Bethpage Confidential

By Jay CoffinJune 18, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 U.S. OpenFARMINGDALE, N.Y. ' The 109th U.S. Open began here Thursday at Bethpage Black but it didnt get far. Here is a list of things we noted to watch for prior to Round 1. Sadly, 24 hours later, they all still apply:
Water, water everywhere
Not water as in hazards on the course, only the eighth hole has water. Rather water as in rain thats forecast in the area for each of the next nine days. The course already is pretty soggy in spots, including the 18th fairway, which is a major concern. To help, the U.S. Golf Association has 220 volunteers committed to working on the grounds crew, has roughly 80 squeegees ready for the greens, will likely move the tees forward so that the players can negotiate the course easier and will not position holes in the lower lying areas of the greens where water will collect. The USGA made it clear that under no circumstance will the championship be played under lift, clean and place. It is going to be a long week.
(Update: Play was halted at 10:16 a.m. Thursday, then for good at 1:55 p.m. Although the forecast is better for Friday, the forecast for Saturday is eerily similar to Thursday. Its not likely that the second round will be completed by Saturday, which means were staring a Monday finish right in the chops.)
All eyes on Tiger
While everyone seems ready to hand major No. 15 to Tiger Woods, his first-round performance often is an indicator of how well he does for the week at a U.S. Open. In 6 U.S. Opens where he has finished in the top 10 his first-round scoring average is 68.83. In the 7 Opens where hes finished outside the top 10 his scoring average is 73.71. Of the three U.S. Open victories for Woods, his highest first-round score was 72 last year at Torrey Pines.
(Update: Tiger scrambled for par on the first hole, doubled the fifth but made birdie from 15 feet on the sixth. Thats as far as he got. Still way too early to tell what his game looks like here. But we know hell be in contention by the end of the week. Or will it be the beginning of next week?)
How will Phil handle his emotions?
As if Phil Mickelson hasnt endeared himself to the New York faithful enough over the years, he said Wednesday that hes brushed up on his knowledge of New York sports so he can have thoughtful dialogue should he find himself in a discussion with the gallery. Still, this is going to be a difficult week for Lefty, and he knows it. Although players often say they use the time inside the ropes as a chance to get away from the distractions of the outside world, itll be difficult here because everyone will be sending well wishes to Phil as his wife Amy prepares for breast cancer treatment back home in California. Itll be compelling to see how he reacts on the first tee.
Im going to do the best that I can, Mickelson said. I feel like my game is ready, but you never know. I feel like emotionally Im better, but you just never know.
(Update: Lefty didnt even make it to Bethpage Thursday as his tee time was scheduled for 1:36. The Lefty lovefest here will have to wait another day.)
And then theres Sergio
The anti-Mickelson is likely to be Sergio Garcia. The New Yorkers dont forget and many of the same fans giving Sergio the business here in 2002 for his club-milking and whining will be back for a repeat performance. Youll also remember that Sergio pouted about the weather, saying that Woods always seems to be on the best end of the draw. Although he comes into this week saying I love New York itll be interesting to see if the fans buy that line, or if theyll add to the 2002 mess by reminding Sergio of his more recent episodes ' complaining after the Masters this year and news that hes been down in the dumps because of girl troubles with Greg Normans daughter, Morgan Leigh.
(Update: Sergio wasnt scheduled to tee off until 1:25 p.m. so he didnt make it here either.)
Not since the Beatles?
Thats right, not since the Beatles broke up has a European won the U.S. Open. Englishman Tony Jacklin won the Open at Hazeltine in 1970, the same year the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 in the U.S. There are candidates aplenty this year. Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Padraig Harrington come to mind.
This would be the (major) that maybe Ive struggled at the most, said Paul Casey, ranked No. 3 in the World Rankings. So as a personal sort of victory, I think it would be, sort of almost seen as a greater achievement. And to do something that hasnt been achieved in 39 years would be massive. So I would love to try and achieve that.
(Update: Swedens Johan Edfors is 1 under after four holes and Englishman Ian Poulter is even par after seven holes. But its still way too early.)
No seventh heaven
The seventh hole is more like hell than it is heaven. Although its early in a round, it still is going to produce some high, rally-killing numbers. At 525-yards, this beast of a hole will be the longest par 4 in the history of the Open and its actually longer than the par-5 fourth hole (517 yards). Heres how long the hole is. During a Tuesday practice round J.B. Holmes ' one of the longest mashers on Tour ' hit driver, 5-wood barely onto the green. David Toms hit driver, 3-wood and was 30 yards short. Yikes.
(Update: Only 18 players completed the hole and Tiger Woods will begin on the hole when play resumes. There were 10 bogeys and eight pars on the hole for a 4.55 stroke average. The hole will be a big concern as the week progresses.)
First-round wonders
Sure, everyone will be watching Woods and Mickelson but if you remember, it was Justin Hicks and Kevin Streelman who were the first-round leaders at Torrey Pines at last years U.S. Open. And Eric Axley was a shot off the lead. Ultimately, Axley tied for ninth and Hicks and Streelman fell quickly down the leaderboard in the second round and were never heard from again. But thats of no significance. Point is, someone weve never heard of will shoot a good number in Round 1 and introduce himself to the world.
(Update: Would any of the four players at 1 under par qualify as a first-round wonder? Jeff Brehaut, Johan Edfors, Andrew Parr or Ryan Spears? I believe the answer is all of the above.)
Related Links:
  • Full U.S. Open Scores
  • Full Coverage - The 109th U.S. Open
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Highlights from Tiger's first round at East Lake

