Commentary

Jason Sobel's U.S. Open live blog

Originally Published: June 20, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

8 p.m. ET: You're sick of watching it. I'm sick of writing about it.

It's been snarkily proclaimed that "golf" is a four-letter word, but "rain" is, well, a much dirtier one.

The weather has dominated all storylines for the first three days here at the U.S. Open, as Mother Nature has wreaked havoc on Bethpage Black. Let's not forget, though, that at some point -- whether it's Sunday night or Monday afternoon or, hell, sometime in July -- someone in the 60 players currently still competing is going to win the U.S. Open trophy. And there are some very good stories among them.

Better than the rain, at least.

Here are a half-dozen of my favorites:

• Current leader Ricky Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion, has never really lived up to the advanced billing and resides in the 197th position on the PGA Tour money list.

• Mike Weir has seen his game reach the greatest heights and the lowest depths in recent years. A victory here would very much resemble his rain-soaked 2003 Masters win.

• Since winning the 2004 British Open in a playoff over Ernie Els, Todd Hamilton has struggled with his game. He finished T-15 at this year's Masters, but another title could make him the unlikeliest multiple major champion in history.

• Back in 1999, Phil Mickelson carried a beeper in his bag, waiting to hear whether wife Amy was going into labor. Ten years later, Sean O'Hair has graduated to a cell phone, but the story remains the same as his wife Jackie remains at home, about to give birth to their third child.

• Speaking of Phil and Amy, while she waits to undergo further treatment for breast cancer, he is playing in perhaps his last tournament for a while. The New York fans are squarely in Mickelson's corner and a victory march up 18 might not leave a dry eye in the house.

• And then there's David Duval, the former No. 1-ranked player in the world who couldn't crack an egg on the PGA Tour just a few years ago, but is putting himself in position to make a rally up the leaderboard this weekend.

The weather remains the biggest story here at Bethpage. But at some point, somehow, some player in this field is gonna win this tournament, finally stealing away the headlines.

That will do it for my water-logged Live Blog for today. Thanks, as always, for the e-mails and tweets. I'll be back at 7:30 a.m. for what will likely be a looooonnnnngggggg day of golf Sunday. Until then, keep 'em dry.


7:39 p.m. ET: A few theories on the "late" start time of 7:30 a.m. tomorrow:

From Scott in Parts Unknown:

They can't start at 6 a.m. because they need all of the volunteers, etc., to get to the course. Also, they need to give players a chance to warm up. 7 a.m. might be feasible, but anything earlier is logistically impossible.

Good point on the volunteers. As for warm-up time for the players, I wonder if there's a designated amount of time that the USGA feels it needs to give them to practice before the round.

From Joe in Parts Unknown:

The grounds crew will need those first couple hours of daylight to fix the course. I seriously doubt it'd be ready to go at 6 a.m., especially not all 18 holes.

I have heard that the USGA hasn't allowed the grounds crew to work through the night, fearing some sort of injury. Which makes perfect sense when you're talking about guys using heavy machinery in the middle of the night.


7:30 p.m. ET: As if continuing the third round exactly 12 hours from now, then trying to finish that, possibly re-pair and complete the entire final round wasn't already a daunting enough task, tomorrow's weather forecast calls for -- altogether now! -- RAIN!

According to one report -- and they all seem to give different versions of basically the same thing -- there is a 70 percent chance of a steady rain from 5 a.m. straight through until noon.

After receiving rain during 14 of the last 17 days, the Black Course has basically reached its saturation point. The grounds crew can keep squeegeeing the greens throughout the rounds, but at some point it might become too much to deal with.

Right now, even if there's no playoff, I'd say there's a 75 percent chance the tournament extends to Monday, leaving a 25 percent chance we're crowning a champion 24 hours from now. And even that latter number might be wishful thinking.


7:22 p.m.: Tweet, tweet ...

JasonSobel Round 3 is under way. Finally. I think we're gonna finish all 72 holes by Sunday night. Twitter Jinx? Very possible ...

I posted that a little under two hours ago. Of course, plenty of tweeters caught on:

ceogolfer@JasonSobel The Twitter jinx may be at work now that play has been suspended for the day. 36 on Sunday? Doable...weather permitting.

mburrill@jasonsobel and right on cue, the skies open up. thanks, blog.

pgatour_brianw@JasonSobel Twitter jinx

jpole1@JasonSobel Do I even need to respond to your latest tweet?

Whoops. My bad.


