Thursday, June 18, 2009

One thing's for sure: Come hell or high water, they're going to play 72 holes at this U.S. Open. When? That's another story.According to the USGA's championship committee chairman Jim Hyler, weather conditions should be OK Friday. The plan is to open the practice areas at 6 a.m. and pick up play at 7:30, right where players left off--like a shotgun start. The afternoon groupings would then start at 10 a.m, which means Phil Mickelson should play his first hole of this U.S. Open a little after 11:30 a.m. Friday. "The goal here is to play as much golf as we can on any given day," said Mike Davis, the USGA's director of rules and conditions. "If we need to, we will play slightly more than even 36 holes once we play the cut."The problem is that Saturday's forecast calls for about as much rain as Thursday's, which will end up being more than an inch, and even more rain is called for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Hyler said. If the rain holds off and allows play, then the USGA's ideal scenario is to complete the second round on Saturday and play 36 holes on Sunday."I'm not sure we'll get it in with the weather," Davis warned. "There's a history and the USGA is firm on this: We will not determine a national champion until we play 72 holes. We had a Women's Open several years back finish up on Tuesday, and unfortunately we had a playoff that went into Wednesday. Not trying to be pessimistic, but we will play 72 holes."Davis said the one silver lining is that the course drains very quickly, with the exception of the landing area on the 18th fairway. As flooded as the course looks on TV, Davis is confident it will dry out quickly. The greens--not the fairways--were the reason the USGA suspended play on Thursday, he said. However, the rain will prevent players and fans from seeing the notoriously difficult Bethpage Black course at its toughest."It's very frustrating that we're not really going to see the true Bethpage Black, where you're bouncing balls in," Davis said. Instead, Davis said, players will be able to hit low 3-irons into greens, knowing that the rain-softened surfaces will hold them. Still, it won't be easy. The USGA can extend the length of Bethpage Black to more than 7,400 yards to counteract the more receptive greens, Davis said.

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