Tee times determing the good and bad at Bethpage

By Randall MellJune 19, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' At every turn Friday at Bethpage Black, there was evidence of a cosmic conspiracy.
Its as if the golf gods imposed their own handicapping system on the U.S. Open. Or they gave Jack Nicklaus control of the weather.
Whatevers going on, it isnt good for Tiger Woods and his bid to win a 15th major championship title.
Shortly after Woods putted out Friday morning, the sun broke through to chase away the gray clouds and some miserable weather.
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods left Bethpage miserable after an opening 74. (Getty Images)
After Woods posted a 4-over-par 74, the U.S. Open changed its tune.
The championships typically punishing test turned into a sweet melody.
Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, everything thats wonderful is what I feel . . .
You could swear you heard Lucas Glover, Ricky Barnes and Mike Weir humming that old Lesley Gore tune from the 1960s in the afternoon as they scorched the course in birdie blitzes under heavenly blue skies.
You know that tune, the one Nike resurrected in a commercial this spring to capture the fun PGA Tour pros were having while Woods was away mending his knee. Well, they were having fun again Friday with Woods unable to do anything about it from wherever hes making his home in New York this week.
Glover led the suspended second round at 6 under when play was halted due to darkness. Glover, who opened with a 1-under-par 69, was through 31 holes when the horns sounded to stop play at 8:24 p.m.
Barnes was second at 5 under through 27 holes with Weir 4 under through 27 holes and Peter Hanson 4 under through 29 holes.
Phil Mickelson also thrived in the sun and in the warmth of all those New Yorkers who adore him. Hes 1 under and tied for 12th through 29 holes.
David Duval opened with a 67 and also is at 1 under through 30 holes.
With Mickelsons wife, Amy, home after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Mickelson is getting an extra dose of Big Apple love.
The people here have treated me and Amy and my family so well, its amazing, Mickelson said. I just love playing golf here.
Play will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Nobody has yet to complete two rounds. Woods is among 78 players who have yet to start the second round. Hes scheduled to go off at 10:06 a.m. on Saturday, but theres more fuel for cosmic conspiracy theorists. The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of morning showers and more than a 50 percent chance of afternoon showers followed by possible thunderstorms.
When Woods finally starts the second round, he could find himself in miserable weather again.
Woods was 10 shots back when the first round was complete. Nobodys ever come back from 10 shots down after the first round to win a U.S. Open.
I wasnt playing poorly, thats the thing, Woods said.
Woods made two bogeys and a double bogey over the final four holes of the first round to shoot 74 in the morning.
It was right there where I needed to be, and two bad shots and a mud ball later, here we go and Im at 4 over, Woods said.
Woods played his first six holes Thursday in rain and wind, and then finished up early Friday morning on a muddy, water-logged course.
The U.S. Golf Associations history of not playing lift, clean and place frustrates some pros.
Its frustrating you can hit a good ball and be lucky to have a good shot, Zach Johnson said after shooting 75 in the first round. You can hit the ball in the middle of the fairway and have a mud ball. I don't understand the premise behind hitting a good shot and luck determines whether you have a shot.
Like Woods, Johnson got stuck with the worst of the tee times. He believes the PGA Tour would have started the championship under lift, clean and place rules.
They call it lift, clean and cheat but that's not the case if everyone is playing it, Johnson said. I mean, the best Tour in the world is plays it.
Mickelson wasnt complaining.
I got the good end of the tee times, Mickelson said. We had some great conditions to play golf and make some birdies.
In Thursdays miserable weather, when play was suspended with nobody through 12 holes, Mickelson never even teed off. While Woods was slogging it around in the rain, Mickelson was at the movies, watching The Taking of Pelham 123, then off to Borders to buy some books and DVDs.
I went and worked out, too, Mickelson said. I dont want to leave that out.
It must have driven Woods batty watching how conditions changed after he finished play on Friday.
Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, opened with a 64 in the first round, one shot off the U.S. Open record. He was 6 under through his first 14 holes, which had the galleries abuzz over the possibility of seeing the first 62 in major championship history. He double-bogeyed his 15th hole but closed with a pair of birdies.
Definitely, our side of the draw really got an advantage, Weir said. Thats the way it works sometimes.
Related Links:
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    Recovering Thomas thinks Match Play could help cause

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 10:07 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – It’s been a tough couple of days for Justin Thomas, and he hasn’t played an event in three weeks.

    The world’s second-ranked player had his wisdom teeth removed on March 7 following the WGC-Mexico Championship and has been recovering ever since.

    “I'm feeling OK. As funny as it is, as soon as I got over my wisdom teeth, I got a little strep throat,” Thomas said on Tuesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I was pretty worried yesterday, to be honest, how I was going to be doing, but I feel a lot better today and just keep taking medicine and hopefully it will be good.”

    Thomas, who is listed in the Tour media guide as 5-foot-10, 145 pounds, said he lost about 6 pounds when he had his wisdom teeth removed and has struggled to put that weight back on because of his bout with strep throat.

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    As a result, his energy levels are low, which is a particular concern considering the marathon nature of the Match Play, which could include as many as seven rounds if he were to advance to Sunday’s championship match. Thomas, however, said the format could actually make things easier this week.

    “I told my dad, I only have to beat one person each day. I don't have to beat the whole field,” said Thomas, who has won just one match in two starts at the Match Play. “If it was stroke play then I may have a little harder time. But hopefully each day I'll get better and better. Who knows, maybe that will help me win a match in this golf tournament, because I've had a pretty hard time in the past.”