7:16 p.m. ET: It's official. Play has been suspended for the remainder of the day.

The third round will continue Sunday at 7:30 a.m., which calls two major questions to mind:

1. Why start so late? Sunday is the longest day of the year, with local sunrise occurring at 5:23 a.m. I don't understand why the USGA would wait more than two hours to get players on the course. Get 'em out there at 6 a.m. and they can add 90 minutes to a day that will certainly need that valuable time.

2. Will the USGA re-pair before the final round? I know tournament officials would like to do this -- as I've written, it avoids having an eventual winner finish at 4:30 p.m. on the ninth green -- but that would cause another delay between rounds, just there was on Saturday.

Of course, each of these could lead into the earlier conspiracy theory about the USGA's actually wanting the final round to be continued on Monday, thereby not having to give back 50 percent of all ticket sales from the Thursday round.


6:57 p.m. ET: USGA announcement: "The meteorologist says that this is about a 6-7 mile swath of rain and should come through in about 15-20 minutes."

But if 15-20 minutes of rain adds to the puddles already developing on the greens and in the bunkers, they might not be able to play any more golf this evening, as optimistic as tournament officials are by leaving the players on the course.


6:55 p.m. ET: E-mail from Steven on Long Island:

Blog Jinx! The skies just opened over Bethpage. 36-hole final tomorrow for the leaders?

Whoa. Did I just jinx the weather? That's a pretty powerful curse.

And with that ... play has been suspended.

The USGA has just announced, though, that it will keep players in position in hopes of continuing shortly. Stay tuned.


6:51 p.m. ET: Uh ... OK, I'm not skeptical anymore.

In the infamous words of Ollie Williams ... IT'S GONNA RAIN!

Actually, it is raining. A lot. Like, downpour-type rain.

If they do suspend play -- that's just an if -- it will be interesting to see whether they call it quits for the day or try to have a quick delay and get 'em back out there.


6:45 p.m. ET: Yesterday's second round continued until the horn sounded at 8:25 p.m.

We're not getting there tonight.

It's already getting dark out here. I've heard there's some impending rain coming our way, too; of course, I've been hearing this for about eight hours and the heavy stuff has yet to come down. (Yes, I'm gonna keep milking that one for everything I can.) With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't go more than another hour. If the players can't see, the USGA can't leave 'em out there.


6:34 p.m. ET: Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker are about to tee off at the first hole.

Just a thought: Do they give a twilight rate here at Bethpage?


6:28 p.m. ET: Bethpage Black is playing 212 yards longer on the scorecard than it did seven years ago, but that doesn't mean it's playing more difficult. In fact, it's just the opposite.

Let's take a look at the scoring averages by round for each Open here:

2002
Round 1: 74.88
Round 2: 76.47

2009
Round 1: 73.79
Round 2: 72.04

That's a first-round differential of 1.09 and a second-round differential of 4.43, meaning the course played an average of 5.52 strokes easier over the opening 36 holes.


6:20 p.m. ET: Drew Weaver just carded a bogey on No. 4 to drop to 2-over.

The recent Virginia Tech grad has been hooting and hollering his way around the course this week -- to differing degrees of admiration.

From John in Parts Unknown:

Weaver needs to tone down all the drama. Sure, he's having a great time, but he's nine back. No tour pro would dare do all the acting he's been doing all week.

From Chris in Sparta, N.J.:

Love seeing the enthusiasm from this kid Weaver. A perfect match with the New York crowd. Just what this dreary day needs.

After carefully weighing the cases of both sides, I'm going to rule on the side of ... Chris.

I'm a big fan of enthusiasm. Or more to the point, I'm a big fan of acting exactly the way you feel rather than trying to hide from your emotions.

In fact, it was something that John wrote that really helped make up my mind on this matter. "Sure, he's having a great time, but ..." But nothing. He's having a great time. He deserves to have a great time. Let's not try to rob him of that experience.


6:09 p.m. ET: Now we've got a few players under par for the round.

Graeme McDowell makes birdie on his third hole; Dustin Johnson birdies his first.

Overall, the players on the course are a combined 3-over-par early in Round 3 right now.


5:59 p.m. ET: E-mail from Mike in Texas:

The weather forecast calls for 15-20 mph winds tomorrow, with light rain throughout the day. Maybe that toughens things up?

Absolutely. While rain might affect our golf games to the point where we're all but having the club slide through our hands at impact, pros aren't similarly bothered. Sure, the wet stuff can lengthen a course, but as for their swings, it doesn't do much to 'em.

