FARMINGDALE, N.Y. By mid-afternoon on Friday it was nice, and by 7 p.m. it was lovely: slightly humid, slightly warm, and as the players made their way across the greens and fairways of Bethpage Black, you could actually see their shadows. You remember shadows, don't you? An object blocks the path of the sun's rays, and in place of sunlight, you get shadows. The players will tell you they don't like putting through their shadows, but right about now it's a nice problem to have.
Enjoy it while you can, fellas. The forecast is grim: rain and wind on Saturday and more on Sunday. On the official weather maps that the USGA officials are carrying around in their back pockets, the forecast extends to Monday and Tuesday. More rain, more wind. It's easy to see this thing finishing on Monday. Or Tuesday. A slog.
Mike Davis of the USGA has been saying all week that the championship will be played at 72 holes or more if there's a playoff and there will be no special local rules allowing the players to lift, clean and place. If it takes a week to get it all in, it takes a week. He has it exactly right, and here we should all take a page from the USGA. There's something bigger and more powerful going on here than we can control: Mother Nature. And the good mother does not care about your flight plans, the start of summer camp, the e-mails and messages piling up on your cell phone or much of anything else. We're all such control freaks these days, but this is something we can't control. The other day, some friends and I went out for golf on a course that doesn't allow cell phones. It was a vacation from our everyday lives.
And that's how you might look at what's going at Bethpage this week. If you're a player or a caddie or a fan or a reporter, and you want to be here to see the thing unfold live, get on your waterproofs, bring extra socks, block out the discomfort as best you can and get into it. If you're watching the Open on TV (or your computer), treat it like a Jerry Lewis Telethon, something that's going to go on and on and on, until suddenly it's done. Sometime in the next week or so, some player is going to be the winner of the 109th U.S. Open. Whoever it is will have a lot of luck going his way, in the way of catching or missing the worst of the weather, and even more mental fortitude. Get into it. It's going to be a long, wild ride.
Remember when you were a kid, and the power went out and suddenly you were reading The Sporting News by flashlight and your mother was cooking on a kerosene stove and it all seemed like an adventure? That's the attitude you need to make this thing fun.
Fred Funk shot 70 in the first round. He played through dusk on Friday and didn't come close to finishing his round. He'll get up Saturday morning long before sunrise to complete his second round. If he's fortunate enough to make the cut he'll start his third round, maybe, way late on Saturday. Or maybe he'll play 36 on Sunday. Or maybe he'll play some holes on Saturday and some more on Sunday and some more on Monday. He doesn't know.
Nobody knows. Do you think Fred Funk cares? He's 53 and playing in the national championship. All he can do all any of them can do is play golf when he's told to play golf and stop when he's told to stop, and that stopping and starting will be dictated by something even the mighty USGA cannot control.
The U.S. Open has a thousand ways of getting in your head, and this year there's even more.