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    Spieth thought Mickelson blew him off as a kid

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:50 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – Phil Mickelson is widely recognized as one of the PGA Tour’s most accommodating players when it comes to the fans and signing autographs.

    Lefty will famously spend hours after rounds signing autographs, but sometimes perception can deviate from reality, as evidenced by Jordan Spieth’s encounter with Mickelson years ago when he was a junior golfer.

    “I think I was at the [AT&T] Byron Nelson with my dad and Phil Mickelson and Davis Love were on the putting green. I was yelling at them, as I now get annoyed while I'm practicing when I'm getting yelled at, and they were talking,” Spieth recalled. “When they finished, Phil was pulled off in a different direction and Davis came and signed for me. And I thought for the longest time that Phil just blew me off. And Davis was like the nicest guy. And Phil, I didn't care for as much for a little while because of that.”

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    Entering his sixth full season on Tour, Spieth now has a drastically different perspective on that day.

    “[Mickelson] could have been late for media. He could have been having a sponsor obligation. He could have been going over to sign for a kid’s area where there was a hundred of them,” Spieth said. “There's certainly been kids that probably think I've blown them off, too, which was never my intention. It would have never been Phil's intention either.”

    Spieth said he has spoken with Mickelson about the incident since joining the Tour.

    “He probably responded with a Phil-like, ‘Yeah, I knew who you were, and I didn't want to go over there and sign it,’ something like that,” Spieth laughed. “I’ve gotten to see him in person and really see how genuine he is with everybody he comes in contact with. Doesn't matter who it is. And he's a tremendous role model and I just wasn't aware back then.”

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    This week, let the games(manship) begin

    By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 7:47 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – The gentleman’s game is almost entirely devoid of anything even approaching trash talk or gamesmanship.

    What’s considered the norm in other sports is strictly taboo in golf - at least that’s the standard for 51 weeks out of the year. That anomaly, however, can be wildly entertaining.

    During Monday’s blind draw to determine this week’s 16 pods, Pat Perez was the first to suggest that this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is the exception to the stoic rule on the PGA Tour.

    “Me and Branden [Grace] played a nine-hole match today and were chirping at each other the entire time,” Perez laughed. “Stuff like, ‘go in the trees.’ We were laughing about it, I didn’t get mad, I hit it in the trees.”

    Although Perez and Grace may have been on the extreme end of the trash-talk spectrum, it’s widely understood that unlike the steady diet of stroke-play stops in professional golf, the Match Play and the Ryder Cup are both chances to test some of the game’s boundaries.

    “There’s been a couple of different instances, both in the Ryder Cup. I can't share them with you, I'm sorry,” laughed Jordan Spieth, before adding. “I think they [the comments] were indifferent to me and helped [U.S. partner Patrick Reed].

    Often the gamesmanship is subtle, so much so an opponent probably doesn’t even realize what’s happening.

    Jason Day, for example, is a two-time winner of this event and although he was reluctant to go into details about all of his “tricks,” he did explain his mindset if he finds himself trailing in a match.

    “Always walk forward in front of the person that you're playing against, just so you're letting them know that you're pushing forward and you're also letting them know that you're still hanging around,” Day explained. “People feed off body language. If I'm looking across and the guy's got his shoulders slumped and his head is down, you can tell he's getting frustrated, that's when you push a little bit harder.”

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    Some moments are not so innocent, as evidenced by a story from Paul Casey from a match during his junior days growing up in England.

    “I remember a player’s ball was very close to my line, as his coin was very close to my line and we were still both about 10 feet away and he kind of looked at me,” Casey recalled. “I assumed he looked at me to confirm whether his marker was in my line and it needed to be moved. I said, ‘That's OK there.’ So he picked [his coin] up. And then of course he lost his ability to understand English all of a sudden.”

    While the exploits this week won’t be nearly as egregious, there have been a handful of heated encounters at the Match Play. In 2015 when this event was played at Harding Park in San Francisco, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose to nose when the Spaniard attempted to intervene in a ruling that Bradley was taking and the incident even spilled over into the locker room after the match.

    But if those types of encounters are rare, there’s no shortage of mind games that will take place over the next few days at Austin Country Club.

    “It's part of it. It should be fun,” Spieth said. “There should be some gamesmanship. That's the way it is in every other sport, we just never play one-on-one or team versus team like other sports do. That's why at times it might seem way out of the ordinary. If every tournament were match play, I don't think that would be unusual.”

    It also helps heat things up if opponents have some history together. On Tuesday, Rory McIlroy was asked if he’s run across any gamesmanship at the Match Play. While the Northern Irishman didn’t think there would be much trash talking going on this week, he did add with a wry smile, “Patrick Reed isn’t in my bracket.”

    McIlroy and Reed went head-to-head in an epic singles duel at the 2016 Ryder Cup, which the American won 1 up. The duo traded plenty of clutch shots during the match, with Reed wagging his finger at McIlroy following a particularly lengthy birdie putt and McIlroy spurring the crowd with roars of, “I can’t hear you.”

    It was an example of how chippy things can get at the Match Play that when McIlroy was asked if he had any advice for Spieth, who drew Reed in his pod this week, his answer had a bit of a sharp edge.

    “Don't ask for any drops,” laughed McIlroy, a not-so-subtle reference to Reed’s comment last week at Bay Hill after being denied free relief by a rules official, “I guess my name needs to be Jordan Spieth, guys,” Reed said on Sunday.

    Put another way, this is not your grandfather’s game. This is the Match Play where trash talking and gamesmanship are not only acceptable, but can also be extremely entertaining.

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    Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

    By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

    While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

    The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

    "I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

    Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

    According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

    "I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

    Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

    Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

    "I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

    Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.