Monday, June 15, 2009

Joey D ready to talk Bethpage Black...

It's US Open week. Bethpage Black and back to an unbelievable course where I've seen some incredible golf over the years. I'm leaving West Palm at 7am and will be in New York by lunch time. This is an enormous week coming up and I'm excited.

This isn't a week about conditions, hospitality and the facilities. That works for other posts, but this week is just about as big as it gets. This is our country's "Open" and this is Bethpage Black; one of the more challenging tracks I've seen in my career.

The USGA is one of the governing bodies of golf and they're going to set this course up they way they see fit. No one cares how much the players balk or carry on about conditions being too hard; it is what it is. This event is about the challenge. They want to see a low number out here... and I don't mean "low" like Brian Gay going 18-under low to win last week. I'm talking even or one-over come Sunday evening.

This is the second major we're seeing this year, with the Masters already in the books -- Augusta National, arguably the most coveted event in all of golf. Everybody in the world knows what the green jacket means. From there, "the Open" -- which is debatable depending on which side of the pond you reside. Our brethren overseas take pride in their British Open, but as time rolls on, we're seeing our countrymen putting even more weight into the overall meaning of the US Open.

The average golf fan doesn't see what I see on a given week. Take your average event and intensify that ten times over and you start to get the feel of a major. Factor in the environment and energetic crowd you get in New York, combined with the sense of nationalism you get at your country's open and you have an incredible week in store.

From my perspective, I see the nervousness, anger and frustration. I also see the determination, focus and desire. These guys have been working their tails off for weeks and this is the week it all has to come together both physically and mentally -- and by mentally, I mean the analytical part of the brain. The part that will crush a weak-minded player, not strong enough to control his emotions. Can you handle the high of a birdie or eagle? Will a bogey or a double derail your entire round? The energy you feel come Thursday will be electric.

The sub plots are there, as well. Tiger Woods back to defend last year's title, as well as his 2002 US Open win at Bethpage. Phil Mickelson, motivated to not only rebound from his 2006 collapse, but dealing with all that accompanies a wife battling breast cancer. (Again, as a survivor I wish Amy and the Mickelsons all my best.)

Beyond that, I really expect to see a sense of patriotism this year from America's boys. Over the past few years you've seen a renewed sense of pride with the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. Our guys are showing a bit more fire and seem to pin their ears back a little bit more when playing for country, these days.

Look at Chris DeMarco back in the 2005 Presidents Cup. He still calls that putt the shot of his career. Last year, America's first Ryder Cup victory since 1999.

This week, another meaningful event on US soil and as an American, you're hoping one of our guys rises to the challenge. That's not to take anything away from our foreign players out here. I'm very close with guys like Ian Poulter and Robert Allenby and I'd love to see either guy win. Same for my lone two guys in this week's field; Charlie Wi and Ryuji Imada. Both born overseas, but calling America home.

Week in and week out, nothing would make me happier than seeing one of my guys a top that leaderboard. I had it with Pat Perez a few months back and other guys have made a run. Come Tuesday afternoon, golf fitness will be first and foremost for Charlie, Ryuji and I in the trailers. All that said, keep an eye on out countrymen this week. Pay attention to the focus and intensity. Something you might not have seen at a lesser event or before it was mentioned in this blog.

Another obvious special quality is the influx of amateurs and type of player you don't see week in and week out. You get amateurs with exemptions at almost every tournament, but not like this. Guys who have never had the opportunity to play on this stage will find themselves in a major three days from now. It's just another thing that makes the US Open stand out from every other event and really captures the American spirit. These guys made the number on the day the USGA held a qualifier and now they're playing Bethpage Black. It makes for a great storyline every year.

Being a native New Yorker, I'll appreciate the x-factor the crowd will bring to the table this week. This is a diverse, passionate, in-your-face bunch that will descend on Bethpage. Our guys aren't going to see the Southern hospitality they experienced in Augusta, or even a few weeks back for the Texas events. New Yorkers will be in their face all week and that will either cause guys to rise to the occasion and feed off it, or they'll crumble.

A random tour event where you could hear a pin drop, this week you're going to hear "in the hole" yelled at the wrong time. Camera illegally snuck in will be clicking during a back swing. Not to say this can't happen anywhere, but with a more aggressive and boisterous crowd, guys have to be ready. This is a passionate crowd and I'm curious to see who feeds of of it and who falters.

That's enough to get you ready for Bethpage. More to report when I'm in New York tomorrow.

Joey D.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great insight, Joe. Loved the comment about how the USGA doesn't care if the PGA guys cry the blues about conditions. Very refreshing to hear a professional such as yourself describing it that way.

I'll be out at Bethpage every day this week. Maybe we'll cross paths. Good luck to Ryuji and Charlie. Get it done, fellas.

Mike Nitz
Brooklyn, NY

11:36 AM  

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