By petedirenzo
Monday, May 04, 2009

Seven years ago, Bethpage State Park's Black Course played to 7,214 yards, the longest U.S. Open course ever. This year, it will be even longer. At Monday's media day, Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competitions, said the par-70 layout has been stretched to 7,426 yards. "This course is going to be long," Davis said. In fact, for the first time at any U.S. open, three par 4s will be longer than 500 yards. Many of the greens are protected by bunkers and rough in the front, so players won't be able to bounce shots onto the greens or recover with bump-and-run approach shots. Nope, golfers will have to attack the Black Course through the air, flying shots all the way to their targets.Besides the length, Davis noted several differences between Bethpage and other U.S. Open venues.1.    On eight or nine holes, players may not be able to see the putting surface or the entire flagstick from the landing area.2.    The bunkers are especially deep and big. "I think these are the most challenging sets of bunkers we have," Davis noted. Look for them to be filled with fluffy, light sand that makes spinning the ball difficult.3.    Bethpage's greens are fairly flat by championship standards, which will encourage the USGA to make them lightning fast. Davis said the goal is to have the greens rolling between 13 ½ and 14 ½ on the Stimpmeter on Monday of tournament week. However, unlike previous years, when the USGA acknowledges that it let the greens get harder and faster as the week went on, Davis said the speeds would be maintained. Using a new device called a True Firm, the USGA will systematically water the course so the fairways and greens remain consistent throughout the week."We want this to be the toughest test of golf the players face all year," he said to the assembled members of the media. "If you execute the proper shot, you should get the proper result. If you execute a mediocre shot, you should get a mediocre result. And if you execute a poor shot, well ... "Set up for the championship, the USGA rated the Black Course 78.2 with a Slope Rating of 152.This A.W. Tillinghast course will not offer up a drivable par 4 like players faced last year at Torrey Pines. (On Sunday at Torrey Pines, the par-4 14th was just 267 yards long.) This year, the USGA will force players to think by moving the tee boxes around. Bethpage 4 For example, few players attempted to reach the par-5 fourth hole (photo) in two shots in 2002 because the back of the green was shaved and dropped off severely. From there, par was a great score, and bogey was likely, so it wasn't worth the risk to go for it. This year, the area behind the green will be softened, and the tees will likely be moved forward, so attacking the 517-yard hole will be very possible for more players.The USGA can also set up the eighth hole to play as short as 135 yards or as long as 230 yards. The green complex has been extended forward, toward the pond, and when the tee is forward, Davis said players should expect the hole to be placed in the front. "If the players want to attack with a wedge or short iron, the water will definitely be in play. If they choose to hit a safe shot off the tee, they will have a very tough, fast downhill putt."The graduated rough, first seen at Winged Foot in 2006, will once again line the fairways at the U.S. Open. The first 20 feet off the fairway will be about 2 ½ inches deep; areas beyond that will be 4-6 inches deep.The sign that all golfers pass on the way to the first tee of the Black Course reads, "WARNING – The Black Course is An Extremely Difficult Golf Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers."The USGA may be trying to create a more exciting U.S. Open, but this is still Bethpage Black. Gentlemen, you've been warned.(Photo provided by USGA

You May Like