By petedirenzo
Monday, June 15, 2009

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — On the first official day of U.S. Open practice rounds at the 7,426-yard Black Course at Bethpage State Park, the players seemed to agree on at least one descriptor. Long.  Even the absurdly big-hitting Spaniard, Alvaro Quiros, who in five PGA Tour starts this year has averaged 315 yards a poke, felt a little beat-up after his first-ever trip around the course. When asked which holes in particular troubled him, Quiros wasted little time responding:  “All of them.”You can understand his pain. When the U.S. Open last visited the Black Course in 2002, it played 7,214 yards. This year it has been stretched another 212 yards, and features a trio of par 4s  — Nos. 7, 10 and 12 — that play 500-plus yards. The 7th, the longest par-4 in Open history at 525 yards, is playing seven yards longer than the 4th — a par 5. Masters champion Angel Cabrera, another long-hitter, played the 7th today and said that he needed a driver and a 3-wood to get home.  Kenny Perry, who played the course yesterday, had his own scrap with No. 7, a sharp dogleg whose corner is guarded by a yawning bunker and a stand of trees. “I hit a good drive, and I was still blocked,” Perry said. “I had 255 to the green, but I was still in behind the trees. So I had to slice it around the trees and came up short.”It was a common theme today on the bruising par-4.“There’s going to be a lot of guys having trouble getting it over the bunker there,” Perry added. “Kind of like I remember Nick Price in 2002 on No. 10 when it was raining hard. He couldn’t hit it far enough to get over the weeds there.” Sunny skies prevailed through much of the day, but so did squishy conditions underfoot — the result of  several days of intermittent rain that have made the layout play longer still. Forecasts are calling for more rain beginning Thursday and continuing through the weekend. On the upside, the greens are soft, and if they stay that way, low scores might follow. Quiros said he wouldn’t be surprised if someone posts a 64, or 6-under-par, which would tie the course record. Perry predicts the winning score, because of the receptive greens and graduated rough, will beat Tiger Woods’ mark of 3-under-par in 2002. “I may be wrong on that assumption,” Perry said, “but I remember the rough off the fairway in ’02 was just very severe; it was definitely chip-out. Whereas this year I think you can actually play out of it a little bit, and I think you’ll see the guys get it on the green.”Quiros’s caddie, Dave McNeilly, was on Padraig Harrington’s bag at the ’02 Open. The biggest differences he has noticed in the course are at the 10th and 12th holes, a pair of par 4s that many in the 2002 field deemed unfair. “At No. 10, a lot of the players couldn’t even reach the fairway,” McNeilly says. “That’s not even an issue on that hole now.” (The USGA has extended the fairway to make it more reachable.)McNeilly also said the bunkers guarding the turn at No. 12 are all but a non-factor — at least for his man. “In 2002, many players couldn’t carry it,” he said. “Today, Alvaro could hit 3-wood.” Don't tell Nick Price that.Video: Bethpage Black flyover | Photos: Monday Preparations, Tiger's Round | Aerial Views

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