Mud balls lead to pot luck at US Open


2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' Tiger Woods would have liked to have been able to clean the mud off his ball Friday in the U.S. Open at soggy Bethpage Black.
Jim Furyk knew it was a waste of time to even talk about it.
We all know thats not going to happen, Furyk said about allowing players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairways, so its a worthless conversation.
Woods was frustrated after facing four mud balls in 11 holes Friday in a 4-over 74 that left him 10 strokes behind leader Lucas Glover.
A golf fan walks through the mud during the second round at Bethpage. (Getty Images)
If we keep it down, it is what it is. Its potluck, Woods said.
When Tom Meeks was in charge of the USGAs course setup, he referred to preferred lies ' standard practice on the PGA Tour in wet conditions ' as lift, clean and cheat. While Meeks is gone, the governing body is as firm as ever on the issue.
So much so that when championship committee chairman Jim Hyler brought up the subject Friday, it was only to refute that it was slowing play.
I think theres a perception that by not playing that, were somehow prolonging the event, Hyler said. That is absolutely not true.
More rain ' expected Saturday and deep into next week ' would wash away the mud-ball problem, and cause even more trouble on the saturated course.
Its only going to get worse, unless we get some more rain, Woods said of the mud. If we get more rain we wont catch them again.
Mike Weir, tied for third at 4 under with nine holes left in his second round, prepared for the mud on the practice range before his opening 64, gouging chunks of dirt out of divots and putting it on the balls.
That actually helped, said Weir, who estimated he had mud on the ball on about a third of his shots on the course. I got to figure how the ball was acting a little bit.
In addition to the four mud balls Woods cited, the possibility of picking up mud altered his game plan off the tee, negating some of his distance advantage.
You would think you would have to hit low tee shots and run it off, but the problem is the fairways are so soft its not going to go anywhere, the three-time U.S. Open champion said. If you take the chance of carrying the ball out there, you also have a chance of picking up mud on the ball, too.
Furyk had a little better luck than Woods in an opening 72.
Actually, I made birdie on the hole, but I had a huge chunk of mud on my ball on 16 right out of the chute this morning, Furyk said. It doesnt matter what club you have in, if youve got mud on your ball, its hard to control what its doing.
And the players had a lot longer clubs in their hands than usual on the massive Bethpage layout, a stern test under any conditions.
Its very difficult to go into a lot of par 4s, certainly on a U.S. Open golf course, when the balls are picking up so much mud, Ian Poulter said after shooting 70. I dont think a driver I hit today went forward more than a foot. If thats happening youre taking more than a pitch mark and youre going to have mud on the ball.
Its pretty tricky when youre going into greens with so much club and theres a bit of mud on the ball. So a little disappointing, but the rule is the rule.
The Englishman also said balls were plugging in the wet bunkers.
The other factor in this is we had four bunker shots between our threesome and all four were buried, Poulter said. So, not only are we standing in the middle of the fairway with 5-wood, 3-wood, whatever club youre going to hit, youre thinking, `If this doesnt come out cleanly, then its going to pitch in the face of the bunker. You barely can get it out of the bunker.
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