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The 102nd U.S. Open takes place this week at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. The 7,214-yard par-70 Black Course ' the longest layout in Open history ' will be the venue. Fittingly enough, this will be the first time that the most democratic of all events will be contested on a public course. Of course, Pebble Beach and Pinehurst No. 2 are open to the public ' but in excess of $300-a-pop. You can play the Black Course for the tidy sum of $31 Monday-Friday, and eight bucks more on the weekends.
Typical of a U.S. Open venue, the fairways are tighter than Charles Howells pants; the roughs thicker than Andrew Coltarts accent; the greens are faster than Colin Montgomeries exit after a missed cut; and theres more sand than Jesper Parnevik could eat in a lifetime.
Over the past month, only a handful of players have had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at this maiden set-up. World No. 1 Tiger Woods played May 28 with good buddy Mark OMeara under the cloak of secrecy. Its not known what he shot then, but he did comment that anything under par could be the winning number this week - though certain circles believe it may take double digits.
The serene South African, Retief Goosen, is the defending champion. His missed two-footer on the 72nd hole a year ago will forever live in golf lore, as will the grit he showed in winning an 18-hole playoff over Mark Brooks the following day.
Defending ones title at the Open is a rare accomplishment. Curtis Strange was the last to win back-to-back, in 1988 and 89; before him, it was Ben Hogan in 1950 and 51.
This years venue will lend itself to the length and accuracy. The level putting surfaces will give players a chance to score, if they find the fairways off the tee ' and control their long irons.
At 7,214 yards, the Black Course is three feet longer than the previous biggest beast ever tackled at a U.S. Open ' Congressional Country Club (1997). Four par-4s exceed 475 yards in length and three of the four par-3s are over 200 yards.
Take a Virtual Tour of the Black Course
The test is so severe that reigning U.S. Senior Open champion Bruce Fleisher declined his invitation to play, saying the demand was too much.
The course was originally designed in 1936 by famed architect A.W. Tillinghast ' who also designed Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.; Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J.; and Five Farms in Baltimore, Md. Rees Jones then renovated the layout in the late-'90s, making it Open worthy.
This will be the first time that the Empire State has played host to a U.S. Open since Corey Pavin won at Shinnecock in Southampton in 1995. It will also mark the first major championship the state has seen since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Patriotism will resonate throughout the Long Island area, and judging by history, theres a solid chance an American will hoist the trophy come Sunday.
Only 27 times has a foreign-born player captured the seasons second major, and not since Tony Jacklin, in 1970, has a European held high the hardware. Since Jacklins accomplishment, Americans are 27-for-31 in winning their nations championship. Australias David Graham won in 1981, and South African Ernie Els preceded his countryman Goosen in 1994 and 97.
As for playoffs, theyre slightly more occasional than a foreign champion. Before Goosens 18-hole redemption, Els was the last player to win a playoff, doing so at the expense of Loren Roberts and Montgomerie in 94. There have been 32 playoffs in tournament history.
This year, though, the venue is as much a story as the competition itself.
The Black Course is renowned for its participants enthusiasm and dedication ' well before it was named a U.S. Open site.
Bethpage actually has five courses ' Black, Red Blue, Green and Yellow. But, of course, the Black is the peoples choice.
Those wishing to play must arrive in their vehicles ' foursomes intact ' usually a day and a half before their desired tee times. One individual must remain in the temporary housing at all times. And when the starter shines his flashlight into your blood-shot eyes prior to sunrise, youd better be organized, coherent and primed for play.
The sign on the first tee reads, The Black Course is a very difficult golf course, designed for highly-skilled golfers only.
And thats just what it will get this week ' 156 of them, to be exact.
Full Coverage of the 102nd U.S. Open
After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...
Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner
On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...
Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.
After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.
Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.
A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray
Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call
PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.
At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.
“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”
Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.
Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.
Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.
“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park
PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.
Laura Davies won the day.
It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.
Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.
Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.
For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.
In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.
“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”
At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.
“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”
Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.
“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.
With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.
“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”
Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.
“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”
She also relished showing certain fans something.
“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.
Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.
In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.
Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.
“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.
After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.
“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”
Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.
In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.
“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”
And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.
Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill
ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.
The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?
“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”
And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.
After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.
“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”