Open Formula


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2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' They sleep in cars and shell out working class wages to land a tee time at Bethpage State Park s Black Course. If the forecast holds and this U.S. Open is played at Bethpage Splash this week there are going to be more than a few among the 156 players assembled in the Long Island hills wondering why. Arent traffic jams and the Mets punishment enough?
In fact, if you subscribe to the theories found in the blogosphere and on the unfiltered airwaves, all but 10 or 15 of this weeks comers should pack up the courtesy car and skip town now before things get too busy on the Van Wyck Expressway.
We hear it almost yearly. Usually around Fathers Day, a big, burly golf course enters the rotation and the world becomes convinced only Superman and a handful of immortals could hoist Sunday silver.
We hear it so much one-half expects Open Doctor Rees Jones to be slapped with a malpractice suit for running parity out of the national championship. If NFL boss Roger Goodell ran things in Ponte Vedra Beach , Fla. , the Tour would slap a luxury tax on the U.S. Golf Association for upending the competitive balance.
The 10-horse race theory, of course, is pure bunk. Thats rubbish, recoiled Dale Lynch, who should know since his man Geoff Ogilvy proved at Winged Foot that, for many Tour players, greatness is merely four good putting days away.
Lynchs man was a bit less offended, but no less adamant.
They said that for Torrey Pines last year, too, Ogilvy reasoned. If you put Rocco Mediate as the guy who is going to win the tournament, you'd say, he's nice. But he was a birdie on the last hole away from winning. That was the longest course ever.
In 2002, the last time the Open came to this slice of public access paradise, the guy who hit more greens than anyone and drove it further than all but six players for the week ' Tiger Woods ' won. The guy who came in second place, Phil Mickelson, was eighth in greens in regulation and seventh in driving distance.
Point is, hitting it long off the tee and controlling your irons plays well at the Black and if you needed to pick a winner there is not going to be much of a choice between a Bubba Watson and a Brian Gay.
However, that doesnt make the 109th Open a 10-trick pony.
In many ways the long-held notion of an Open player has been debunked by a list of recent winners that read like golfs version of a Colors of Benetton advertisement. In order since 2004, the Open has been won by a cadaver (Retief Goosen), a curiosity (Michael Campbell), a reformed hothead (Ogilvy), a caddie yard special (Angel Cabrera) and the keeper of the gate (Woods).
There used to be a mold, Woods said. Im sure in years past it seemed like every person was a pretty short hitter, very straight. That seemed like that was the type of player that it took to win U.S. Opens. But now I think that it has changed a little bit.
The only formula is that each player was on form and had an affinity for par no matter the cost. For all his histrionics, Woods is a par junkie at major championships. In 14 U.S. Open starts Woods has finished under par just three times, including his 2000 romp at Pebble Beach . Among those 14 starts he has the same number of victories as he does finishes outside the top 25 ' three.
At an Open, regardless of venue, booming drives and strong backs to hoist balls from ankle-high rough are just tools, par is the trade.
The whole idea of a U.S. Open is obviously to grind it out and make pars, Woods said. How you do that, its up to you.
Thats not to say there is not a short list of frontrunners. But for Jones, who tinkered the Black Course to Open readiness like he did prior to the 02 championship, it has nothing to do with the golf course and everything to do with a players major makeup.
If theyve won a major before its easier to win another one. Once youve been in that situation it just makes everything easier, Jones said.
Make no mistake, this Open is far from a utopian free-for-all. In theory all 156 start Thursday with visions of Sunday trophy presentations in their heads, but the golf course and Mother Nature have already spotted anyone inside the top 10 percent of the Tours driving distance category a half-stroke advantage per side.
The forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of showers all week and, invariably, a 40 percent chance the winner will have a moon ball that carries 300 yards faster than, well, a New York minute.
There's certain guys it's going to be really hard for. And it hasn't helped them that it's rained. There's no doubt hitting the ball a long way off the tee is good, and there's no doubt hitting a long way straight off the tee is really good, Ogilvy said. I wouldn't say it counts out everybody, but it makes it a little difficult for a lot of guys.
This Peoples Open may be more democratic than some give it credit. But make no mistake, at Bethpage not all competitors are created equal.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage -2009 U.S. Open
  • First- and Second-Round Tee Times
  • Sectional Qualifying results
  • Bethpage Black Ballpark