MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Open remains the only major that has an 18-hole playoff, and USGA executive director David Fay said that’s not about to change.
“We are doggedly determined to go 18 holes,” he said.
It was worth it last year at Torrey Pines, one of the most compelling rounds of the year. Tiger Woods, on a wounded knee, built a lead, blew a lead, had to birdie the 18th to force overtime and won on the 19th hole over Rocco Mediate. Some ticket gates were not manned, leading to some 30,000 fans trying to follow two players. The atmosphere was over the top.
Just don’t get the idea that the USGA makes a mint out of the extra day. Quite the opposite.
Fay said the USGA had to spend nearly $120,000 for an extra day of buses, $45,000 for the smaller buses, $30,000 for parking, $60,000 for security to stay an extra night and day. Throw in lunches for bus drivers, media, volunteers, parking for the media and travel costs for the USGA staff.
“When you round it up, and throw in the ever popular ‘miscellaneous,’ it came out to $513,000,” he said. “Sure, we hope to see a few more hot dogs and beers and shirts. But the answer is, you don’t earn that money back.”
Fay found it peculiar that what appeared to be a mismatch (Woods was No. 1, Mediate at No. 157) turned out to be a terrific playoff. That hasn’t always been the case. Jack Nicklaus won easily in a highly anticipated playoff against Arnold Palmer at Oakmont in 1962, just as Lee Trevino won handily over Nicklaus at Merion in 1971.
“Some years, you feel that this deserves to go another 18 or more,” Fay said. “On paper, the ones you look forward to the most, don’t always go that way.”
CADDIE SWITCH: Camilo Villegas, who has emerged as one of the top players in golf, found himself without a regular caddie after his looper decided to leave him to work part-time for Sergio Garcia.
Just don’t get the idea he will be at a disadvantage at the U.S. Open.
Villegas played in a charity event the Monday after The Players Championship with Fred Couples, who will not be at Bethpage and thus offered the services of his caddie – Joe LaCava, one of the best in the business.
LaCava also works with Davis Love III and walked 36 holes at a U.S. Open qualifier Monday. Now he gets two straight weeks, the St. Jude Classic and U.S. Open, with the 27-year-old Colombian. Why not just take a week off?
“Let me ask you a question,” LaCava replied. “Would you want a week off when you could work for this kid?”
Villegas closed out last year with victories in the BMW Championship and Tour Championship, earned $4.4 million and picked up a $3 million bonus for finishing second in the FedEx Cup.
That begs another question – why would anyone want out of a bag that lucrative?
Villegas said Gary Matthews, a steady voice during his success last year, is about to start a family and wanted to work less. Garcia has been employing two caddies the past couple of years, and half the job opened up when Billy Foster departed.
“When you split with your caddie, you can look at it positively or negatively,” Villegas said. “I’m looking at it positively. This is a chance for me to try different guys.”
His brother, Manny, who is trying to qualify for Nationwide Tour events, caddied for him at the Memorial. Villegas said he is getting “a lot of phone calls” from caddies offering to take the job, which should come as no surprise. He did not say whom he might use the rest of the year, but does not seem to be in a big hurry.
“I believe I treat caddies well, and we get along great,” Villegas said. “If I play well, they make a lot of money. It’s all good.”
Strangely enough, Matthews worked the last two weeks for Michelle Wie, who needed a temporary caddie. Villegas said that was facilitated by Clarke Jones, the agent at IMG for Garcia, Villegas and Wie.
ROUGH EXHIBIT: On Tuesday of the Memorial, Steve Rintoul, the PGA Tour official in charge of setting up Muirfield Village, said that because the 3 1/2-inch rough was less dense than the previous year, it could make it play even tougher.
Sitting in his cart along the trees left of the ninth fairway in the second round, he was proven correct.
Geoff Ogilvy was in the right rough, with the pin on the left part of a green protected by water. He studied his shot with three dozen fans standing behind him.
“Let’s see what Geoff does here,” Rintoul said. “This is exactly what we were talking about in my office. See all those people behind him? Think they’d like to see Geoff pull out a wedge and punch out to the fairway? He still might, but he’s got a choice.”
Ogilvy settled over his ball, taking a wide stance. As soon as he made contact, Rintoul said, “Uh-oh. He got a flyer.”
“Fore left!” came a cry from the gallery.
Ogilvy went long and left, leaving him little hope of getting it close. He did well to chip 20 feet past the hole. If he had punched out, he likely would have been no more than 10 feet away.
Later in the round, Vijay Singh caught a flyer on the 18th. Needing par to make the cut, his ball hit a path over the green and landed next to the clubhouse, leading to double bogey.
DIVOTS: Instead of flying home after the Memorial, six players headed to Liberty National in New Jersey on short notice to take part in the “Commissioner’s Cup,” a pro-am event with the PGA Tour’s corporate partners. The players were Steve Stricker, Rod Pampling, Stewart Cink, John Merrick, D.J. Trahan and Nick Watney. Joining them was Carl Pettersson, who already had gone home to North Carolina after missing the cut, and Arron Oberholser, who flew across the country from Arizona. … Davis Love III took the long way home after missing The Players Championship, taking part in Kyle Petty’s “Ride Across America” on motorcycles. Love started in Idaho, and put 3,286 miles on his Harley-Davidson before arriving home in Sea Island, Ga. The worst part of the trip was parking it at home. “I asked Kyle, ‘Can we turn around and go back?”‘
STAT OF THE WEEK: For the second straight year, Kevin Silva and Charlie Beljan made it to the U.S. Open by going through 18-hole local and 36-hole sectional qualifying.
FINAL WORD: “I think that everybody has got something to lose because he’s got so much to gain. That’s the way I look at it.” — Jack Nicklaus, talking about challengers to Tiger Woods.