, have only played 20 some events, and the World Golf Rankings minimum divisor is 40, so it affects them and hurts them.

We look at that, and if there are players that are playing well on other tours, we certainly consider them. We want to see new, upcoming, exciting players be given the opportunity to play against the best players in the world. And going back, I think Ernie Els is a name that comes to mind, we did the same many years ago. Ishikawa, as you say, we have done that a few years ago.

We look at all aspects, worldwide golf, Money Lists, etc., and if there is one who is deserving, we certainly look. And the committee meets probably April, right about Augusta, all the way through to last Monday a week before the championship, three or four times, we talk, discuss, meet, make recommendations and then determine who gets invited and who does not.

JULIUS MASON: Questions? Questions twice? Ladies and gentlemen, I think you heard Ted say that he has a feeling something special is going to happen on Sunday; Pete, as a native New Yorker couldn't be happier the 95th PGA Championship is right here in New York; Kerry couldn't be happier with the overall condition of the golf course; and all four of us couldn't be happier that you are joining us this week at the season's final major which is no longer Glory's Last Shot.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

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