The 109th U.S. Open is in the books and it was won by a bookworm. Relatively unknown Lucas Glover, who says he reads up to six books a week, fought off late charges by Phil Mickelson and David Duval to claim the U.S. Open title at the Bethpage Black golf course on Long Island. While the marquee names in the field did not claim the championship, some made an impact on the final day. A final day which was pushed back until Monday due to persistent heavy rain in the New York area.
The 2009 event may become known for the weather issues it endured as much as who the eventual champion was. Heavy rains halted play Thursday morning just a little more than three hours into play. Later, the decision was made that no more golf would be played until Friday morning. That meant the afternoon threesomes wouldn't play until late Friday morning.
As it turned out, the weather gave the Thursday afternoon groupings a decided advantage in this championship. The Thursday morning pairings had to play in wind and heavy rain until play was suspended for the day. These groups returned on Friday morning to resume their rounds. Thursday's p.m. groups would take the course after them for 36 holes. Friday's weather was fine, though the ground was very wet. Because Thursday's p.m. pairings were also Friday's a.m. pairings, these groups would play the next 36 holes and they hit the weather just right.
No rain and little wind all day Friday, and into the conclusion of their second round Saturday morning, yielded the best scores of the field. In golf that kind of bad luck, or good luck as the case may be, is referred to as the rub of the green.
Also of significance was the bad luck of the paying public. If you buy a ticket for the U.S. Open you get no raincheck. When the nugget of information that Thursday's passes would not be honored for any other days became more widely known, the public came after the USGA. New York columnists led the barrage of salvos at the USGA. A person paying full price for a ticket and getting to watch just three hours of that event is obviously getting the short end of the stick, but policy rules and the USGA stood firm initially.
Eventually the USGA softened their stance to say they would honor the passes if play extended to Monday or they would refund 50% of the ticket price. It is a tough situation for both parties, one not typically dealt with. Fans should have some protection in a situation like this, but the USGA can't just let 40,000 spectators come back whenever they want. Galleries were already large and adding 20,000 or 30,000 more would be a nightmare, especially on already soggy grounds.
When the third round was completed late Sunday afternoon, Glover was in second place, one shot behind little known Ricky Barnes, a former U.S. Amateur champ and Nationwide Tour journeyman. The unlikely leaders completed just one hole before play was suspended by darkness. Barnes bogeyed the first hole and was tied with Glover as the players went off the course to prepare for Monday's 9 a.m. resumption. The lead they shared though was five shots over four players including Mickelson and Duval. Tiger Woods was in eighth place seven shots behind. Virtually all the analysts agreed that the players doing the chasing would need the leaders to let them back into the chase.
Those same analysts pretty much agreed that would be a good possibility since neither Barnes nor Glover had been in this position before. Noteworthy among the chasers were the aforementioned Mickelson and Duval. Mickelson is noteworthy not only because he is a crowd favorite in New York, but his wife was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and he has announced he will be taking an extended leave of absence following the Open to deal with family issues.
Ten years ago Duval was the top ranked player in the world. Entering the tournament last week Duval was ranked 882. Details aren't abundant as to what Duval has been going through, personal demons and such, but there have been stretches where he couldn't break 90. Last week's effort indicates that Duval has returned to form and the New York crowd was behind him.
As play wound down Monday afternoon, Glover and Barnes yielded enough shots to allow Mickelson, then Duval, to get a sniff of the lead. Mickelson was tied with Glover with five holes to play, but a three putt bogey on the tough par 4 15th led to his demise.
Duval's final round began with a ball plugged in the side of the bunker on the par 3 third hole. That bit of misfortune led to a triple bogey six. Duval battled back to get a share of the lead, but just missed on a pair of putts at 17 and 18 to fall short.
Barnes struggled to a six over 76 to finish in second place with Mickelson and Duval. Glover's two shot win came in spite of a three over 73, but he played very smart and executed down the stretch. Included in his stretch run was using an iron off the tee on 18. A strategy which virtually assured that he would stay out of trouble on the tee shot.