Take it all off, Tiger, someone shouted from the packed bleachers, as laughter rolled across the driving range.
Only in New York.
Bethpage Black doesnt lack for intimidating forces, with the famed warning sign near the first tee saying only highly skilled players should dare venture past, a trio of par-4s spanning more than 500 yards apiece and the second-longest layout in U.S. Open history.
The toughest thing to handle at this major, though, could be galleries unlike perhaps any other in golf.
Its going to be nuts, said Rocco Mediate, certain to be a favorite after his runner-up finish to Woods last year. Ill fit right in.
Loud, rabid fans arent exactly new to the game; think the 16th hole at the FBR Open in Phoenix, for example, where grandstands line the entire perimeter of the par-3 and the scene is more like a football tailgate bash.
Except at Bethpage, well, its going to be like that on just about every hole.
New Yorkers are very passionate, said Sergio Garcia, who was on the wrong side of that passion when the U.S. Open first came to Bethpage in 2002, when fans mocked him for waggling his club ' some of them showing disdain by counting his repetitions in Spanish ' and he answered by making an obscene gesture in one particularly frustrating moment.
In New York, they love a winner, almost as much as they love to mock a loser.
Golf claps wont be found.
They can be great, and they can be probably brutal, said Steve Stricker, who tied for 16th in the 2002 Open at Bethpage. But its atmosphere like no other that we play. They will get behind you, you know, if youre playing well. If you hit a bad shot, you may hear about it too. So its a unique atmosphere, and its a good one.
Stricker was asked what advice hed give to a first-timer at Bethpage this week.
Ear plugs, he said.
That 2002 Open was tinged in emotion, taking place less than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that started with two planes flying into the World Trade Center in Manhattan, about an hour west of Bethpage State Park. Thousands of people from the area surrounding the park took trains into New York that morning for work; some of them never came home, their cars staying in the parking lots of Long Island train stations for weeks in some cases, waiting to be claimed.
Woods won that week by three shots, the only player in the field to break par for the tournament. For someone who builds his year ' his career, really ' around major championships, the Bethpage scene that week remains unforgettable.
As just overall atmosphere, Ive never seen anything like it, Woods said Tuesday. I dont think we ever will, given circumstances surrounding the event.
Some things will remain the same, of course. Boobirds will be swirling about. Jim Furyk remembers them less than fondly.
He still tells the story of walking off the 18th green at Bethpage and hearing about how poorly he played that day from some ticketholders.
If youre a Yankee and youre Derek Jeter and youre playing bad, it doesnt matter if youre Derek Jeter or not, Furyk said. Theyre still going to let you know.
Woods wasnt exactly the peoples choice at Bethpage in 2002.
That unofficial honor went to Phil Mickelson, wholl surely be greeted with a roar when he steps on the opening tee box Thursday ' as he always is whenever he plays in the New York area.
Mickelsons wife Amy was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, which doctors believe was caught early. She will have surgery next month, and Mickelson didnt appear at Bethpage on Monday or Tuesday.
Still, hes clearly on the minds of some fans already; one tribute was attached to an overpass on the Long Island Expressway this past weekend, an American flag with a white placard underneath, Go Phil Go Amy written in pink letters.
Hopefully its one of those things where you try and find energy somewhere, because I can only speak from my experience with my dad and losing someone close to me, Woods said. You dont sleep much. Its hard. To find energy from outside the ropes, sometimes thats a great thing.
Oh, therell be energy to be had outside those ropes.
With a New York crowd, thats an absolute guarantee.
They say whatever they feel. And they dont care whos listening, Mediate said. Thats what I like about it. They just let you have it. Theyre with you or theyre against you.