The Monster is Back: The U.S. Open Returns to Bethpage Black

The USGA will contest its national championship on Long Island for the fourth time since 2002, when the event was also hosted by the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. The story last time around was the U.S. national championship being held at a publicly run and operated golf course for the first time in the championship’s 102 year history. Having attended the event myself, I can vouch that the other major story was the loud, boisterous, and sometimes rude gallery throughout the event. It was without question the loudest golf tournament I have ever attended, which was fine, but the gallery was very harsh toward to certain players during the tournament. Prominent European players were the frequent targets for the New Yorkers who often mistook Bethpage Black for the grounds of Yankees Stadium.

Players such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, and Colin Montgomerie were subject to the abuse of the pro-American crowd. Garcia for his insufferable “waggling” of the golf club during that time, and Westwood and Montgomerie for their constant presence on the European Ryder Cup Teams. I myself was rather embarrassed for the gallery’s performance. It marked the first time I heard “boos” on a golf course, and I hope it was the last. Golf is a gentleman’s game, and there is no place for that. I only hope my fellow New Yorkers remember that this week. There are several great possible story lines going into the event, and I would hate to see it overshadowed by unruly behaviour.

Now that I got that out of the way…on to the golf!

I played this golf course back in 2002 when I was in college and I can say first hand…it is long. Bethpage measures 7,445 yards (6,808 meters) and it will play every bit of it. Rain is forecasted for all four days of the event in an area that has already had precipitation in 31 of the last 45 days. Now, I hate being the guy that says ‘you can only win on this golf course if you hit the ball ‘X’ distance’, but I can’t see anyone scraping the ball around and holding the trophy on Sunday. This is a true long hitters golf course, and I believe we will see the results of that on the weekend.

Obviously, Tiger Woods is the clear favorite heading into the week. He is the defending champion, he won the last time the Open was contested at Bethpage, and he performed brilliantly on the weekend in his last appearance at the Memorial Tournament. Tiger is pretty much even money this week, but there will be some other definite contenders.

Geoff Ogilvy: Geoff is a long ball hitter and a high ball hitter. He also won the last major contested on Long Island (2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot). He has won two prestigious events on the season already, and no one would be shocked if he claimed his second major this week.

Paul Casey: Already broke through with his first win on U.S. soil this year, and has the length and the game to win on this golf course.

Camilo Villegas: This guy might be the best ball striker in the world at the moment, and seems to get better in every event he plays. He has the length, but does he have the short game? We will see.

Angel Cabrera: This guy is always overlooked, and he is being overlooked again this week. The reigning Masters Champ, is only two years removed from his own U.S. Open triumph. El Pato seems to be a virtual lock for a top 10.

Henrik Stenson: Absolutely love his game. The big Swede can hammer the ball for sure, and he has proven he can withstand the mental strains of major championship golf.

Sleeper of the week: Nick Watney. Nick is a “boomer”, averages 302 yards off the tee, and has had an excellent campaign to this point. I like him to contend right up through Sunday.

Enjoy the tournament!

-Patrick Keegan

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