Rain, rain go away, and don’t come back to the Open for at least another day

By Tim Dahlberg, AP
Friday, June 19, 2009

Flooded course and crowded lot make for Open fun

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Talk about brutal conditions at the U.S. Open.

The wind was gusting, blowing rain sideways and creating waves in puddles that were nearing ankle deep. Umbrellas were deployed with a mission in mind, because by now it was clear it was every man for himself.

This was no time to get in the way in the parking lot at Bethpage Black, where it was a miracle the best players in world didn’t trample each other as they paired off with their caddies in a mad dash through the rain Thursday afternoon to the safety of their waiting Lexuses.

They were the unlucky ones, this group of morning starters that included Tiger Woods. Now, wet, tired and sick of sitting around the locker room, they were beginning to realize just how unlucky they might really be.

They would be the ones getting up at dawn for the foreseeable future, hoping to slog through another messy day. They would be the ones still at the course late into the night.

They might even be the ones lying awake at night wondering who Johan Edfors and Jeff Brehaut are.

Luck often plays a role in a big golf tournament, as Fred Couples so famously found out one year at the Masters. But luck of the draw could be a big factor in who wins this Open championship when — and if — the lake once known as Bethpage dries out enough for them to finish playing it.

Somewhere, Sergio Garcia had to be laughing. Somewhere, Phil Mickelson was grinning and dry.

In the player’s parking lot, Padraig Harrington was neither.

“I don’t think there’s a guy who hasn’t teed off today that is not sitting very happy right now in their hotel room right now or maybe at the cinema watching a movie, something like that,” Harrington said.

Any movie made about this day would have to be a horror film, or maybe one about animals pairing up for a trip on an ark. Rain fell so long and so hard that even the best meteorologists and squeegeeologists employed by the USGA could have been forgiven for simply throwing up their arms and declaring it a lost cause.

The meteorologists couldn’t figure it out, though they did manage to agree it was wet and might get even wetter. The squeegee people working on the greens had to know, though, that all the squeegees on Long Island weren’t going to make it much better.

“The volume of rain falling was outpacing our capacity to squeegee the greens,” was how Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA championship committee, put it.

That, of course, is the risk you take holding the Open in any spot other than the coast of San Diego, which after last year is probably where the tournament should always be played. Golf is an outdoor sport and it doesn’t take much to disrupt it, especially when you’re trying to shoehorn 156 players around a long and demanding course for two days in a row.

When they held it here for the first time seven years ago, there was a storm delay on Friday that left Garcia whining about how he never got a fair shake and that the weather gods were obviously favoring Woods. This time it was Tiger’s turn to get the bad end of the draw, though all he got out of it was seven holes and an invitation to return for a shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. Friday.

Woods must have taken the first Lexus out of the lot because he was nowhere to be seen when the wave of players cooped up in the clubhouse for nearly four hours began running for home. Later we would find out on his Web site that he thought it was wet and windy.

For all his influence over the game, Woods doesn’t seem to have any over the weather. A brutal storm that erupted at the 2002 British Open just as he was teeing off in the third round led to an 81 that cost him both a shot at the championship and a possible Grand Slam, and being in the morning wave of players here might be prove costly as well.

Woods has the talent and mindset to overcome that, though not many of the 78 other players unfortunate enough to have already teed off can say the same. That includes both Edfors and Brehaut, part of a group of four tied at 1-under, two ahead of Woods, through the partially completed round.

Brehaut, a 46-year-old Nationwide Tour grinder, at least got a moment in the sun out of this stormy day. He was escorted to the media room where he talked about his 11 holes before a press corps eager for anything remotely interesting.

“My wife’s been telling me the last three days, ‘Embrace your conditions. Embrace your conditions,’” he said.

The conditions were just fine for half the field, most of whom never had to leave their hotel rooms. They also get to sleep in Friday while the first day’s morning pairings try to finish their rounds.

It’s not fair, but golf can be an inherently unfair game. Garcia can certainly vouch for that, and he has — many times.

Those fleeing the parking lot would probably agree, if they weren’t too busy trying to find a way to stay dry.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org

will not be displayed