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Monday, June 17, 2002
An artful gallery at Bethpage

By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

Yo! I got ya freakin' Coolah! Right heah!

Oh. Sorry.

Bethpage gallery
The spectators at Bethpage behaved like they were at the local muni. You got a problem with that?
I was just channeling a Bethpage Black gallery member there.

And you know what? I wish I could channel one more often. I wish I lived my life with the same attitude as most of those golf fans who dominated the U.S. Open over the weekend. I wish I had their vibe. I wish I had their volume.

Now, listen. I'm a pretty emotional cat. I hang loose at sporting events. I heckle with the best.

But I'm strictly JV when it comes to the varsity squad that rolled out in Long Island this weekend.

And to think, they mustered this enthusiasm even given the dark cloud of John Gotti's funeral Saturday.

Hereby issued, then, is a lifetime pass to The Cooler for every Bethpage Black golf fan who made my stay on LongIsland (one word) so epic. No, this pass is not extended to the tools who interfered with play. Yo, Sergio flew you half the peace sign? You deserved it, buddy. But if you were the hilarious/intense/loud dude or dudette who fired off so many funny lines, who broke out so many appreciative roars, who told it like it was ... hey, mi Cooler es su Cooler.

Like the pack of fans at the par-3 17th who took me back to the early '80s when they passed the time by dividing the crowd in two, and breaking out the Old School "Tastes Great!/Less Filling!" chant.

Like the guy who shouted to Tiger, on Monday, for God's sake, during a practice round, for God's sake ... "Hey, Tig-ah! I'm from Jersey!"

Like the group at Nos. 16 and 17 who wildly cheered the delivery of kegs across the tee box to the concession stand.

Like the guy who, according to Newsday, saw Canadian Ian Leggatt miss a putt and shouted: "Yo! Canada! Nice putt. Now put the hockey stick back in the bag!"

Bethpage gallery
You don't see the Wave a lot at golf tournaments, but you saw it at Bethpage.
Like the crew at 15 who rallied Old School football cheers when Justin Leonard arrived at the green: Here we go, Long-horns, here we go! (clap, clap)

At 18 on Sunday, I saw Stuart Appleby roll a 90-foot putt waaaaay short and waaaay left. As it traversed through the silence, a New Yorker -- pardon me, a Nu Yawka -- - shouted out, "Oh, bad read! Bad read, man! Way left!"

Understand, Appleby was out of contention, playing out the string in front of mostly quiet galleries -- that is, until this Nu Yawka decided to break loose with his verdict.

As Appleby marked his putt well short of the hole, the Nu Yawka barked out again, in all sincerity: "Just a bad read!"

Appleby's caddie wheeled and shouted: "We heard you the first time!"

Hilarious.

It ain't Augusta, Cooler-dwellers. It's a muni. And it's beautiful.

See, the thing is, not all these guys are idiots. They ripped Appleby's putt, but when the goods are delivered ... man, nobody roars like a New York sports crowd. Phil Mickelson's birdie on 17 on Saturday was Triple Goosebump City. And I'm not even a Mickelson guy. The primal roar, the sympathy and love offered by these screaming Nu Yawkas for the tortured left-hander ... well, if you didn't get a little Neck Hair Moment, you weren't loving on Bethpage.

I was. I always will be.

The Cooler? Bethpage-friendly?

Fuhgeddaboutit.

On to the Weekend List of Five:

1. As for Tiger: Face Orlando five times daily, and bow

Tiger Woods
Tiger kisses another trophy ... yada, yada, yada.
I'm done trying to explain this guy.

It's like explaining mysteries of the universe -- like gravity, or the continuing box-office appeal of Freddie Prinze, Jr.

All I know is, he's got Elin (The Swedish Au Pair) Nordegren wearing red on Sundays.

