With four months still to go before the USGA hosts the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open in back-to-back weeks at Pinehurst No. 2, executive director Mike Davis spoke Friday about some of the organization's goals for course setup, as well as its plans to address logistical concerns that could arise as they transition between events.
While the men will play the par-70 layout at 7,500 yards this summer, the length for the women will be approximately 6,700 yards the following week. Davis explained that the goal will be to make the course play similarly for all competitors.
"The idea was on a given hole, if the men are hitting drivers, we want to see the women hit drivers," said Davis. "If the men are hitting, say, 6 to 8-irons for their approach shots, that's what we want women to do."
He added that the key factor in deciding to play the men's event prior to the women's was the putting surfaces, which Davis indicated will roll to 11.5 on the Stimpmeter for both events.
"It really gets down to the putting greens," he noted. "They're going to be the same green speed for both weeks, but the first week, and if Mother Nature is cooperative, they're going to be slightly firmer."
Davis also explained that while the landing area for the women will be slightly ahead of that of the men on most holes, there will be a handful of par-4 holes where the women could be hitting tee shots into areas littered by sand-filled divots left by the men.
"I think you will see both groups laying up to the same area, and certainly on the par 5s you may see (similar) lay-up areas. But I think our view with divots is it's just part of the game," said Davis. "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," he added, "sometimes you're not going to get a perfect lie."
While questions surrounding course setup will continue to circle as the events approach, Davis also addressed some of the logistical issues that come with immediately moving from one event to the next.
According to Davis, the women "are going to be welcome that week beforehand just like the men," and the short-game practice area will be open to the women during the weekend rounds of the men's event.
"I think that's just going to add intrigue to the U.S. Open week," he noted. "In terms of actually hitting balls on the range after the men are through on Sunday, we're going to open it up to the women."
Davis also addressed what likely looms as a worst-case scenario for the USGA: an 18-hole playoff for the men on Monday, which would otherwise be the first day of event week 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," he added. "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."