By petedirenzo
Friday, June 19, 2009

FARMINGDALE, N.Y.—Raise your hand if you thought somebody could shoot 62 at Bethpage Black to lead the U.S. Open. Put your hands down, you liars.Well, 62 was, indeed, leading the Open on Friday—the Virtual U.S. Open. The USGA partnered with the World Golf Tour to build the computer golf game, which includes more than 100,000 high-definition photos of Bethpage Black.So far, more than 100,000 online players have hit more than 40 million virtual golf shots in the event. Those are big numbers. Here’s how the tournament works. Players have until midnight Sunday to try to qualify for the Virtual Open at You can play as many rounds as you want, and it’s free. The low 156 scores and ties will advance to an 18-hole final, and qualifiers will have 48 hours to complete their championship round. The winner gets the Open title and a week for two at next year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.The current Virtual Open leader goes by the screen name Tibbets and needed 300 rounds to produce that 62. Hot on his (or her?) heels is Avatar Lee, one of the WGT’s regular gamers and top players and perhaps the player to beat. The projected cut, said WGT chief executive officer YuChiang Cheng, will probably be even par 70. The toughest virtual holes so far have been Nos. 5 and 15, two holes that Tiger Woods bogeyed in his first round, coincidentally. There are computer kiosks on the grounds at Bethpage Black (and there’s one in the media center lunchroom) that can be used to sample the game and check out the status of the tournament so far, including full leaderboards and stats. Cheng said it was a kick to be here during Open week.“It’s almost like vindication,” Cheng said. “I’ve stared at our Virtual Open course for so long, I have so much more appreciation for the golf course now that I’m seeing it in person this week. The way the real course is set up and conditioned and prepared is amazing.”Cheng’s best score on the game, by the way, is 81. Want to qualify? Play the Virtual Open.

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