But wind? That's a different story. There's no greater determining factor of scoring than wind. If it really kicks up to 15-20 mph tomorrow, players will definitely struggle and the course will play much tougher.

Another byproduct of such wind: It will help to continue drying off the course. Not exactly like having a built-in air conditioner, but wind is great for drying off wet greens.


5:56 p.m. ET: With a very small group of players having completed at least one hole so far -- five groups total -- there has yet to be a birdie posted.

We've seen 12 pars and two bogeys (by Matt Bettencourt and Rocco Mediate) thus far.


5:50 p.m. ET: Uh-oh. Bad news ...

E-mail from Jude in NYC:

I'm sitting about 30 miles west of you, and it just started raining like the end of the world. Don't get too excited about seeing much of the third round.

Remember, though: Just because it's raining doesn't mean they'll blow the horn. There either has to be a dangerous situation (i.e., lightning) or the course has to be deemed unplayable. Heavy rain alone isn't enough to suspend play without one of those two things taking place.


5:34 p.m. ET: Just received an advisory on the course setup from the USGA …

"Green speeds: Mid-to-high 13s. Greens were mown and rolled this afternoon during gap between the last groups from Round 2 and the start of Round 3. Fairways were also mown."

Here are the important hole-by-hole notes for Round 3 …

Hole 3: 191 yards; penultimate teeing ground to a front right hole location.

Hole 5: Back teeing ground used.

Hole 7: 489 yards; penultimate teeing ground again used due to wet conditions and forecasted north wind on Sunday.

Hole 8: 142 yards; forward-most teeing ground used to front center hole location. Should play into north wind on Sunday.

Hole 9: Back teeing ground used.

Hole 10: 501 yards; front of back teeing ground used. Should play very long into north wind on Sunday.

Hole 11: Tee markers moved down to lower tee (25 yards shorter) that creates truly blind drive. Players must pick tree in distance for target.

Hole 13: Back teeing ground used. Should play downwind Sunday.

Hole 14: 174 yards; hole location set on back right tier with tee markers set on far left side of teeing ground.

Hole 17: 196 yards.


5:30 p.m. ET: And they're off …

The first groups of John Mallinger and Drew Weaver (first tee) and Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk (10th tee) are just about to tee off and Round 3 will actually -- finally -- get under way.

They'll be starting in more than a little drizzle, too. Steady rain falling right now. Not enough to suspend play, but definitely enough to get the umbrellas out and cause some discomfort over shots.


5:10 p.m. ET: E-mail from Brad in Parts Unknown:

Now that the first two rounds are complete, give us your top-10 players that you would pick to win at this point and your reasoning. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Since we have nothing better to do for the next 20 minutes, sounds like a good idea …

10. David Duval: Would be an incredible story, just incredible. Do you realize this guy is only a few years removed from making one cut in 20 starts on the PGA Tour?

9. J.B. Holmes: Let it rain, let it rain. The longer the course plays, the better it sets up for J.B.

8. Lucas Glover: Yes, the current runner-up is eighth on my list … but that's higher than the current leader, at least.

7. Lee Westwood: Always seems to come close, but can never seal the deal.

6. Ross Fisher: Love this guy's game, but a win would go over like a lead balloon here in the U.S.

5. Geoff Ogilvy: Remember, the last time a major was played in the New York area, he was the unsung champion there, too.

4. Sean O'Hair: Could he one-up Mickelson in '99 by winning while on baby watch?

3. Steve Stricker: Very good U.S. Open player, very good putter, very dangerous the next two rounds.

2. Phil Mickelson: If he can continue to rally off the fan support, he will be right there at the end. I like that he hasn't peaked yet this week.

1. Mike Weir. If I'm forced to pick a winner right now, I wouldn't be very confident in my selection at all, but the little lefty would be my man. He's a mudder and a guy who can grind out pars.

For what it's worth, this doesn't mean I think Ricky Barnes or Azuma Yano or Peter Hanson or anyone else on the leaderboard has "no chance" to win. It just means they didn't make my top 10. Lots of golf still left to be played.


4:59 p.m. ET: Lots of questions and comments about the hows and whys of what's going on right now:

From Peter in Charlotte, N.C.:

If the USGA actually cared about getting this done in a timely fashion, by no means would they send them out in twosomes. It makes no sense to have the leaders get out there to play one hole.

It will be more than one hole, but I understand the sentiment.

