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Back to the Black One More Time

by Jeff Skinner

Hooks and Slices from the Week at The Black

I watched David Duval chatting with Dr. Bob Rotella on the putting green on Monday. When Mark Rolfing of NBC Sports asked Rotella which one of his guys to watch this week he didn’t hesitate and said David Duval. He was dead right on that one.

Having lunch in the Trophy Club on Friday, a couple of well intentioned Tiger fans, wearing tee shirts with Tiger’s picture, informed me that, “Tiger and Phil are really good friends and they hang out a lot together.” Wow, does Phil or Tiger know that?

With all the rain and mud you would think people would be smart enough to wear appropriate footwear. If I had a buck for every young girl slipping around in flip-flops I’d be flying to my next tourney on a jet like Tiger’s.

I stood at the third green and watched Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy tee off for a practice round. One of the “well informed and well lubricated” patrons says to his group”Hey, these guys are good…three Irishmen and an American.” Ok, I can accept him thinking that Westwood is an Irishman like Clarke and McIlroy, he’s really English…but who’s the American?

That same foursome must have had a few bets on that “practice” round as we watched Rory play his second shot from no man’s land, beyond a service road. He bogeyed and lost the hole.

I saw Kenny Perry almost get hit in the head by Drew Kittleson as Perry walked in front of him on the driving range.

Standing on the twelfth hole on Friday we watched Lucas Glover hit his approach shot. My brother commented on how cool and composed Glover looked. He was just as cool on the back nine on Monday.

The bunkers on The Black are as deep and unforgiving as any course in the world. Ask Duval, his triple on number three cost him the tournament.

The bleachers and the hill behind the green at seventeen form a wonderful, stadium like effect. This has to be the best place to watch golf at a major. There are views of #1, #15, #16, #18 and of course #17. The atmosphere is thrilling. On Sunday it was the Super Bowl, Final Four, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Game Seven all rolled into one.

If Phil Mickelson isn’t the “Arnold Palmer” of his generation I don’t know who is.

Cheers to Bethpage Black Course superintendent Craig Currier and Park Director Dave Catalano for all their work on the course. I was there on Thursday and Friday. It was a miracle they played golf on Friday.

Mike Davis is the Open setup man for the USGA. This guy gets it. That course was fair and demanding. He is not afraid to make changes that years ago the USGA would never have considered. He deserves a long term contract to keep him in that job.

The USGA and its visionary Executive Director, David Fay, got it right this year at Bethpage. The USGA was able to get 72 holes in on a course that probably would have been closed for the weekend under normal, non-Open circumstances.

David Fay again shocked the world when he responded quickly to the outrage concerning the Thursday “rain out.” He reversed the USGA’s policy of no refunds or using a ticket for another day when rain cancels a day’s play. Fay made a reasonable and fair decision in letting the Thursday ticket be used for Monday admission. It was the right thing to do for the fans and the USGA.

On Friday the weather turned warm after a cool cloudy morning. We watched Rocco tee off on twelve and he must have been on his tenth sweat of the day, his shirt was soaked through. What struck us as odd was that he still had his rain pants on. Why would he still have his rain pants on? It was hot and sunny. I speculated that he had shorts on under them and couldn’t take them off for it would violate the rules. My brother took it one step further and said, “I bet he’s going commando!” Yeech!!!

Rich Lerner of The Golf Channel has evolved into the best interviewer in golf broadcasting. He is cordial and friendly without being patronizing. He is insightful and considerate and asks the tough questions without being confrontational. You can tell the players are comfortable with him and respect him.

Phil’s attempt to win his first Open under his current circumstances was the overwhelming story this week. It was a great and emotional story, but this week had plenty of stories: Tiger and his try to repeat at The Black, David Duval and his comeback from beyond the dead, the mud, the course, the rain, still no European winner, Ricky Barnes almost finding greatness and Lucas Glover keeping his composure down the home stretch when everyone else was losing theirs.

Lucas Glover appears to be a humble, unassuming guy, no flash… all substance.

It was a great week and a great Open. It’s time for the USGA to award another Open to The Black so we can do it all over again.

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