The greens demand the most work. "A standard rule of agronomy is that you can't cut away more than 30 percent of the plant at a time, or you'll get what we call crop failure," said Moraghan. In general, the shorter the grass, the faster the green. "This week we will cut to about .123 of an inch. We can't go lower."
The Stimpmeter gauges the speed of the green by measuring how far a ball rolls off the metal bar when it's held at roughly a 20-degree angle. The farther it rolls, the faster the green. Shinnecock's greens normally measure about 9.5. For the Open, Moraghan wanted to see it reach 11. After three straight days of rain, the skies are finally clearing and the greens measure almost 10.5. "I love the wind," Moraghan said. "This weather is blowing out of here, and we're going to have some fun."
Thursday, June 15
At 7:13 a.m. the sun was shining for the start of the first round. Reg Murphy was walking along the 3rd fairway with a cloth briefcase over his right shoulder and a walkie-talkie in his left hand. As Murphy has learned during his 18-month tenure as USGA president, managing one of the world's two major golf associations (the other is the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Scotland) is not, as most of his friends think, simply a free ticket to golf anywhere, anytime.
"It's unbelievable how dull so much of my work is," said Murphy as he replaced a gallery rope that had been left untended. "Everybody thinks my job is glamorous. Sometimes it is. But all I'm concerned with this week is making sure the event goes smoothly."
Because a nearby marshal was daydreaming, Murphy asked a few spectators to be quiet while Fulton Allem lined up a putt. Murphy then ambled over to Michael Bonallack, the R&A's secretary, who was in a cart behind the green.
"They've been 32 minutes to here," said Murphy, looking at his watch.
"Right on the mark," said Bonallack.
Just how Murphy likes his operations. "In 1988 I was asked to be chairman for the U.S. Women's Open at my home course, Baltimore Country Club," said Murphy, who was publisher of The Baltimore Sun at the time. "I didn't know a damn thing about the USGA or running a golf tournament. But it sounded like fun." Murphy did a superb job and was drafted onto the USGA executive committee. Six years later he was elected president, a near full-time volunteer duty he juggles with his full-time paying job as COO at the National Geographic Society.
Murphy, a Southern independent, has helped the staid USGA move toward something of a cutting-edge operation. His most enduring legacy at the USGA will be the financial stability he has created. For years the USGA scraped by. No more. Murphy has led a fund-raising campaign to establish a $10 million endowment; under his guidance membership has increased some 35% to more than 600,000; and he has ushered the USGA into the rich world of sports merchandising. The pinnacle of that effort was the 20,000-square-foot merchandise tent at Shinnecock, which for the first time was operated by the USGA and not the host club. Giddy customers scooped up more than $5 million worth of shirts, ball markers, umbrellas and other logoed paraphernalia.