From Chris in Parts Unknown:

In the spirit of getting as much golf as possible before the weather tomorrow, why not go with threesomes off both nines? Maybe they could end this thing on time. Would love to see the final round and not have to see replays on Monday.

Would threesomes in 12-minute intervals be faster than twosomes in eight-minute intervals? Maybe … maybe not.

From Charles in Ireland:

If they are going with twosomes for third round, doesn't that also augur a re-pairing before they begin the final round?

Absolutely. I think this is more than a hint that the USGA will re-pair before the final round … meaning another delay late tomorrow morning, as we wait for the last groups to get off the course.

From Nate in Mandan, N.D.:

Do you think the USGA really wants to finish on Sunday? If they play on Monday then they don't have to give the 50 percent refund that they have talked about. They also won't collect on any parking money or concession money. Not sure if the USGA gets a cut on any of that, but I would think they would.

Interesting conspiracy theory.

From Rick in Parts Unknown:

How exactly do they determine who goes off when? Seems strange that Phil would go off before Tiger since he is four shots ahead of him.

Standard practice when going off two separate tees. Those off the first tee are in ascending order by their place on the leaderboard and those off the 10th are in descending order. This is done so that those who are closer to the lead by going off the 10th tee aren't given a distinct advantage or disadvantage over similarly ranked players.


4:51 p.m. ET: Some big-time pairings for Round 3 -- and not even amongst the leaders.

Check out these twosomes ...

5:46: Anthony Kim/Rory McIlroy (10th tee)

5:54: Camilo Villegas/Stewart Cink (10th tee)

6:18: Adam Scott/Sergio Garcia (first tee)

6:34: Steve Stricker/Phil Mickelson (first tee)

6:42: Tiger Woods/Andres Romero (10th tee)


4:46 p.m. ET: Just received the official tee times. Rather than 10-minute intervals between twosomes, they will have just eight-minute intervals, so my earlier math was off.

The first groups -- John Mallinger and Drew Weaver off the first tee; Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk off the 10th -- will start at 5:30. But with those shorter intervals, the final groups will begin at 7:22.

That means even the last ones off may be able to play for about an hour, which could mean four holes or so. But there will still be a lot of golf to be played tomorrow.


4:42 p.m. ET: E-mail from Jeff in Parts Unknown:

What's the deal with the hour-and-a-half delay between rounds? I thought we were trying to squeeze a lot of golf in today. What's going on now?

Your guess is as good as mine. Obviously, they need to set up the teeing grounds and pin positions, but that shouldn't take too long -- and it's something that would have/could have been done on each hole once no players were currently playing it anymore.

Definitely the subject of much discussion here at the course. I don't have an answer for you, though. Seems like they could be going off both tees right now, getting in at least an extra 45 minutes today.


4:40 p.m. ET: E-mail from, well, you'll see:

Dear Mr. Racial Sensitivity,

Way to make the golfing world look whiter than it already is.

Love, Vijay from Fiji

Umm ... really?


4:30 p.m. ET: Just got the official announcement from the USGA: Round 3 will begin in exactly one hour, at 5:30, with twosomes going off both the first and 10th tees.

Let's do a little math ...

Haven't seen the official tee times, but the USGA traditionally sends players out at 10-minute intervals. That means 15 twosomes off each tee will take two-and-a-half hours to start, with the final pairings going off at 7:50. Obviously, the last groups will only get a hole or two in, meaning that they will need to play about 34 holes tomorrow to conclude by the end of Sunday evening.


4:23 p.m. ET: Let me explain something to you. If I haven't mentioned a certain player, contrary to popular belief it's more due to the fact that I simply can't write about everything and everyone surrounding the tournament. It's not -- I repeat, not -- because I don't want to "give some love" to that player. And yet ...

From David in Parts Unknown:

Ryan Moore shoots 1-under 69, now at 1-under overall. Still no love for him?

Uh-huh.

From Allen in Saint Adolphe, Manitoba:

Are you going to give a little love to a surprise so far, even more so than Ricky Barnes? I'm talking about my fellow Canadian Nick Taylor.

Right.

From Casey in Parts Unknown:

No love for Fred Funk?

Sure.

Each of those guys deserves "some love." Not some like or some admiration or even some adoration ... no, we need to show them love.

Well, now consider them each loved.


