McCabe: Sink or swim? Smile and swing

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Life jackets and snorkel masks had been issued to players hours earlier, but in the aftermath of yet another torrential rainfall, United States Golf Association officials have pretty much conceded defeat. They are no match for Mother Nature, which brings them to this solution:

A four-way playoff will be held Tuesday morning between Jeff Brehaut, Johan Edfors, Andrew Parr and Ryan Spears, all of whom are 1 under and atop the leaderboard at the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. (Put your money on the 26-year-old from Canada, because as everyone knows, Parr usually will win the U.S. Open.)

Then again, with every leaderboard under water, it’s hard to figure out who is sitting pretty. What we can say with certainty is this: Everyone is standing in casual water.

Yes, indeed, there is trouble in River City, which is what you can pretty much start calling this former golf course, what with all the streams and tributaries running through the property. We could say it’s a mess, but it would have to improve greatly to even qualify for that lowly status.

“So, that’s where we are,” USGA vice president Jim Hyler said, moments before declaring that first-round play had been suspended for the day. A mere three hours of golf had been played, and though we kid about the four-man playoff, you might not want to laugh about the Tuesday possibility.

And to think, Anne Lloyd traveled from her home in England to get this British Open-like weather.

She laughed at such a thought as she waited for Paul Casey to determine his course of action in high grass left of the 15th fairway. Part of the Executive Women’s Golf Association – which is marshaling the 15th hole – Lloyd helped locate Casey’s ball, though the Englishman couldn’t do much with it. After 15 minutes of deep thought and different vantage points, Casey decided to take an unplayable lie and just hack it out.

“Miserable,” Lloyd said. “So tough.”

No one would disagree, least of all Tiger Woods, whose opening tee shot in a steady rain was pulled so far left that he was nearly in a merchandise tent. Woods was able to advance it into a greenside bunker, from which he saved par, but when play was suspended, he was 1 over playing the seventh hole.

Woods also was drenched, for there was no way around that on this day. A day that Cortland Lowe’s caddie Mark Zyons said would require “octupus hands,” what with all their reaching for gloves, towels, umbrellas.

But despite the actions taken to provide dry grips and clean clubs, ugly shots and terrible scores were at the heart of this opening round of the U.S. Open. To wit:

• Steve Stricker’s hybrid layup at the par-4 13th squirted dead right, maybe 150 yards.

• Eduardo Romero played five holes, going for four bogeys and a triple.

• David Horsey was out in 45.

• Andrew Svoboda was 7 over for six holes, including three putts from 3 feet at the par-3 14th.

• Luke Donald had two 7s in just five holes.

And all the while, volunteers with squeegees dominated the show, their efforts taking stage between every group.

Now, if you’re wondering what that did for the pace of play, consider this: At 7:55, Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey teed off at No. 10. By 8:50, they were on the 12th tee.

Fifty-five minutes for two holes. Good gracious; at this rate, we’ll bump into the 110th U.S. Open.

Through it all, however, Furyk smiled and shrugged, his acceptance at such a predicament perhaps a good reason why he went out in four pars and a bogey to maybe indicate he’ll be a factor this week. There was a rain glove on his left hand (“I considered wearing two gloves,” he said), an umbrella in his hand and a ringing in his ear as air horns signaled that play had been suspended, only seconds after he had rifled a hybrid onto the green from more than 200 yards out.

Looking at the long walk up to the 15th green that might be unnecessary, caddie Mike Cowan asked Furyk, “Should I stay here?” Assuming that he would mark the ball and not putt out, Furyk said he should.

It was the best news Cowan heard all day, though the problem for everyone in their pairing now was to find the shuttle vans. Casey and Ogilvy led the way, their caddies, Craig Connelly and Alistair Matheson, followed, and coming along next were Cowan, Furyk and a few dozen of his closest friends, the involved New York gallery.

“Jim, saw you at the Chicago U.S. Open. That putter’s going to win it again for you,” said a man, and Furyk, who won that major outside of Chicago in 2003, smiled. Then he trudged through some more puddles and headed for the place a USGA official had told him vans would be waiting.

They weren’t there, so onward went the walk, down the 16th fairway, across the 17th, then onto the first fairway toward the clubhouse.

As they got within 100 yards of the clubhouse, Furyk turned to a USGA official who made the long, wet walk in with him and asked, “They find those vans yet?”

The man shook his head, laughed, and Furyk returned the smile. The day couldn’t have been any worse, the conditions any harsher, the body any wetter, but Furyk’s spirit was unflappable.

Good thing, too. He’ll need it.

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