Ten Things I Love About the U.S. Open at Bethpage
1. "Graduated" Rough
We all want to hit it long and straight. Some of us do. Most of us do not. Professional golfers are expected to do it consistently. At least if they want to become the 2009 United States Open Champion.
The United States Golf Association (USGA) started utilizing "graduated" rough at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot where basically the further you hit it from the centerline of the fairway the worse the rough gets in terms of how long and how difficult it is.
First there's a 6-foot-wide strip of intermediate rough where the player should have little problem playing his next shot and making a decent score on the hole.
Next will be a first cut of primary rough, roughly 20 feet wide and approximately 2½ to 3 inches deep. This is where it gets a little dicey. The player is not going to be able to get the club on the ball and control its spin and flight as well as the fairway or intermediate rough. Depending on the lie and the skill par will be a good score.
Furthest away from "right down the pretty" as they say in Scotland is the second cut of rough, measuring 4 to 6 inches in depth, and stretching to the gallery rope lines and beyond. Good luck here, take your medicine, hack it out to the fairway hopefully and get it up and down for a "pro par."
2. The USGA Is Running the Show
There is no doubt about it.
The Masters Tournament is run by Chairman Billy Payne and Augusta National Golf Club; THE PLAYERS is run by Commissioner Tim Finchem and the PGA TOUR; The PGA Championship is run by the PGA of America and the British Open is run by the Royal & Ancient.
The United States Open is run by the USGA—period, and I mean period.
If you have an "inside the ropes" pass you better be just inside the ropes within three feet of the rope line. They have folks on each hole checking this and if you are out of compliance guess what? You are then escorted "outside the ropes."
If John Daly wins at Memphis he better take heed also and read the fine print of his invitation.
"Entries are subject to rejection at any time (including during the Championship) by the USGA. The reason for rejection may include unbecoming conduct."
3. This U.S. Open is Being Contested on a Public Golf Course
They play 'em on "public golf courses"—golf courses accessible to you, me, and the general public. Torrey Pines last year, Bethpage Black this year and Pebble Beach next year.
OK, so they may not be inexpensive (cheap) or easy to get on, but where there is a will there is a way!
4. The History of the U.S. Open
This one goes all the way back to1895 with Horace Rawlins beating Willie Dunn by two strokes at Newport Golf Course in Rhode Island.
American amateur Francis Ouimet's playoff victory over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1913 put golf on the map in this country.
Robert Tyre (Bobby) Jones Jr. won this championship four times including during his "Grand Slam" year of 1930.
So too did Ben Hogan win it four times after World War II including 1953 after his automobile accident that nearly took his life and by all accounts should have ended his golfing career.
Palmer's 1960 come from behind victory at Cherry Hills. Nicklaus beating Palmer in his own back yard at Oakmont CC in 1962.
Who will ever forget Tiger Woods third U.S. Open victory last year in a gutsy playoff performance over Rocco Mediate?
5. The Competition Is Keen for the 2009 U.S. Open
Tiger Woods wants to win this one just to make sure no one thought his victory last year was a fluke (laughter). The 33-year old now a two-legged golfer again needs four more Majors to tie, five to beat Jack Nicklaus and win the "greatest golfer ever" debate.
Perhaps Woods who won at Bethpage in 2002 will repeat as he did the British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland in 2000 and 2005.
Phil Mickelson will compete and try to avenge his second place finish to Woods in 2002.
Padraig Harrington who will be going for his third straight British Open title a month later at Turnberry in Scotland will be there as well as the "hot" golfers this year—Geoff Ogilvy, Zach Johnson, and Paul Casey along with Masters Champion Angel Cabrera.
6. It's Open—Anyone Can Win the U.S. Open
A record 9,086 golfers entered the process to determine the 2009 U.S. Open Champion. Only 63 golfers are fully exempt into the tournament proper and do not have to qualify. That is well less than one half the field of 156 golfers.
Next Monday, June 8th the remaining 767 golfers still alive in the elimination process will compete at 13 sectional qualifying sites around the United States to complete the field.
It's not the New York State lottery but all you need is a dream, a couple of bucks and an up-to-date men’s Handicap Index® not exceeding 1.4 under the USGA Handicap System™.
7. Anyone of the 156 in the Field Can Win
Like any golf tournament the winner even if Tiger Woods is an entrant is not determined until the final putt on Sunday afternoon—that's why they play the four rounds.
Full exemptions are granted to winners of the other Majors for the last five years, the low 15 finishers and ties from last year's U.S. Open and high spots on the earnings list from golf tours around the world.
Bottom line performance demonstrated at the starting at the beginning of last year, 18 months ago does not mean the player is playing well come U.S. Open time.
Eric Axley has missed 11 of 16 cuts on the PGA TOUR this year. His best finish has been a T42 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. However he is in the field by virtue of his T9 finish last year at Torrey Pines.
Dudley Hart has missed 6 of 13 cuts this year with his best finish being T28 in the opposite WGC event Mayakoba. He is in by virtue of his No. 29 finish on the Money List last year. Currently he is No. 165.
Ditto for Billy Mayfair- he has missed 12 of 16 cuts and his best finish this year is T32 at THE PLAYERS. He qualified for tor the 2009 U.S. Open by qualifying for the 2008 TOUR Championship (Top 30 FedEx Cup points) where he finished T10.
On a positive note amateur FSU golfer Drew Kittleson is in the field by virtue of his runner-up finish in the 2008 U.S. Amateur. The guy who beat him Danny Lee turned professional after the Masters and needs to make it through sectional qualifying next Monday to get into the field.
With one red hot week anyone of the 156 in the field can win this year's U.S. Open.
8. The Field Is International
Ted Turner had it right in the 1970s when he wanted to do away with the label "foreigner" and go with "international." Basically in the game of golf there is a world tour emerging with a handful of players like Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher, Sergio Garcia, Soren Hansen, Robert Karlsson, and Padraig Harrington that are good enough to play a combined European and American tournament schedule. If one is a world golfer and wakes up in the morning no one is a foreigner and we are all international golfers.
At this year's U.S. Open we will see the likes of England's Simon Dyson, Simon Khan and David Horsey, Sweden's Johan Edfors, France's Raphael Jacquelin, Jean-Francois Lucquin and Thomas Levet, South Africa's Andrew McLardy, Italy's Francesco Molinari, The Phillipines' Angelo Que, Argentina's Eduardo Romeros and Japan's Kaname Yokoo all playing on the PGA TOUR for the first time this year.
9. The USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.
Since the museum is on my way to Bethpage this is the year I am going to stop in and check it out. It is only about 80 miles from the where the U.S. Open is being played at Bethpage State Park on Long Island.
Though not as well advertised as Gary Player's "if you love golf then you gotta go" World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., the USGA museum has the research and testing facility and a new Arnold Palmer Room.
I gotta go to the USGA museum this time for sure.
10. I Love New York
And so does Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and everyone else.
Manhattan, Long Island and yes even Upstate where I am from.
If you can't find it in the state of New York, you can't find it anywhere.
One of the 156 entrants in the field for this year's U.S. Open will find the U.S. Open trophy in their possession come late Sunday afternoon on the 21st of June.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR, volunteering for the tournaments and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel. He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Fla. near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him at Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net.
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