Random thoughts from a long, muddy week at the US OpenBy Doug Ferguson, AP
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Cleaning up from a mess at Bethpage Black
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Lucas Glover finally found dry ground where he could pose with his U.S. Open trophy, taking it to the top of the Empire State Building on Tuesday.
He left behind a U.S. Open that might be remembered mostly as a muddy mess.
None of the four rounds started and ended on the same day.
Glover didn’t play a regulation round of golf on any of the five days at this U.S. Open — none Thursday, 31 holes Friday, five holes Saturday, 19 holes Sunday and 17 holes Monday.
Dan Jenkins wrote from his 200th major championship and was asked if this was the worst major he had ever covered.
“So far,” he replied.
It was a thing of beauty to Glover, who played the best golf at Bethpage Black. Even in miserable weather in a week when the most important piece of equipment was a squeegee, the U.S. Open still achieved its goal of identifying the best player.
Some random thoughts while cleaning off the mud:
Tiger Woods is halfway home to the “Grand Slam Eve.”
He won at Bay Hill in his final tournament before the Masters, then shot 280 at Augusta National and tied for sixth, four shots out of the lead. He won at Memorial in his final start before the U.S. Open, shot 280 at Bethpage Black and tied for sixth, four shots behind.
Is it possible he could win all four events he plays before the majors, without winning a major?
Woods is the tournament host next week at Congressional in the AT&T National, his tune-up for the British Open. His final event before the PGA Championship is at Firestone, where he has won six times.
Public perception of his pursuit to 19 majors depends on the last one. But consider this: Woods has finished in the top 10 in nine of his last 10 majors, and he has had 18 consecutive top 10s in stroke-play events.
He keeps giving himself chances, which is what separates him from everyone else.
Bunkers and mud topped the list of complaints at the U.S. Open.
The USGA refuses to allow players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in wet conditions, and more than a few players were hurt by splotches of mud at Bethpage Black. This is nothing new, although it didn’t keep players from whining about it. Ian Poulter even posted a picture of a mud ball on Twitter after the third round.
Too much sand in the bunkers? That might be worthy of review.
Like other golf organizations, the USGA is trying to make sand traps the hazard they were meant to be. It added sand to create soft lies, although pushing up the sand toward the lip of the bunker is going too far.
David Duval’s shot was buried under the lip, leading to triple bogey in the final round. He wasn’t the only victim — the same thing happened to Glover on the fifth hole, and it took him two shots to get out.
The obvious answer? Don’t hit it in the bunker.
But this ran opposite of the USGA’s concept of graduated rough. Miss the fairway by a little, and you still have a chance. The greater the miss, the deeper the rough.
In Duval’s case, he missed by a fraction of avoiding the bunker and paid dearly. It would have been better for him to come up well short and be in the middle of the trap, at least giving him a chance.
Jack Nicklaus lost a major championship record Monday, courtesy of Phil Mickelson.
Along with his record 18 majors, Nicklaus held the distinction of having the most runner-up finishes in every major championship. Mickelson now tops the list at the U.S. Open with five silver medals, achieved in the last 11 years.
Four of those second-place finishes looked all too familiar. Mickelson missed putts inside 8 feet on the 16th and 17th at Pinehurst No. 2 in 1999; on the 17th at Bethpage in 2002; on the 17th at Shinnecock Hills in 2004; and on the 15th and 17th at Bethpage this year.
Winged Foot is in a league of its own.
Having five runner-up finishes won’t be looked upon negatively if Mickelson ever wins the U.S. Open.
David Duval was tied for the lead with two holes to play.
Chew on that.
His last PGA Tour victory was the British Open in 2001. He finished within five shots of the lead only one time over the next eight years and 143 tournaments. Despite four bogeys in a six-hole stretch early in his third round, and that triple bogey from a plugged lie in a bunker in the third round, he had a chance to win.
Duval sat on the patio at Bethpage Black a week ago Sunday and sized up his chances by saying all the right things. He was hitting it great, just not scoring. Told that he had his share of skeptics, Duval understood.
“I can’t say I’ve had good results,” he said.
Fans needed to see a week like the U.S. Open to believe he could win again. Duval needed it, too.
Bethpage Black had the U.S. Open twice in eight years, both times in less than ideal conditions.
Sergio Garcia complained about the rain in 2002, and Woods won in the dark because of Sunday afternoon storms. There was so much rain this year that Ricky Barnes set a 36-hole scoring record, and more records might have been shattered without a little wind and a lot of nerves on the final few days.
Should it get another chance? Absolutely. It is a complete test.
The next opening on the U.S. Open schedule is in 2017. The question is whether Bethpage Black dries out by then.
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