Spears reigns at U.S. Open, for now
Thursday, June 18, 2009
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Ryan Spears has won a college tournament while surrounded by wildfires. Now he’s atop the leaderboard at a super-soaked U.S. Open.
The former Wichita State star can cope with the elements. Unfortunately, no one can control the weather, and it’s causing problems at the U.S. Open.
Play was called for the day at 1:55 p.m. with no one completing more than 11 holes. Half the field hadn’t even teed up.
Despite playing just three holes Thursday, Spears’ name will stay on the leaderboard for almost 24 hours.
He was tied at 1 under par with Jeff Brehaut, Johan Edfors and Andrew Parr, who completed 11, four and three holes, respectively.
“They can’t take that away from me. I had it once,” Spears said of holding the overnight Open lead. “I’m sure my buddies and everything back home taped everything, so they have video coverage of it. Everything’s been pretty exciting.
“It’s just three holes. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’ll take where I’m at right now.”
One good break on Bethpage’s second hole created a lifetime of memories for Spears, a 23-year-old from Del City, Okla.
Spears had 135 yards into No. 2 Thursday. His ball was in casual water in the fairway, but he didn’t take a drop because the only option for relief was in the rough. He caught his approach slightly heavy, and his ball ended up near the greenside rough.
“The only thing I thought about was using the putter because you can get the club on it better,” Spears said. “The only problem with that is you have to make sure to stay aggressive through the swing because the grass can grab the putter.
“As soon as I hit it I was like, ‘That is (steaming).’ But I left the pin in for that reason, ... and it hit the pin and went in.”
That shot gave plenty of material to Bethpage’s hecklers.
“I keep getting Britney Spears comments,” Spears said. “I don’t mind it.”
The week’s forecast is causing more aggravation.
“We think (Friday) will be a decent day,” said Jim Hyler, chairman of the U.S. Golf Association championship committee. “Saturday is more problematic, and the words that our weather people are using is ‘sort of like today.’ ”
Play will resume at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The second wave of first-round tee times will start at 10 a.m. Friday. Barring any delays, the second round will begin at 4 p.m. Friday.
“An ideal goal would be to get Round 2 finished by Saturday,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competition. “But based on that weather forecast, that’s not looking terribly promising.”
Brehaut’s play was the most impressive, as he was just a handful of players to make the turn. Brehaut tied for 17th at the U.S. Open two years ago at Oakmont.
Spears, who played collegiately at Wichita State, has had prior success in severe conditions.
One of his five collegiate victories came at the ‘07 Sycuan Intercollegiate. Southern California wildfires burned within five miles of the course; players also had to deal with Santa Ana winds that gusted up to 60 mph.
“The wind could make you look like an idiot,” Spears said at the time. Luckily, the damp conditions at Bethpage didn’t make anyone look foolish, like they did in ‘02 when players couldn’t even reach some fairways.
“The USGA did a great job adjusting the course setup,” said amateur Drew Weaver, the ‘07 British Amateur champ. “They put every tee they possibly could up through the 11 holes I’ve seen. Holes like (the par-4 seventh), it’s very difficult, ... but it didn’t measure 525. It might’ve played that, but it wasn’t because of the setup.”
Weaver had his own moment in the spotlight. He was atop the leaderboard after playing his first four holes 1 under. He’s 2 over through 10 holes as he tries to strengthen his candidacy for this year’s Walker Cup team.
A handful of bigger names ended the day even par, including Ian Poulter, Justin Leonard and Angel Cabrera. Bubba Watson was also level par, rebounding from an opening-hole double with birdies on Nos. 2 and 4, his final hole before play was called.
Poulter had a 4-foot par putt on No. 8 when play was called. He let his feelings be known via Twitter.
“Another early morning,” Poulter wrote. “Can’t wait.”
The completion of this golf tournament may have to, though.