‘Weather dogs’ will shine at soggy Bethpage
Friday, April 10, 2009
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — I, the weather dog, love moisture and mud. Whenever the U.S. Open turns into the British Open, with rain, cold and wind, I’m the happiest guy on planet golf.
Here at Bethpage Black in the first round of the U.S. Open, I was in dog heaven. Until play was suspended, that is.
At 6:50 a.m., I arrived at the first tee for the initial starting time. For years at the U.S. Open, I have toured the course with the first group off the first tee. It wasn’t that long ago that Angel Cabrera, now a two-time major champion, was sent out in that first group.
By 7 a.m., it was raining steadily. Amateur Rickie Fowler (pictured), who rivals Rory McIlroy for having the most unruly hair in golf, emerged from under an umbrella to hit the opening tee shot. Wham! He launched a powerful snap hook that headed toward knee-high grass.
You might imaging my joy – because I am the weather dog – when I discovered that Fowler’s drive was so far left that it cleared the rough, landed on bare turf and rolled up to a concession stand called The Dog House.
No problem. In such a situation, proceed as if you planned it that way.
Fowler’s second shot came up 10 yards short of the green, but he chipped to 2 feet and saved par. It was more a chip than a pitch, a low shot that checked on the second bounce as if commanded to do so.
Bo Van Pelt and Casey Whittenberg, Fowler’s playing competitors, also made par. Van Pelt saved par from a greenside bunker.
By the time the threesome reached the second green, members of the maintenance crew were using squeegees to push water from the green.
Including 150 or so volunteers, the U.S. Open maintenance crew numbers about 210. The squeegees number 80, or more than four per hole. I could count the Water Hogs, huge machines that soak up water, on two hands – nine.
But neither maintenance workers nor squeegees nor Water Hogs could save this day.
Fowler & Co. completed 11 discouraging holes when play was called. Fowler shot a 6-over-par 41 on the front nine and added another bogey at 11 for a 7-over total with seven holes remaining.
Perhaps he isn’t a weather dog.
Tiger Woods, who hooked his opening tee shot into Fowler Country but also saved par, is indeed a weather dog. He was 1 over through six holes. In typical Tiger fashion, he bounced back from a double bogey (on 5) with a birdie (on 6).
Not a single player stood better than 1 under, as the weather gods battered everyone on the course. The advantage, if any, belongs to all the afternoon players who did not start their rounds.
With forecasters calling for more rain, I am planning to celebrate golf’s unpredictability. The game is played rain or shine, in pleasant or unpleasant conditions. The trick is to remain a weather dog and relish the challenge.
I should add that I just watched the NBA Finals and have drawn, in my mind, a sharp distinction between this NBA 7-game showdown and the U.S. Open 72-hole shootout.
Basketball players whine, golfers shine.
Golf, my friends, is for real men. Or dogs, as the case may be.