- The Washington Times - Monday, June 15, 2009

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) - This might be as close as golf gets to a doubleheader.

The USGA said Monday the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open will be held over consecutive weeks in 2014 at Pinehurst No. 2, the first time in golf that women have a chance to share the stage with the men.

“It’s a big opportunity,” said USGA executive director David Fay, who came up with the idea. “I really do think this will generate some buzz for women’s golf and the Women’s Open. And I think a lot of people will take advantage.”

The U.S. Open already was scheduled to return to Pinehurst in 2014 for the third time in 15 years. The Women’s Open has been held three times at nearby Pine Needles since 1996, but never at the fabled No. 2 course at Pinehurst.

Tiger Woods was surprised to hear the news Monday, immediately curious how the course will play.

Fay said Pinehurst No. 2 would be a perfect fit for this doubleheader, mainly because there is no rough around the turtleback greens that Donald Ross design. He said the greens would be slightly softer, and the course would play shorter for the women.

“It seems like a good move,” David Duval said. “The course is already set up and ready to play. And their tee boxes will be that much more pristine.”

Holding back-to-back championships on the same course should save time and money. The USGA already will have tents in place for corporate hospitality, concessions and the media. The ropes already will line the fairway. And there will be no need to tear down, transport and rebuild grandstands and scoreboards.

“It’s a lot like tennis tournaments,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “I think there’s a lot of interest in the U.S. Women’s Open. You might have people who had to choose between one or the other now stay for two weeks and watch both of them.”

Even so, not even Fay knows what to expect.

He is confident the USGA can find a large enough volunteer base to devote time over two weeks to provide transportation, scoring and to work as marshals. Officials have five years to develop a creative ticketing plan for those wanting to stay two weeks.

There is some concern that grandstands won’t be nearly as full for the U.S. Women’s Open, or the gallery behind the ropes as large. Fay said the grandstands would remain, even if they were not full.

“Let’s say you’re watching a women’s basketball game between Duke and Carolina,” Fay said. “You can’t help but see empty seats. We won’t fill up the seats, but for the people watching on TV, they’ll have some tight shots.”

As for the practice rounds?

The U.S. Women’s Open is the one tournament where women can arrive early to prepare over the weekend. That won’t work at Pinehurst in 2014 with the men competing for a major.

And if there’s an 18-hole playoff Monday? The women might not be able to play a full practice round until Tuesday.

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