FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Rain delays are rare in the U.S. Open unless it’s being played on Long Island.
Thursday’s suspension of play at Bethpage Black because of heavy rain meant a third straight Open on Long Island to be affected at some point by the weather.
In the 2004 Open, played at Shinnecock Hills farther east on Long Island, a thunderstorm at 4:43 p.m. caused a 2-hour, 12-minute delay, and when play was resumed, it was suspended for the day 45 minutes later because of fog.
That was the last time, until Thursday, a round was not completed the day it started.
The only other time the Open was held at Bethpage in 2002, play was suspended for 49 minutes late in the final round because of severe weather.
With the weather forecast for the next few days far from bright, talk has begun of the 72-hole tournament not being completed until Monday, or even later next week.
Only twice has a U.S. Open not finished on Sunday because of weather delays, and it has never gone beyond that.
From 1926 until 1965, the Open was played over three days with 36 holes contested on Sunday.
In 1959, at Winged Foot north of New York City, morning thundershowers on Sunday forced three suspensions of play, so only 18 holes were played that day and the tournament was finished on Monday with Billy Casper finishing one stroke ahead of Bob Rosburg.
In 1983, at Oakmont near Pittsburgh, play was suspended because of a thunderstorm with the leaders five holes from finishing. The players returned Monday and Larry Nelson shot even par over his final three holes to beat Tom Watson by a stroke.
The Open has finished on a Monday many times, including last year, because of the 18-hole playoff used rather than a sudden-death format.
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NO RAIN CHECKS: Even though most of the field didn’t hit a ball Thursday, tickets for the day are no longer valid for the rest of the tournament.
Unlike baseball, where a rain check is issued if an official game isn’t played, the USGA has no such policy.
If a whole day’s play is wiped out, the USGA would honor that day’s tickets at a later date, possibly Monday, if the the tournament were forced to continue on a fifth day.
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A GOOD WALK: Bethpage Black is among the longest and toughest courses to walk, especially for a caddie, even more so in the weather that turned the opening round into a slog.
It might be easy, though, compared with what Billy Foster faces next month in Scotland.
Foster is one of the top European caddies whose list of employers include Seve Ballesteros, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and even Tiger Woods at the 2005 Presidents Cup. To raise money and awareness for cancer, Foster has decided to carry a tour golf bag from Loch Lomond to Turnberry over four days, arriving in time for the British Open.
The length of the journey is 90 miles.
Foster will leave on July 9 — the opening round of the Scottish Open — and plans to walk about 20 miles a day, arriving at Turnberry on Monday. He now works for Lee Westwood, who has given him the week off during the Scottish Open.
And when he arrives at Turnberry?
“Then I start caddying on Tuesday if I have any strength left,” Foster said Thursday.
His goal is to raise 50,000 British pounds (about $82,000), money that will be divided between the Darren Clarke Foundation and an organization called “Candlelighters Children Cancer.” The money to Clarke’s foundation will go to breast cancer charities; Clarke’s wife died of the disease in 2006.
Pledges can be made at www.justgiving.com/billyfoster.
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WATER EVERYWHERE: The regular course maintenance staff of 65 as well as another 150 or so volunteers are spending a lot of time and effort in trying to get the playing areas of Bethpage Black in good enough condition for play to resume Friday morning.
What about all the places where the spectators spend their time during the tournament, sitting in bleachers, standing along fairways and around greens and traversing the soggy landscape to get from one hole to another?
“Our ops people are out there also watching and monitoring people-movement areas, and we put down wood chips and put down gravel,” said Jim Hyler, chairman of the USGA’s championship committee. “We’ll try to take every precaution we can given what we’re dealing with.”
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LUCK OF THE DRAW: The players who had to endure the rainy conditions until play was suspended for the day were out there because of the luck of the draw.
The players who go off early in the first round have late starting times in the second.
It was easy to tell which was which Thursday. The ones smiling were in the latter group.
“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,” said Padraig Harrington, the reigning British Open and PGA champion, who was 4 over par through six holes when play was stopped. “That’s the nature of the game. You’re going to get bad breaks. You’re going to get the wrong side of the draw. Who knows what the next three or four days are going to bring, or could be four or five days are going to bring?”