This cat is a force of nature. If he were playing in the late '50s, he'd have a young Sophia Loren wearing red. If he were playing in the early-'70s, he'd have Jack Nicklaus doing the Phil (I'll Just Keep Trying) Mickelson speeches. If he were playing in the mid-'40s, he'd have Patton in his Nike entourage, giving pep talks, staring through binoculars and shouting things like: "Sergio! I read your book! I read your book, you magnificent bastard!"

Go ahead. You try and link Patton, Sophia Loren and Jack Nicklaus in a paragraph on Tiger Woods.

My buddies and I sometimes play the "First Time Ever?" game.

I'm pretty sure that sentence starting with "You try" and ending with "Tiger Woods" two paragraphs up is the First Time those words have been pieced together in the history of the English language.

2. Lefty: a reconsideration?

Let's be honest. I've never been into the guy. It probably started with the fact that he was an A-Stater in my UCLA-dominated Pac-10 world. It moved on to the on-course Collar-Up look that the dude in "Valley Girl" sported in such heinous fashion. It moved on to his rehearsed media sessions, his condescending attitude with most ink-stained wretches and his smug smile and visor-tip that reeked of insincerity.

Phil Mickelson
When we say Phil Mickelson is like a cockroach, we mean it as a compliment.
Now I'm slowly -- but not surely -- rethinking my attitude on Phil Mickelson.

You know why? Because the guy is showing me some stones with his comebacks, as resilient as a handball in a Brooklyn street park.

Dissed at Pinehurst by Payne Stewart? He's back at the '01 Masters, final pairing.

Crushed at the '01 Masters by Tiger? He's back at the U.S. Open in Southern Hills, in the hunt.

Flailed at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills? He's back, one David Toms up-and-down from a major.

Ready to hide in a cave after all those?

He answers with runs at this year's Masters, and at Bethpage.

Dude is a cockroach, man. You've got to respect cockroaches. Lefty, you're winning The Cooler over, pal.

3. Five thoughts on Roger Clemens

1. He's a chump.

2. I hate the way he plays the game.

Roger Clemens
Shawn Estes' first pitch to Roger Clemens was just a bit inside.
3. I wish Shawn Estes had gone straight for the ribs.

4. He's one of the best pitchers I've ever seen, a lock first-ballot Famer.

5. And he's still a chump.

4. World Cup! World Cup! World Cup!

You didn't think because I went Bethpage Bonkers this week I forgot about the world's most compelling event, La Copa Mondial, did you?

If you did, you obviously haven't seen my lion's head mask -- full lion's head -- I'm wearing in honor of Senegal.

Who, at this point, is not rooting for Senegal to win it all? You're a Clemensian chump if you root otherwise. And this is coming from a dude who is half-Irish, half-Italian and actually enjoys the Boys in Green and the Azzurri more than he does his own Stars and Stripes.

Senegal, baby, Senegal!

I feel like getting up from my laptop and doing that dance I saw in Dakar, the two-step forward, two-step back, vibe thing. But if I did, I might pull a muscle.

Senagal soccer fans
Everyone is waving the Senegal flag during the 2002 World Cup.
Senegal, baby, Senegal!

5. As for Ye Boys in Green ...

I challenge you to show me the team in this Cup that showed more huevos than Ireland. Playing without Roy Keane was like telling Tiger he had to wear lime green Sunday. And yet, faced with deficits against Cameroon, Germany and Spain, the Irish forced each match back into a tie. The Spanish match was decided on penalty kicks, which is -- how shall I put this delicately? -- the single-worst thing in the history of sports.

But the point is, the boys fought. And fought. And fought. Their resolve made me rethink the idea of engaging any Paddy in a bar brawl. If the Irish bar brawler is anything like his soccer team, he'll come at you like Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" or like that Mickelsonian cockroach we were speaking of earlier.

(First Time Ever, by the way.)

And I won't lie: It was the Irish fans who won me over. The singing, the never-surrender attitude, the swaying, the chanting ... these guys can bring it. How much so?

I'll dig into my bag of Highest Praise Ever.

They'd have held their own at Bethpage.

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.