4:19 p.m. ET: E-mail from C.J. in Vancouver:

I see that a member of the press asked Azuma Yano what it would be like to be the first Asian to win a major. By my count, Asians have 14 majors and counting. Why do people fail to remember that Tiger is more Asian than black? Obviously he's not 100 percent Asian, but he's more Asian than anything else. (According to his Wikipedia page, he's one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch. He came up with the word "Cablinasian" to describe himself.) I'm not an Asian myself, I just thought someone should point this out.

That's because this designation has less to do with a player's cultural background than his country of origin. You're right; Tiger is of Asian descent. But he is technically from the United States.

If you want to split hairs, say it this way: Azuma Yano may not have a chance to become the first Asian to win a major, but he could become the first player from Asia. (Not including women's majors, of course.). That work better for you?


4:13 p.m. ET: Still no official word from the USGA as to when Round 3 will start, but there are rumblings that it could be earlier than that original 5:30 estimation.

Last night, the horn sounded at 8:25 or so, halting play for the evening. With some cloud cover, it may be 10-15 minutes earlier tonight, but that still means about three-and-a-half hours of golf could be played if they can start in the next 30 minutes or so.


4:10 p.m. ET: Haiku time from Mike in East Setauket, N.Y.:

Weir, ocho-cinco?
Not formula for success
Pars and rain will reign.

We're now in full filler mode, in between the conclusion of the second round and beginning of the third, so fire away with your questions and comments through e-mail and Twitter.


4:02 p.m. ET: Way back in the 3:54 post, I wrote the following:

"Barring total disaster [from Murphy] on the final hole, the cut line will include exactly 60 players."

Disaster? Ha! Instead, Murphy (can we call him Murph?) made a third consecutive birdie to shoot 69 and finish at even-par.

Not bad for a guy who didn't start playing serious competitive golf until the year before he started college. And he just graduated from UNC-Charlotte last year.

As he told me when we spoke last week, "I just figured if I gave myself some time playing competitive golf, I might be able to do it."

Sure looks that way.

For a mini-tour player who just got married and bought a house in Scottsdale, Ariz., he'd now like to pull a nice paycheck for his troubles.


3:54 p.m. ET: After a birdie on 16, Trevor Murphy follows with another birdie on No. 17 to move to 1-over.

Barring total disaster on the final hole, the cut line will include exactly 60 players.

Someone from the USGA may give Murphy a hug when he comes in.


3:51 p.m. ET: Good year for Japanese players in the majors so far. Shingo Katayama tied for fourth place at the Masters and right now Azuma Yano is in the same position through 36 holes at the U.S. Open.

Here's some of what he had to say after a second-round 65:

Q: Now that you've made the cut, what's your goal now?

AZUMA YANO: Well, the green is very soft, and I'm a short hitter. But for me it's setting direction. And if it's a good direction and the short hitters, I can do a lot about putting and get good birdies, and I think even short hitters, I can do better this tournament.

Q: What would it mean to you to be the first Asian to win a major championship?

AZUMA YANO: Well, I have a big chance to win. I feel like that. Even though I'm Asian, I can do it. And the feeling is very good. And my luck is coming out. I believe in it. I think I have a big chance to win, be the first Asian winner, and keep on playing with this feeling.

Someone needs to put that on a T-shirt: "Even though I'm Asian, I can do it."


3:46 p.m. ET: At least one player would rather not come back out for Round 3 this afternoon.

Tweet, tweet ...

Ianjamespoulter: Oh well guys not quite what we were after today, but still in it. It's just started hammering down, come on rain I dont want to start again.

There you have it. Ian Poulter is rooting for the rain. Right on the number at 4-over, he would be among the first players to go back out this afternoon.


3:41 p.m. ET: One follow-up to that last post: You can bet there are some anxious USGA officials who are rooting for Murphy over these last two holes.

Not that they're playing favorites, but in a tournament where officials are trying to squeeze in as many holes as possible, they'd much rather have a field that consists of 60 players rather than 72.


3:37 p.m. ET: All eyes are on you, Trevor Murphy.

The former competitive ski racer is currently 2-over with two holes to play in his second round. There are at least a dozen players who will be watching him very closely over the next 20 minutes.

The cut line of 4-over consists of exactly 60 players right now. Murphy is the most logical candidate to change that. Should he drop three strokes in his final two holes, that would mean 12 more players would make the cut as they'd reach the top-60 and ties.

Among them are some big names, such as David Toms, Luke Donald, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rory Sabbatini.


3:30 p.m. ET: In each of these ESPNEWS interviews that I've done this afternoon, I've been asked some form of the following question: Of those on the leaderboard, who is most likely to remain there at the end of this?

