FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – No golf tournament ends without a number of players able to say “What if?” over one hole or one swing.
Hunter Mahan may have the best reason to ask that question after the U.S. Open.
Mahan’s ball was sitting in the fairway after his tee shot on the par-4 16th at Bethpage Black. He was 2-under for the tournament, just one stroke out of the lead.
But a great swing produced a terrible result and effectively ended his chance at his first major championship.
“We had a good number. I think it was like 172,” Mahan said. “Had an 8-iron downwind and just flushed it.”
If Mahan’s ball had hit any part of the green, he would have been looking at a makeable birdie putt, but the ball hit the flag stick – and hit it squarely.
“I hit that thing pretty hard and it ricocheted off the green,” he said. “That happens. It’s a U.S. Open. You’re going to get stuff like that. The green is just fast. I thought I hit a pretty good 5-wood runner up there, but the green was pretty fast.”
Instead of a chance at tying for the lead, Mahan made a bogey. Then he had another on the par-3 17th when his birdie attempt caught a ridge and left him a long par putt.
He finished tied for sixth at even par, four strokes behind champion Lucas Glover.
At least Mahan is getting closer.
This was the third straight year he finished in the top 20 in the Open. He tied for 10th at the Masters in April.
“I feel I can win any major,” he said. “I’m a good ball striker, good driver of the ball. When I get my putting up on those kind of standards, I feel I can win any tournament.”
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SAME MONEY: The total purse for the tournament was $7.5 million, the first time since 1981 there was not an increase from the previous year. Glover received $1.35 million as the champion and Fred Funk, who finished last among the 60 players making the 36-hole cut, earned $19,921.
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BIG PUTT: Ricky Barnes’ missed birdie putt on the 18th hole wound up costing him $250,170. Make it and he would have finished second alone at 277 and would have won $810,000. Instead, he finished in a three-way for second with Phil Mickelson and David Duval and won $559,830.
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GRANDPA KNEW: Dick Hendley introduced his grandson Lucas Glover to golf at age 3. Six years later, he brought him to the late Dick Harmon to teach him the game. It all paid off on Monday.
“I’m floating on air,” Hendley said from Greer, S.C.
He and his 29-year-old grandson talked two weekends ago.
“I watched him chip and putt and thought he was in a good frame of mind,” Hendley said of Glover’s Open performance. “I felt good about it all week. I didn’t say anything to anybody, but I had a feeling he’d play well the way he was hitting the ball.”
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TRACKING TIGER: Since Curtis Strange repeated as Open champion in 1989, no defending champion had finished in the top 10 until Tiger Woods this year.
Woods was seeking his fourth Open title, which would have tied him for the record with Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus.
His final-round 69 put him in a tie for sixth at even-par 280. In his other defenses, he tied for 12th at Southern Hills in 2001 and tied for 20th at Olympia Fields in 2003.
When Woods won the Open at Bethpage Black in 2002, he was the only player to break par for the tournament with a 277 total. Woods had two rounds in the 60s that year, 67 in the first and 68 in the second. This year, he broke 70 three times with 69s in the second and fourth rounds sandwiching a 68.
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SHORT ENDING: The 18th hole on Bethpage Black was the source of most concern during the weather-plagued tournament since it was the one fairway that did not drain well and faced having quite a bit of casual water on it.
For the final round, it played just 364 yards, the shortest closing hole in a major since the 2005 British Open, when the 18th at St. Andrews played seven yards shorter.
“They had to put a lot of the tees up this week just because it’s so soft,” Tiger Woods said. “I’m sure they probably did that on 18 because the fairways are basically under water. They had to move it up there so we were actually hitting it on the upslope.”
For the tournament, the 18th played to an average score of 4.1227, the 11th-toughest hole on the course. In the final round it was the third-easiest with an average score of 3.883.
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LOW AMATEUR: Nick Taylor, a native of Canada and a first-team All-American at the University of Washington last season, finished as the low amateur, closing with a 5-over 75 for a 288 total, one shot better than Drew Weaver of Virginia Tech, who had a final-round 74, and five ahead of Kyle Stanley of Clemson, who closed with a 75.
They were the only amateurs of the record 16 in the field to make the cut.
“I think it will do a lot,” Taylor said of his second Open start. He failed to make the cut last year at Torrey Pines. “It will give me confidence of being able to play that well the first two rounds and shoot a low number on a U.S. Open course.”
Taylor’s 5-under 65 in the second round matched the lowest round ever by an amateur in an Open. It was definitely his highlight in the weather-delayed tournament that finished Monday.
“About four weeks,” Taylor said when asked how long the tournament seemed. “It was long and it was grueling, but everybody had it, and it was just tough.
“It’s happened before, and it’s probably going to happen again. So I just have to get used to it, I guess.”