News & ToursJune 17, 2009

Calm before the storm

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- A lovely day here at Bethpage Black: ample sun, gentle breeze, players and spectators alike basking in the (relatively) subdued atmosphere before the start of competition.

If only it was going to last.

As if a golf course as long and penal as Bethpage Black doesn't provide enough challenges, consider the shell game that confronts players on the eve of the first round. They will have spent three days fervently studying a complicated golf course, only to be presented with a completely new textbook with tomorrow's expected rain (forecasts call for as much as an inch).

Granted, the Black course has already been softened plenty by what has been an exceptionally wet spring on Long Island, but it's the particularly grim forecast for Thursday that might literally alter the landscape here overnight. Put it this way: in the USGA's annual pre-Open press conference, an inordinate amount of time was spent talking about instruments like squeegees and water hogs -- not exactly the stuff that makes it into the travel brochures.

But look on the bright side (OK, bad choice of words): the first round isn't likely to be one you forget.

"If the weather forecast holds up, it's going to be one of those monumental days they'll be talking about forever," USGA setup chief Mike Davis said. "Like Friday here in 2002, they'll be saying, 'Remember Thursday at the U.S. Open in 2009?"

Should that make anyone feel better? Probably not. But this being a U.S. Open, there's no sense in complaining.

"It doesn't matter whether it rains," Carl Pettersson said. "It's still the U.S. Open. You're still going to be playing defensively."

-- Sam Weinman

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