My answer? I always look at guys who have been there, done that. Of the players currently in the top 10, there are only three major champions. Two of 'em are David Duval and Todd Hamilton, who haven't exactly set the golf world ablaze since winning their respective British Open titles.

So that leaves Mike Weir. The 2003 Masters champ has not only been there before, he won in similar conditions after a rain delay wiped away some early-round play. He's a mudder, he's tough and he knows how to grind out pars.

That last one could be very important. I'll say it right now: If Weir can play the final two rounds in even-par 140, he very well may be the next U.S. Open champion. And yes, I think he can definitely do it.

All of which should pretty much Blog Jinx him into a third-round 85.


3:25 p.m. ET: Round of the afternoon belonged to Lee Westwood, who followed an opening 2-over 72 with a 4-under 66 that included birdies on his first three holes, then three of his last six.

At 2-under for the tournament and in a share of seventh place, Westwood is the only player from the final wave who is currently in the top 10.

Get that man a B Flight trophy.


3:10 p.m. ET: If the weather can hold off -- and maybe even if it doesn't -- it looks like the USGA is looking into starting Round 3 at 5:30 p.m.

From what I've heard, tournament officials are "considering" options such as going off two tees and/or playing in threesomes, but nothing official has been announced.

When I hear something, I'll let you know.


3:08 p.m. ET: It's raining. It also rains a lot in Ireland. There's a city in Ireland called Limerick.

You see where I'm going with this?

From Steve in Parts Unknown:

As rains poured anew at Bethpage
Conspiracists fell into black rage.
Would Tiger not win?
The golf fix was in!
Methinks they lost a big betting wage.

Wow, that was like a high-brow limerick. Don't see them very often.


3:01 p.m. ET: ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few ...


2:52 p.m. ET: After pushing his drive way right on his final hole (No. 9), Tiger Woods can't recover for par, missing yet another 10-foot putt -- something that's been a recurring theme over the last two days.

Woods shoots a second-round 69 and currently stands at 3-over for the tournament.

That leaves him 11 shots off the lead with 36 holes to play. Can he do it? Well, history is not on his side.

Here are Tiger's major championship comebacks through 36 holes in his career:

• 2005 Masters: 6 strokes
• 2002 Masters: 4 strokes
• 2001 Masters: 2 strokes
• 1999 PGA Championship: 2 strokes
• 2008 U.S. Open: 1 stroke
• 2006 PGA Championship: 1 stroke


2:45 p.m. ET: I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for a while.

Not quite a downpour right now, but a little more than a drizzle. Just checked out a radar and there's some green and yellow stuff on there that's about to sweep through, but it actually looks like it may clear up a little after that.

It all remains to be seen. Right now, the course is still very much playable.


2:39 p.m. ET: ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few ...


2:33 p.m. ET: E-mail from MJB in the U.K.:

I would expect both Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover to shoot at best 75s for Round 3. Only Mike Weir has a chance of keeping it together.

Well, 75 seems a little high, but I don't necessarily disagree with you. As noted earlier, Barnes is a guy who hasn't enjoyed much success this season; I'd definitely be surprised if he's still there at the end of this thing. But a pair of even-par scores of 70 could net him the title. Meanwhile, Glover has endured some rough times when the pressure is on. His final-round scoring average this year is 87th; last year, he was 98th and the year before he was 96th.


2:27 p.m. ET: How cool was it to see Tiger Woods' 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole of regulation last year at Torrey Pines? Ask Lee Westwood, because no one had a better seat.

He's making a run right now, too. Westy just birdied Nos. 4 and 5 to move to 1-under for the tournament and has a short birdie attempt on the sixth green to make it three in a row and move into the top-10 ...

And he missed.

This may sound strange, but if you're gonna miss bunnies at the U.S. Open, you'd rather they're for birdie not par. It's nice to move up the leaderboard, but it's more important not to fall back.


2:19 p.m. ET: Some more conflicting thoughts on the "unfairness" issue of the separate waves ...

From Todd in Parts Unknown:

It's not luck that Tiger is in the first wave. The groups were hand-picked and placed by the USGA. Tiger was selected to go out early on Thursday and late on Friday for TV ratings (higher on Friday), hence its not luck he's in this predicament. We all knew the forecast on Thursday and Friday and all saw this coming a mile away. It's not luck at all; its just unfair. This has been a colossal disappointment, in my opinion.

