FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Geoff Ogilvy and Paul Casey are among the hottest players coming into the U.S. Open, each having won three times around the world over the last seven months.
While neither is paying close attention this early in the year, they at least are poised for a potential run at history. No one has ever won the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same year.
Ogilvy is No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings in America on the strength of victories in the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Accenture Match Play Championship. The latter is a World Golf Championship and counts on all tours, which has gone a long way in the Australian being No. 2 in the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
Casey won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the Houston Open and was runner-up to Ogilvy at Match Play, which has helped push him to No. 10 in the FedEx Cup standings. The key on the PGA Tour is to be in position going into the FedEx Cup playoffs, which feature four consecutive $7 million events.
The Englishman also won the BMW Championship at Wentworth and the Abu Dhabi Championship, which has given him a sizable lead in the Race to Dubai.
The U.S. Open will count toward both money lists, as will the final two majors and the Bridgestone Invitational.
“That would be pretty cool,” Ogilvy said about the prospects of leading both money lists. “No one has ever done it? I’m sure Tiger has done it, hasn’t he?”
Before waiting on an answer, Ogilvy realized that Woods has never taken up membership on the European Tour by playing a minimum 11 tournaments and being eligible for the Order of Merit.
BIG BREAK Few players deserve a good break like J.P. Hayes, and he finally got one.
The 43-year-old Hayes earned notoriety last year for disqualifying himself at Q-school on the PGA Tour when he discovered he inadvertently used a golf ball that had not been approved yet for tournament play. He has no status on tour, so he had to go through local and sectional qualifying to reach the U.S. Open.
Hayes signed up for local qualifying near his home in El Paso on May 12, which was a Tuesday.
But it became complicated when he received a sponsor’s exemption to the Texas Open, which asked that in return he play in the Monday pro-am. Getting from San Antonio to El Paso was not only a long trip, but an expensive one.
Just his luck, he played in the pro-am with a prominent businessman from El Paso who flew to San Antonio in his private jet. He offered Hayes a ride home for the qualifier, where he shot 68 to make it by one shot. In the sectional qualifier in Memphis, Tenn., he again qualified on the number.
“This is my sixth U.S. Open, and I won’t have many left,” Hayes said. “I’m going to enjoy this one.”
WEATHER WOES Weather is quickly becoming a major concern at this major championship.
Tiger Woods was delayed for about half an hour on the first tee Monday morning because of rain, then eventually got nine holes in, some of which actually took place in sunshine.
But more rain pelted Bethpage Black during the afternoon, leaving plenty of muddy puddles on walkways and further softening greens that could – assuming anyone hits them – be downright receptive this week.
Forecasters are calling for as much as a 50 percent chance of rain on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The two remaining practice days, according to the National Weather Service, likely will be mostly dry, but temperatures will be hard-pressed to crack the 70-degree plateau.
For Kenny Perry, the talk of bad weather brought up some memories from the last time this tournament was held at Bethpage. The 10th hole has a long carry to clear some overgrown grass, and during a downpour at the 2002 Open, Perry said Nick Price simply couldn’t get the ball far enough.
“He had a 3-yard landing area with the walkway there that he had to land in,” Perry said. “That will be a situation on that hole.”
Maybe not. The fairway has been brought closer to the tee by some 40 yards, requiring only a 225-yard carry. That shouldn’t be a problem in any weather.
AMATEUR SUCCESS Amateur Bronson Burgoon knows he’s one of the longest shots in the 156-man field at the U.S. Open. The Texas A&M standout put a shot from the rough, 120 yards from the hole, to within 3 inches of the cup to clinch the Aggies’ NCAA title last month.
But he’s got some hope.
Already this year, two amateurs have won on the European Tour. Shane Lowry survived a playoff to win the Irish Open last month, and New Zealand’s Danny Lee won the Johnnie Walker Classic in February.
“Over there the golf is just as good as it is over here,” Burgoon said.
The 22-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas, also is finding some inspiration from this side of the pond as well.
“I just think the level of competition as amateurs now has gone way up,” Burgoon said. “You know, like you can tell Anthony Kim comes out and does real well. Dustin Johnson comes out and does really well. Time and time again, people are just proving that young guys can play.”
Perhaps the best example of amateurs on the rise: There are 15 amateurs in the field, the most since 18 amateurs in 1981.
DIVOTS Darren Clarke made a detour on his way to Bethpage Black, spending the weekend at Pine Valley. Clarke shot a 67 the first day and a 72 on Sunday. “It’s hard,” he said with a grin. “But it’s pure.” … Tiger Woods played his practice round with James Kamte of South Africa, whose first trip to America has been one to remember. Kamte played with Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village the weekend before the Memorial, where he received an exemption. He played a practice round with Ernie Els at the Memorial. And then he played with Woods at Bethpage Black.