Bethpage Splash delivered again on Thursday with long holes, long rough and even longer rain delays. By 10:15 a.m. a heavy deluge rendered the muni monster unplayable and Tiger & Co. were sent to the clubhouse. Nearly three hours later even more rain had transformed the layout into a watershed.
Woods was 1 over through six with a double bogey when the horn sent the pack scurrying for cover. Phil Mickelson hadnt teed off and it seems as if the only shots that counted were the long shots who played their way into notoriety before officials called a raindrop timeout ' Jeff Brehaut, Johan Edfors, Ryan Spears and Andrew Parr, who was strangely enough 1 under par.
Nothing personal, or professional, but we like SoCal Opens over the Bethpage variety. If its all the same, perhaps we could keep our Peoples Opens confined to Torrey Pines in the future.
Among the adjusted favorites: Woods, Mickelson, anyone born in the Pacific Northwest or Ireland and ducks, the webbed-foot kind not the major-winning Angel Cabrera, although he was even when the music stopped.
In between the cold rain drops there was some incredible golf played if you didnt blink and miss it.
Spears is a 23-year-old who went to college at Wichita State and has been a professional for about 10 minutes, or so it seems. On Thursday he played three holes par-birdie-par ' baby steps at an event that will not tolerate whining.
Parr, a Canadian who was probably thinking a little snow might even the playing field for him, and Edfors got off to similar steady starts before the bell rang, but it was Brehaut who grinded out perhaps the best 11 holes of an unheralded career.
Your Open co-leader has fewer PGA Tour top 10s (13) than Woods has major championships (14), has played Q-School an unlucky 13 times, hit more 5-woods in Round 1 than a super senior flight champion and is currently hard at work in his eighth full season on the Nationwide Tour.
My journey is a lot different than a lot of guys, said Brehaut, whose journey atop the leaderboard was even more unorthodox with 4-of-7 fairways hit, 7-of-11 greens in regulation and a 236-yard driving average. J.B. Holmes hits chip shots longer than that. Im a grinder.
We liked this band a lot the first time we saw it, when they went by Jason Gore and the stage was the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Two birdies, a bogey and eight pars never looked so good on paper, particularly to a 45-year-old Californian whose delivery is on the Phil Jackson side of smooth. But then Open leads, even the 11-hole rain-delayed variety, have a way of running all the cool out of a man and ruining any chance of sleep.
Asked how he thought he might fare Thursday night staked to a share of the Open lead, his honesty was refreshing.
Not as good as I did last night, Brehaut said.
When Brehaut and the rest of the lodge will get to finish the race was the elephant in Thursdays room. With half the players yet to take the field there is no chance of completing two rounds before Saturday. Thats with good weather and the forecast calls for more rain the rest of the way.
Compounding the issue is the USGAs line in the sand trap when it comes to playing the golf ball down, as in not allowing players to lift, clean and fake, um, make that place, their golf balls in the fairway. When asked about the possibility on Thursday, Jim Hyler, the chairman of the associations championship committee, was not playing: No, no, no, he smiled.
Thursdays rain is expected to be the worst of the week, which means Sergio Garcia finally ended up on the fortunate side of a draw. The Golf Gods, it seems, must be trying to ease the pain of the Spaniards breakup with Greg Normans daughter.
I dont think there is a guy that didnt tee off today that isnt sitting very happy in his room or in the cinema right now, observed Padraig Harrington, who may be from Ireland but he dislikes slop as much as the next mudder. I guarantee there will be a U.S. Open champion at, well...at some stage this week.
Justin Leonard echoed that fearful prediction when asked when he thought they might get around to crowning a champion: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . .
A Bethpage Open was always going to be a grind, the SAT of national championships is George Forman and the field has a tendency to look like a team of featherweights by the time the last putt drops. Nonstop rain and cold winds make it a battle of attrition, often won by the guy who can stomach the most haymakers without a white towel.
As a soggy field was loaded into vans for the race back to the clubhouse Thursday some must have been hoping for the first 36-hole Open since 97, that would be 1897, and the narrow two-lane road to the warm confines offered little solace ' Round Swamp Road. Perfect.