The USGA released the early-round tee times last Thursday, exactly one week prior to the opening round. If you're suggesting that tournament officials knew at that point there would be worse weather on Thursday morning, that's the biggest conspiracy theory I've heard in a long time.

Here's another school of thought, from Michael in Florida:

Do you think all the whining about "unfair" is really a result of the bandwagon golf fans who only want to see Tiger succeed? Because it's getting a little annoying, as if these people have never watched golf. This is neither the first nor the last time whether will affect a golf tournament. I like and respect Tiger as much as the next, but the implication by some of your readers that the USGA doesn't want him to win is ridiculous.

And then there's this, from Ronald in Parts Unknown:

As for Scott Van Pelt's Poker analogy, nobody forces you to play your 7-4 off-suit. You're welcome to fold them and wait for better conditions ... I mean cards.

Fine. forget the poker analogy. Make it blackjack. Work better for you?


2:16 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

SocraticGadfly@JasonSobel Could USGA run 1st/10th 3somes for 3rd round, re-pair two 2somes 4 4th @ 1st tee only?

That would definitely be a possibility. A lot of options and I think it depends on how much of the third round can be played later this afternoon.


2:14 p.m. ET: Blog jinx!

Oh, wait. Sorry ... Regression to the Mean Jinx!

(From yesterday's live blog ... you had to be there.)

As soon as I tout Steve Stricker's climb up the leaderboard, he follows his fifth birdie of the day with his first bogey. He drops to 1-under (4-under for the day) with two holes to play.

And yes, he drops out of the top 10, too.


2:10 p.m. ET: For the past two days, the toughest job on this course has been working as part of the grounds crew.

That's not going to change anytime soon, but for right now, I'd say that honor has been passed by those manning the television cameras. The sky is totally grey. Not an ominous, dark grey, but a light grey -- the kind where it would be pretty easy to lose a golf ball the very second it goes airborne.

I've covered plenty of tournaments in these conditions and can safely say that trying to keep an eye on drives and approach shots often becomes a fruitless endeavor.


2:01 p.m. ET: ESPNEWS interview. Back in a few ...


1:58 p.m. ET: In my pre-tournament ranking of the entire field, I wrote the following about my No. 10 pick, Steve Stricker:

Always known as one of the best putters on the planet, he has finished 30th or better in eight of 13 appearances at the U.S. Open, including each of the past three years. If he's ever to win a major, it will be this one.

Stricker is on fire right now, at 5-under with three holes to play. He's -- finally -- in the top-10, the first player from the current on-course wave to move into that status in about 24 hours.


1:40 p.m. ET: Word here at the course is that, weather permitting, Round 3 could begin by 5 p.m. today.

Considering 48 hours ago the USGA thought this entire day could be a washout, tournament officials would be absolutely ecstatic if they can get this under way. And if the rains don't halt play, there's a chance that every player could at least tee off and play a few holes.

From there, they would play until dark, then return tomorrow morning, likely at 7:30 once again. And if the rain holds off tomorrow, too -- again, hardly a given -- we could very well see a champion crowned by Sunday evening. Right on schedule.

One thing to note: If this entire scene comes to fruition, my guess is that the USGA would not re-pair the groups prior to the final round. (I also don't know whether they'd play in twosomes or threesomes and off just the first tee or the 10th as well.) That leaves a very possible scenario in which a would-be champion could finish at 5 p.m. on the ninth green, then wait two hours to see where everyone else finished.

Could be a very bizarre conclusion to this one, but that's still a very long way away.


1:30 p.m. ET: E-mail from Matt in Parts Unknown:

Is it possible we are watching the most disappointing and unfair U.S. Open ever?

Whoa. Time for a history lesson. There was the Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974. The crazy winds at Pebble Beach in 1992. The burned out greens at Shinnecock in 2004.

This one? There's definitely been a differential between the two waves, but I wouldn't put it up there with those three just yet.

By the way, Mother Nature is currently issuing a reprieve to those on the course. We were supposed to have heavy rain coming through here by now, but after a steady drizzle, it appears to have stopped.

Unless something ridiculous happens, weather-wise, in the next two hours or so, I think we'll at least get Round 2 completed this afternoon and hopefully get Round 3 under way, as well.


1:27 p.m. ET: Tweet, tweet ...

michaelbynum@JasonSobel Quick observation: At 10:27am, every player within 6 strokes of the lead was in the 2nd wave.

