Ominous forecast for an Open where nothing is sure


2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' The forecast is ominous, which will likely cause a lot of people to keep an eye on both the clouds and their watches Saturday at Bethpage Black. A hundred bucks is a hundred bucks, after all, especially if you never get a chance to see Tiger Woods.
If its going to pour, New Yorkers had better hope it comes early. The new rules are 90 minutes of play and theres no refund, not even an invitation to come back Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or whenever this thing ever ends to watch some more.
That was about the only thing resolved during a bizarre day on Long Island, where a ton of golf was played but no one was really sure what it all meant. The leaders certainly didnt, and neither probably did Woods, whose misery was over by the time those with more fortunate starting times began venturing out.
Members of the grounds crew work on a soggy fairway during the continuation of the first round Friday morning. (Getty Images)
When Woods left the course he was under the impression a U.S. Open was going on. By the time little Mike Weir teed off hours later for his second round, it looked more like the Bob Hope Classic.
Nothing the USGA could do about that, though that didnt stop them from trying. The greens were too soft, the day too beautiful, the mud too mysteriously missing.
The unfortunates who spent the first morning of their Open trying to stay dry and the second trying to figure out how to hit balls coated with mud could only curse silently at their television sets while watching Weir carve a seemingly effortless first round 64 in brilliant sunshine. Nothing they could do about that, either, though most had to also be cursing the thought that they would likely be returning to a muddy quagmire on Saturday.
We dont know what the severity of the weather is, USGA executive director David Fay said. It sounds like we are going to get hit somewhat hard in the afternoon.
Golf can be a funny game, but there wasnt a lot to laugh about for those who got the bad end of the draw and averaged two shots a round worse than those who began play Friday. Certainly Woods wasnt laughing, especially since he could have hardly imagined that he would be 10 shots behind Weir just 18 holes into this Open.
It was just a bad day overall for superstars in New York. Alex Rodriguez got benched in the Bronx, while Woods played just 11 holes, got four mud balls and guessed wrong when he suggested the USGA might allow players to lift, clean and place their balls (Never!).
It was an even worse day for the suits of the USGA, whose biggest problem running their national championship usually is making sure they dont run out of jumbo shrimp in the corporate hospitality tents. They began by getting chewed out by New Yorkers for not giving refunds to those who made the trek to Bethpage for Thursdays aborted opening round and ended it with a lot of questions floating around about the very integrity of this championship.
They bungled the ticket mess so badly that the New York attorney generals office dispatched a team of lawyers to look into the matter. Then the governor decided to pay a visit to a course owned by the state of New York, and suddenly people were being offered a $50 refund if play concluded Sunday or a free ticket for Monday if it went that far.
They also decided that the giveaway wouldnt happen if there was at least 90 minutes of golf Saturday, meaning fans had better get on the train early if they wanted to be sure of seeing anything on a day when the weatherman was forecasting rain that could match the earlier downpour that made the course look more suited to Michael Phelps than Mike Weir.
As for the golf itself, about the only thing that had been decided by the time darkness settled on Bethpage Black was that it was going to be an awfully long weekend. Sure, there were the usual assortment of leaders and lurkers but, with players scattered everywhere from the fifth green to the nearest watering hole and new storms approaching, not one Vegas wiseguy would be wise enough to offer odds on what might happen.
What has happened, though, has already made for a most uneven playing field. Those unlucky enough to be in the morning pairings on Thursday had to grind through driving rain and then deal with mud, while the other half of the field ended up playing in the most benign Open conditions in years.
The disadvantage may be too much to make up by the time they go out under more equal conditions for the third round, assuming that ever happens. It might already be too late, even for the greatest player of his time.
Then again, maybe not. Because the only thing certain so far about this Open is that nothing is certain.
Related Links:
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  • Full Coverage - The 109th U.S. Open