U.S. Open: The field can put some heat on Woods with solid play today

June 19, 2009 | Drew Forrester

The sun is out at Bethpage Black and the course is very playable this afternoon.  That’s the good news for the guys who are out there right now, playing their first round of the ’09 U.S. Open.  But there’s more good news, for those on the course right now.  Tiger Woods will NOT be back at Bethpage today.  So much for Sergio Garcia’s conspiracy theory that the USGA, the local weather forecasters and God himself all work in concert with one another to ensure that the game’s #1 player gets the luxury of the good tee-time draw in major championships.

Woods slogged his way through 7 holes yesterday in conditions more suitable for a duck.  And then today, out early again, Tiger had to contend with a soaking wet course, sticky rough and slower than normal greens.  

Suddenly, around 11:00 am or so, the sun broke through on Long Island and now the course is playing soft and benign — or as easy as a 7,400 yard course can play, I guess.

Here’s the best part.  With Tiger in the house at 74, this afternoon group actually has a chance to put a serious dent in Woods’ title hopes.  If a few guys can put up a 66 or 67 (and I’m guessing SOMEONE will shoot at least 67 and it wouldn’t shock me to see a 66 this afternoon), that’s a deficit that will be hard for Tiger to overcome.  Impossible?  Of course not.  But this sudden burst of sunshine and manageable golf course needs to be taken advantage of by the rest of the field today.

The weather for the weekend?  One word:  Horrible.  

This MIGHT be the only day where players can really play golf and challenge the course a little bit.  Saturday, Sunday and, probably, Monday, will be more about survival and making par.  Make your birdies today, boys.

And, by making birdies today and distancing themselves from Tiger Woods, players can make good use of their fortunate tee-time draw.

Woods, by the way, was in terrific position with an hour of golf left this morning before he played the final four holes in +4. His driver betrayed him, his putter went cold and he turned what could have been a solid first round into a score that COULD put him in danger of not making the cut if this afternoon bunch puts up 30 or 40 rounds of 72 or better and he struggles again on the weekend.  

Tiger’s obviously not out of the golf tournament, not by a longshot.  But his ragged play down the stretch today means he can’t make more than a mistake or two in round #2.  Even for The Great One, you’d like to have a higher margin of error when you’re playing the U.S. Open.