FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – The golf lasted all of three hours and 16 minutes on Thursday before water began to pool on the saturated greens at Bethpage Black and play was suspended at the 109th U.S. Open.
After initially halting play at 10:16 a.m., the USGA finally abandoned the day entirely at 1:55 p.m. Weather permitting, play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The groups originally scheduled to play Thursday afternoon will start about 10 a.m. on Friday.
More wet weather is in the forecast for the remainder of the week, but Jim Hyler of the USGA's championship committee was at least somewhat optimistic about Friday.
"Have no idea, sir," he said when a reporter inquired about the schedule for the next three days. "Because there's some rain in the forecast for [Friday], again on Saturday. But, actually, tomorrow is looking better than it did yesterday. And so I think we'll have a chance to get a lot of golf in [Friday]."
Still, with water filling up bunkers and spilling over the edges of cups, and the already waterlogged 18th fairway taking an additional inch of rain, all 156 players seemed unlikely to get in 36 holes by Friday night.
"Based on the amount of time we're losing," Hyler said, "there's no way, I don't believe, that we could catch up and be finished with the second round tomorrow."
Under that scenario, the cut would be delayed from Friday evening to Saturday morning, after which players would be sent out to finish as much of the third round as possible. But as the rain fell, with no assurances when or if the clouds would part, it seemed just as likely that the cut wouldn't come until Saturday afternoon, or even Sunday.
One thing is certain, according to Mike Davis, the USGA's director of rules and conditions. The tournament will not end until four complete rounds have been played.
"There's a history, and the USGA is firm on this: We will not determine a national champion until we play 72 holes," Davis said. "We had a Women's Open several years back finish up on Tuesday, and unfortunately we had a playoff that went into Wednesday. Not trying to be pessimistic, but we will play 72 holes."
That leaves just 66 more to play for Tiger Woods, who was at one over through six holes and in the middle of trying to scramble for par on the seventh when play was suspended. Phil Mickelson was among the 78 players, exactly half the field, who had yet to complete a single hole.
"It was pretty wet and windy," Woods said. "It was a slow day. We had to get in as many holes as we possibly could, and we played more holes than we thought [we would]. I knew it was going to be a tough day and it was. It was a good decision to start today. Playing was the right decision."
Jeff Brehaut, Johan Edfors, Andrew Parr and Ryan Spears share the lead at one under, but only 46-year-old journeyman Brehaut has played more than four holes.
"I've played rounds at the AT&T at Pebble Beach exactly like this, colder than this," said Brehaut, a Northern Californian who is playing in his second U.S. Open.
Brehaut said his group knew the USGA would stop play when they watched a J.P. Hayes lag putt kick up a rooster tail of water and stop 15 feet short of the hole on No. 2, their 11th and last hole of the day.
"It happened very quickly, where the course was very playable and then suddenly it wasn't," Brehaut said.
Justin Leonard and Ian Poulter were even through seven holes, a shot off the lead and tied for fifth place with Masters champion Angel Cabrera (through six), Bubba Watson (four), and three others: Sean Farren, 39, who lives 17 miles from Bethpage; 47-year-old Michael Miles; and amateur Cameron Tringale. All are through three holes.
Three of the last four majors have had weather delays, dating to the 2008 PGA Championship (rain) and British Open (wind). The USGA's Hyler said he had hoped for "a window of maybe three to five hours" in which the field could at least make progress toward completing the first round Thursday afternoon, but it was not to be.
In a press conference around noon, Hyler explained the USGA's "squeegee policy," in which players on the greens can ask an official to push water out of their intended line, and three feet past the hole.
Woods did just that while making par on the second hole. Like many in the field, he looked miserable, losing his grip on the club on his first shot of the day — he saved par from the right rough — and hitting more errant shots while making a double-bogey on the par-4 5th hole.
He steadied himself with a birdie on six and was tied with fellow notables Paul Casey, Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker and Henrik Stenson.
But the scores were secondary on this rainy day. With the East Coast sopping wet, the question at the U.S. Open on Thursday was not which player would get the best start, but the same one New Yorkers have been asking for the better part of a month: When will it end?
Michael Walker Jr. contributed reporting to this article.