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 20, 2018, 8:30 pm

    Tiger Woods is back at the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013, and he provided the fans in Atlanta with some highlights on the first day of competition.

    Still looking for his first win of the year after coming close on numerous occasions, Woods started the day off by splitting the fairway on the first hole with the driver, not even bothering to watch his ball land.

    Despite the picture-perfect opening tee shot, Woods would go on to bogey the first hole, but he rebounded with back-to-back birdies on 5 and 6, making putts from 26 and 15 feet.

    Tiger's best shot on the front nine came on the par-4 seventh hole after he found the pine straw behind a tree with his drive. The 14-time major champ punched one under the tree limbs and onto the green, then calmly two-putted for par from about 40 feet en route to a front-side 1-under 34.

    Woods added two more birdies on the par-4 12th and 14th holes, rolling in putts of 3 feet and 7 feet after a couple of great looking approach shots.

    Woods finished his round with a vintage eagle on the par-5 18th hole, finding the green with a 5-wood from 256 yards out and then sinking the 28-foot putt.

    The eagle at the last gave Woods a share of the early first-round lead with Rickie Fowler at 5-under 65.

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

    By Tiger TrackerSeptember 20, 2018, 8:20 pm

    Tiger Woods is looking to close his season with a win at the Tour Championship. We're tracking him this week at East Lake Golf Club.

    Getty Images

    Garcia (66) peaking for Ryder Cup?

    By Ryan LavnerSeptember 20, 2018, 6:17 pm

    Sergio Garcia might be finding his form just in time to terrorize the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

    Garcia made seven birdies during an opening round of 5-under 66 to sit just two shots off the early lead at the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.

    It was Garcia’s fifth consecutive round of par or better, a stretch that includes rounds of 66-65-67-70-66. That solid play at the Wyndham Championship wasn’t enough to extend his PGA Tour season – he didn’t qualify for the FedExCup playoffs – but the Spaniard is starting to round into form with the Ryder Cup on deck.

    Full-field scores from the Portugal Masters

    A few weeks ago he was a controversial selection by European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn. After missing the cut in all four majors, Garcia could have been left at home in favor of such players as Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matt Wallace (a three-time winner this season who, once again, is at the top of the leaderboard in Portugal), Matt Fitzpatrick or Thomas Pieters. But Bjorn tabbed Garcia, noting his Ryder Cup experience, his sterling foursomes record and his influence in the team room. If Phil Mickelson is the U.S. player under the most pressure to perform in Paris, all eyes will be on Garcia next week – especially since it could be one of his final opportunities to wear a European uniform, as he’ll be 40 for the 2020 matches.

    Garcia’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the year and puts him in position to secure just his second top-10 since March.

    Getty Images

    Watch: 100mph storm destroys tent at St. Andrews

    By Grill Room TeamSeptember 20, 2018, 4:25 pm

    The Old Course at St. Andrews has endured all sorts of wacky weather over the years, but things ratcheted up a notch this week with the arrival of Storm Ali.

    The first named storm of the season struck Wednesday, bringing 100 mph gusts, killing two people and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power in parts of Ireland, Scotland and England.

    According to the Courier no one was injured in the St. Andrews area, but a video posted from the home of golf shows just how powerful the storm was as wind absolutely destroyed one of the hospitality tents set up in advance of the Dunhill Links Championship:

    While plenty of clean-up is sure to be needed, officials say the Dunhill Links, which also be conducted at Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, will go on as scheduled October 4-7.