Local Knowledge


FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – If anyone can sympathize with the first wave of players who went off in the mud and rain at Bethpage Black, it's Darrell Kestner. The Long Island pro had the second-to-last tee time in the second round of the 2002 U.S. Open, which was played in a similar downpour. Only, they never stopped play, causing Sergio Garcia to call out the USGA and say that play would’ve been suspended had Tiger Woods been on the course. Woods played in a morning drizzle and shot 68.

Garcia shot a 74, Kestner shot 86.

'It was miserable, the hardest conditions I've ever played in,' said Kestner, who's played in eight U.S. Opens. 'It was very similar to what it was today – very cold, rainy. ...the rain was coming down sideways. We were getting no roll and some guys had trouble reaching the 10th fairway it was playing so long.'

Woods wasn't quite as fortunate this time as he was one of the first groups off the first tee at 8:06 a.m. Play was suspended two hours later with Woods at 1-over par, facing a par putt of 6 feet on the seventh hole.

'Days like this, you're just trying to survive and then hope things turn in your favor,' said Kestner, the head professional at Deepdale Golf Club in nearby Manhasset, N.Y. 'It's an endurance test. It's hard to keep any momentum going because you're constantly stopping and starting again.'

Kestner said the most difficult thing for him wasn’t that the ball wasn't going anywhere, but that the green speeds were so unpredictable.

'I had a hard time guessing the pace of each putt because of how much water was on the green,' said Kestner. 'They were squeegeeing every green, trying to get water away from the hole. So while the greens looked slow they were keeping pace.'

The other thing players have trouble controlling in the rain is spin, especially on approach shots into the green. The ball tends to knuckle with no spin, much like a Tim Wakefield knuckleball. Indeed, Woods came up short on several holes on Thursday morning, hitting his third shot into the bunker on the par-4 fifth hole (leading to a double-bogey 6) and his second shot into the right greenside bunker on No. 7. The tee on the 525-yard hole was moved up 30 yards on Thursday but only two players reached the green. Neither Woods nor his two playing partners, Padraig Harrington and the long-hitting Angel Cabrera, got home in two.

'When you're hitting off spongy fairways like this, there's no way of hitting a cut or draw because water gets on the ball – and between the ball and the clubface – so you can't put any spin at all on it,' said Kestner. 'You're trying to start it as straight as possible and hope it doesn't get too much of a knuckleball action on it, because then you're not able to control it.'