FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Miracle workers.
That's the only way to describe the efforts of Bethpage State Park's
60 staff members and 100-plus volunteers.
"It's looked great. They did a hell of a job," Tiger Woods said after
his opening 74.
The greens are Stimping in the 13-foot range, only a foot slower than
hoped for and a mind-bloggling development considering how much rain
the course absorbed Thursday. The bunkers are shining brightly, with
nary a hint of moisture evident until a player blasts deep down.
The fairways are understandably sloppy and leaving mud on the ball.
Since everyone has to play it down, common sense would tell you that
the morning players will be disadvantaged compared to the afternoon
Not so, says Tiger.
"I think the guys who are playing today and tomorrow morning are going
to get more mud balls. It's only going to get worse, unless we catch
them again, but if it dries out more, this is going to get interesting.
Tiger says the anti-mud ball method of hitting low-running shots
because there's no roll and the course is playing so long.
"If you take the chance of carrying the ball out there, you also have
a chance of picking up mud on the ball too."
Tiger said he had three mud balls, including one covering the back
side of his ball on the par-5 13th where he made par and on 16, where
he had mud on the left side and therefore tried to draw it in an
effort to work around the mud.
So the mudball theory goes like this: as the clayish portion of the
soil dries, it's more likely to clump up and stick than when it's more
sludgy and carrying more moisture.
Works for me.
And before you brand him a complainer, remember that Tiger said this
before heading off for an afternoon practice session: "Everyone has to
deal with the same conditions, whether we play the ball in hand or
-- *Geoff Shackelford