Exactly three hours later, that's still the case. The closest players still on the course are Michael Sim and Steve Stricker, who are each 1-under, seven shots off the lead in a share of 11th place.

Maybe the USGA should give out separate trophies this week. You know, like an A flight and a B flight.

And yes, Tiger Woods is playing in the B flight.


1:16 p.m. ET: Tiger Woods simply hasn't pulled off a vintage Tiger Woods string of holes yet ... and he's running out of time here in the second round.

Woods has posted three birdies and two bogeys through 12 holes so far, the latest bogey coming just seconds ago at No. 3.

If you're trying to look at a silver lining for TW, it was Saturday afternoon last year when he was just treading water with six holes to play, then carded two eagles and a chip-in birdie on the final six holes to make up four strokes on the leaders. Of course, that was the third round, not the second, but he would certainly like to emulate that stretch right now.


1:06 p.m. ET: I'll get to the golf being played out here in a minute, but lemme go back and discuss Ricky Barnes real quick.

How improbable is it that he would shoot 67-65 to break the all-time U.S. Open 36-hole scoring record? Try this: Barnes has played 35 rounds on the PGA Tour so far this season. His previous best two consecutive scores were four strokes lower than his opening two-round total this week.

As if that's not enough, check out these notes, courtesy of the PGA Tour:

Barnes is making his fifth start at the U.S. Open. In four previous starts, he has finished T-59 in 2003 and missed the cut in 2000, 2002 and 2007. In six previous major championship starts, Barnes' only previous sub-70 round before this week was an opening-69 en route to a 21st place effort at the 2003 Masters, his best showing in a major.

Barnes, a 28-year-old native of Stockton, Calif., is making his 37th start on the PGA Tour (30 as a professional). He has made the cut in 13 prior events (10 as a professional), with a T-14 at the 2004 FBR Open his best outing. In 2009, he has made the cut in six of 12 starts and sits No. 197 on the FedEx Cup points list.

Should his lead hold up at the conclusion of the second round, it would mark the first time he has led a PGA Tour event after any round. His previous best standing through 36 holes came at the 2003 Masters (T-3/finished 21st) and the 2004 FBR Open (T-5/finished T-14).

This is a guy who was supposed to be a can't-miss kid after winning the U.S. Amateur and turning pro out of the University of Arizona. After toiling on the Nationwide circuit for a half-decade, he's finally getting his shot in the big leagues this year ... and barely making any noise.

Until now, of course. Can't wait to see how he'll perform once the pressure is on. It's been a long time since he's been in this kind of situation.


1 p.m. ET: Surprise, surprise. It's raining here at Bethpage Black with players still attempting to complete the second round out on the course. Believe me, they'll try to keep 'em out there for as long as possible, until the course becomes unplayable once again. Call it the Carl Spackler strategy.

I'd keep playing. I don't think the heavy stuff's gonna come down for quite a while.

I have a feeling we'll do plenty of talking about the weather this afternoon, so let's start off the live blog with a few quick notes about -- novel idea here -- the actual golf tournament.

• For those who still believe it's "unfair" that one wave of players received much better conditions than the other, allow me to credit my friend Scott Van Pelt with this poker analogy: It's like sitting down at a table and getting dealt a 7-4 off-suit while the guy next to you has pocket aces. Tough luck, sure, but hardly unfair.

• Wanna know what really would have been unfair? Had the USGA broken the long standing policy of having an order of first wave-second wave-second wave-first wave by allowing the first-wavers to start their second rounds yesterday afternoon. If, like Sergio Garcia, you thought Tiger Woods received preferential treatment in 2002, this would have been even more over the top.

• Tiger isn't gonna miss the cut. It's just not happening.

• Sorry, did I say "miss the cut"? I meant to use the terminology: "Pulling an Ernie Els." Wow. Apparently they call him the Big Easy because he gets to lounge around on the weekends. Easy like Sunday morning is more like it.

• Those who don't want to "pull an Ernie" will need to be in the top 60 and ties or within 10 shots of the lead at the end of the second round. Looks like 4-over is in right now; 5-over is out.

• Ricky Barnes. Six made cuts in 12 starts this season, 197th on the PGA Tour money list. Yup, had to see this coming.

• Lucas Glover is to pressure as Ian Poulter is to khaki pants. Will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure cooker of a final pairing in a major.

OK, we'll talk about all of this and more over the remainder of the afternoon. As always, hit me with questions, comments and anything else you can think of at usopenblog@gmail.com or tweet me at JasonSobel. Let's get going ...

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.