FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - One year after an unlikely Rocco story, an even less-heralded contender named Ricky leads through 36 rain-soaked holes at the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
Ricky Barnes, he of the painter's cap and linebacker's build (dad Bruce played for the NFL's New England Patriots) is 519th in the World Ranking. He is coming off his best result on Tour this year: a tie for 47th-place at the St. Jude Classic. Total PGA Tour victories: 0. Nationwide Tour victories: 0.
His career has paled in comparison to the guy he beat to win the 2002 U.S. Amateur, Hunter Mahan. But while Mahan is well back, at one under par through three holes of the third round, Barnes has made just one bogey all week. He carded a second-round 65 Saturday, which after an opening-round 67 broke the 36-hole Open scoring record at 132.
"If you would have told me I would have been eight under and with only a one-shot lead, I would have said, 'You're kidding me,'" said Barnes, who has hit 31 of 36 greens in regulation. "But I'll take it. It was solid play. I'm happy with the position I'm in."
Barnes leads Lucas Glover by a stroke, Mike Weir by two. The cut came at four over.
Acting fast to at least begin the third round, USGA officials changed the pins and started players off both nines, in twosomes, starting at 5:30 p.m.
In many cases, players had finished second-round play some eight hours earlier and had been killing time all day. Todd Hamilton (71 in the second round, two under overall) did laundry. Tom Lehman, who made the cut on the number, was at FedEx Kinko's, helping his daughter with a project.
When they returned Saturday night it was a surreal scene, golfers trudging along the course in the gloaming before a raucous crowd made only more so by happy hour. But it didn't last. The skies opened, water immediately pooled on the greens and the USGA finally stopped play for the day at 6:55, with 44 of the 60 players who made the cut having started the third round. Play was to resume at 7:30 a.m, but overnight rain has pushed the restart time back to "at least noon," according to the USGA.
The leaders and even the chase pack did not have a chance to start.
Barnes was hardly the only unlikely story on the leaderboard. David Duval, trying to break a slump that's going on seven years, rallied after a terrible start in the second round to card a 70.
He was three under, five back. So was Japan's Azuma Yano (Ranking: 117), who has caused confusion in the media room, where interview transcripts list him incorrectly as Yano Azuma. Sweden's Peter Hanson struggled to a one-over 71 and also was three under. The two co-favorites, meanwhile, have mostly spun their wheels.
Phil Mickelson carded an even-par 70 and was at one under for the tournament, seven back.
"If I can get hot with the putter," he said, "I like my chances in the next two rounds."
He had played one hole of his third round, rolling in a 20-foot par putt, and had hit his tee shot into light rough on the second hole when the horn blew. Tiger Woods, who had 24 hours to stew over his first-round 74, was 11 behind. Playing through intermittent rain Saturday afternoon, he managed only a one-under 69 in the second round.
"Unfortunately, my score doesn't reflect how I've been playing," said Woods, who hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and took 30 putts in round two. "But you never know. I've 36 more holes over the next, probably, three days."
Woods also got in one hole of third-round play, making a par on the par-4 10th before the rain came.
Lee Westwood, who finished a shot out of the playoff at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, fired a second-round 66 and was two under for the tournament, six shots off the lead.
Westwood's name on the first page of the leaderboard has been one of the few predictable elements in this Open, where Tiger and Phil are a combined 18 shots behind, and every player has wondered when in the name of Azuma Yano it'll stop raining.
A handful of players and caddies did not look happy, soaked to the bone after playing, in many cases, only a hole or two, or even a shot or two of the third round. "Brilliant," said Hamilton, whose tee time was 6:50 p.m., five minutes before play was called.
"No comment," said Ian Poulter.
But others felt the USGA had no choice.
"They had to start us," said Stewart Cink, who was even through four holes of his third round, and two over par for the tournament. "Absolutely it was the right decision. No question. But they called it at the right time, too."
For the leaders, 36 holes remain.