Back at The Black

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After Thursday’s washout at Bethpage Black, my brother-in-law Art and I ventured back out to the U.S Open Saturday.

With the forecasts for another afternoon deluge, we left a little bit earlier than for the opening round. Indeed, we arrived at Willets Point before 7 a.m., to find the lot underneath the L closed. Spinning around to Citi Field, we made it through an open gate. As an added bonus, the ticket taker hadn’t opened up shop yet and we got to park for free.

Once again: the MTA and LIRR did us proud. We zipped out to Farmingdale, boarded the shuttle bus and sashayed into soggy Bethpage Black before 9.

This time, we saw golf and plenty of it (albeit none of leader Ricky Barnes’s 36-hole, Open-record, 8-under par), starting with Phil playing his second shot from the fairway to the 18th green, which when we departed on Thursday were both in need of Noah’s Ark.

On Saturday, which also featured a Fred Funk sighting, the course was more about matted grass and hay, used as an effective, but smelly, drying agent.

We spent a fair amount of time following the group comprising Paul Casey, the hot British player who sprayed his ball over the sloping course and missed the cut at +10; 2006 U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy, who was three under for the round; and Jim Furyk, Art’s favorite and who narrowly missed a 25-foot putt, as we watched from the muddy natural amphitheater of the hill behind 17.

We also witnessed some other sterling shot-making along the way: Steve Stricker, who registered a four-under 66, nearly chipped in from the left bunker on 17; Mark McCumber hit the sixth flag on the fly, had the ball roll past the hole and narrowly missed an eagle when it spun back. Later, from our perch in the first tee grandstand, which also gave us a vantage to the 18th green, someone (I can’t remember) came within inches of holing their second shot on the concluding hole.

There, we also took in perhaps the most amusing moments of the day, as a trio of grounds workers attempted to ignite a gas-powered blower. After finally pulling it into  the start mode and receiving a standing ovation for their accomplishment, they were quickly instructed to shut it down because its roar was disrupting play on the 18th green.

We even got a glimpse of Tiger burning brightly on the par 5 fourth. His second shot was parallel to the green in the right rough, bringing my Meet the Beatles moment within the 25 feet. Through the umbrellas, caps, shoulders and noggins, I watched Woods chip it just past the hole and then sink the birdie putt coming back (actually, the stroke disappeared from my obstructed view before it disappeared into the cup).

But with the rock star’s entourage more than a tad too thick, we dropped the plan to follow the great one — who was 11 off the pace in the defense of his 2008 Open crown and his 2002 victory at Bethpage — around for a couple of holes on what amounted to his back nine (Woods started his second round at 10), and circled back to intercept Mssrs,. Casey, Furyk and Ogilvy.

With talk of Al Roker’s weather report forecasting the heavy rain settling down between 3 and 4 p.m., we retreated toward the clubhouse. But it was more sprinkles than sheets, so we braved the muck and mire in front of the players’ scorecards and where officials were sizing up the cutline at plus four.

After checking out action on the practice range — Anthony Kim was hitting them way too straight to possibly be considered human — we watched a half-dozen pairings, including ones led by Ogilvy and Rocco Mediate (talk about the people’s choice on the people’s course), tee off their third rounds on 1, before bailing around 6:10 p.m.

Just in time, too.

The rain picked up, and as the LIRR sped toward Woodside, it was pouring. Our hope was twofold: primarily that we weren’t closed in the Citi Field parking lot and that we would avoid the traffic from the New York Mets-Tampa Rays game. As it turned out, the Amazins were delayed by more than hour in the eighth, so we got in the car and beat the snarl –at least until the Co-op City, Pelham Park, Hutch snafu on 95.

Here’s to golf fans beating the rain on Sunday (the start was pushed back from 7:30 a.m. to noon because of the overnight wet stuff, which could give NBC a full eight hours of coverage on Sunday) and the final round on Monday (no, I don’t think I’m taking another day off for a third frolic to Farmingdale). Presumably, the Peacock and ESPN will have all the action.

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