Wed, May 15, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Rain par for the course during major week at Bethpage

Reuters, FARMINGDALE, New York

Rain and the Bethpage Black Course go hand in hand when the world’s best players visit, so it was perhaps appropriate that the PGA Championship week started cold and soggy on a dreary Long Island Monday.

Tiger Woods, the 2002 US Open champion at Bethpage, was among those who braved the intermittent rain, the 15-times major champion playing nine holes in the morning in temperatures more normal for March than late spring.

However, the course and driving range were all but deserted by the middle of the afternoon on an unusually quiet start to a championship that is beginning a new era after being played for nearly half a century in August.

The expectation that it would be the first major to feature all of the top 100 players in the world were dashed when No. 5 Justin Thomas of the US withdrew, citing a lingering right-wrist injury.

The 2017 champion and former world No. 1 has been carrying the injury since March, when he injured the wrist striking a tree trunk on his follow-through with a swing.

He could have played this week, but decided to be cautious rather than risk aggravating the injury with two more majors just around the corner: next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach and July’s British Open at Royal Portrush.

“Obviously, as a past champion, this tournament is extra special to me,” the 26-year-old Thomas said on Twitter. “It consistently has the strongest field in golf and I’m disappointed to not be among those competing this year.”

Thomas was replaced by compatriot Kelly Kraft.

Bethpage gained a reputation when it hosted the 2002 and 2009 US Open tournaments as a long and demanding slog, and although the lush rough is likely to present a challenge again this week, 2009 US Open champion Lucas Glover predicted some good scores.

“It’s exactly what it looks like: thick, wet — just that sticky bluegrassy rye,” Glover said of the rough during a news conference, at the same time adding that the course was not uniformly difficult. “It was spotty. It was what you’d expect coming into the growing season up here.”

As for the scoring, Glover expected some pretty good rounds.

“If it’s calm and stays soft, there’s going to be some low numbers,” he said.

Woods and Glover won their respective US Open tournaments at Bethpage in rainy conditions. The course in 2009 was so wet that the event did not finish until Monday.

However, the latest forecast calls for a diminishing chance of rain as the tournament progresses this week: a 30 percent chance on Thursday, 20 percent on Friday and 10 percent on Saturday.

Bethpage might finally reveal itself in bright sunshine.

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