Commentary

Jason Sobel's U.S. Open live blog

Originally Published: June 15, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

5:00 p.m. ET: So after yesterday's end-of-blog slip of the tongue (slip of the fingertips?), I'm sure someone will again correct me on this … but I'll write it anyway: The U.S. Open was never decided on a Tuesday afternoon.

Fun stuff today. I plan on live-blogging from the course for most of tomorrow's practice round.

Thanks for all of the e-mails and tweets today. We'll get rolling at 10 a.m. from the Black on the final day before the real thing starts up. Until then, hit 'em straight. …

4:26 p.m. ET: A couple of interesting notes on Tiger Woods, should he win this week …

• He would become the first player in history to win multiple titles at the same venue in all four majors.

• He would break Bobby Jones' record of nine career USGA championship victories.


4:11 p.m. ET: Just finished a radio interview with Jeff "The Fish" Aaron on ESPN Radio 1380 in Seattle.

He's one of my favorite hosts because of insights like this: "It seems like Tiger and Phil are the Yankees and Red Sox of the golf world. Meanwhile, Geoff Ogilvy is the Phillies. He keeps winning, but everyone just wants to talk about the other guys."

Amen, brother.

Nothing wrong with talkin' Tiger or Phil, but it's a valid comparison. And you know what? Sometimes the Yankees and Red Sox win, sometimes they don't. Same goes for Tiger and Phil.


3:18 p.m. ET: E-mail from Tom Riordan, the assistant SID at UNC-Wilmington:

I was following your U.S. Open blog and saw you mentioned Josh Brock, who is one of our golfers. A little note about Josh: His brother Eddie will caddie for him until the weekend, should he advance, then his dad Eddie will take over. His brother played golf at UNCW for four years (2005-09) while his father played soccer (1976-78) for the Seahawks. Josh is also the second Seahawk to qualify for the Open after Derek Brown did so in 2005 and missed making the cut by one stroke.

There you go, readers. If you want a long-shot kid to root for, pick Brock -- if for no other reason than his father will get to caddie for him at the U.S. Open on Father's Day should he make the cut. And isn't that reason enough?


3:04 p.m. ET: A few highlights from the interview room today ...

Rocco Mediate (on the Bethpage atmosphere): "The only thing I do better than most is play golf. That's about it. And the way people perceive this game sometimes coming to public courses for the first time, this was the first I believe in '02, right, ever. And Torrey Pines last year and this year.

"A guy asked me the other day, what's the difference between public and private? I went, well, it's still the same golf course but it's the people that play it. I said at Torrey Pines and here, they're up sitting in the car at 4 in the morning waiting to play golf in the morning. That doesn't happen at a private club.

"These people love what they do. ... I played on Sunday and I was walking from 14 to 15 tee. And just Matt Bettencourt and myself and Sean Farren, who is professional at the Creek Club up the street. Five or six maintenance guys -- they were parked at the bottom of the hill there. You walk across the road and they've been cutting grass they're dirty and sweating. I have a pair of shorts and tee shirt on that day. Because I like to play in that. They said, 'Rocco, you look just like one of us.' I am. I just get to play here. You get to fix it up and make it pretty for us. Because that's what it is. We in essence are the same thing, we just play better golf. That's why I don't take myself so damn seriously, most of the time."

Sergio Garcia (on returning to Bethpage): "I'm really looking forward to it. I think we know that New York and New Yorkers are very passionate. And the only thing I can say is I've been very fortunate to do very well here in this area. I love New York. I love the people around here. And I'm just looking forward to see where I can go this week. 2002 was a good experience. I played well. I actually had a decent chance at winning this championship. So I'm looking forward to doing the same."

Paul Casey (on playing the Black): "It's not just the length around here; it's the way they can set this up. They have options with the tees. And obviously brutal rough if you hit it far enough off line. But it's a combination. I think this is an exceptional golf course. And I would consider living in New York if I could play this at $45."

Rory McIlroy (on whether he's ready to challenge Tiger Woods): "If he plays the way he did the last round at Memorial, then no. But I can't control what he does or what anyone else does in the field. I just have to go out and play my golf. If it's good enough, it's good enough. If it's not, then so be it. So guys don't go into majors thinking I have to do this to beat Tiger, I have to do that to beat Tiger. They go in and they concentrate on their own game. If their own game at the end of the day isn't good enough, then that's the way it goes."

Padraig Harrington (on his poor results this season): "I think the results are very much a reflection of how I've played. I haven't played very well and certainly haven't made things happen. There has been a bit of focus on work I have been doing on my swing. In fairness, I've done that work all the time at different stages in my career. And what all the difference is, I'm a little bit more high-profile now and the spotlight is on me and people are noticing that I'm doing it. ... I would have liked to have come out just a little quicker, and certainly I didn't intend to drag it so far into the season. But some of these times are just the road to hell are paved with good intentions. I did have good intentions. I'm comfortable with it. I'm going to be patient. I know where I am."


2:35 p.m. ET: More info from another regular PGA Tour caddie ...

"This course lost its teeth, man! I think it was playing longer back in '02. We're average length and having no problems out there. Can't reach the par-5s in two, but that's OK. And now you can see your ball in the rough. If it stays like this, it's gonna be easy compared with back in '02!"

There you go, folks. Easy. The U.S. Open. At Bethpage Black. Didn't think you'd hear that, did you?


2:14 p.m. ET: OK, let's have some fun. I'm on the practice range right now. Gonna go down the entire area and give my opinion on each player's swing, based solely on the one shot I watch them hit ...

Colby Beckstrom: Smooth move, looks like he's working on holding his finish.

Kyle Peterman: Beefy kid, puts some muscle into the hybrid.

Ross Fisher: Brings it back a bit flat, but comes through it nicely.

Camilo Villegas: Such a "long" swing, really comes through the ball.

Chad Campbell: Classic move, one of the prettiest you'll see on tour.

Kevin Sutherland: With his butt sticking out, it appears as if his body is in a right angle while addressing the ball.

Josh Brock: Tall, slender kid, hits a 3-wood that never moves from its line.

Steve Allan: Warming up with short wedge shots, turns and opens up at target through impact.

Ernie Els: Smooth, powerful. Perfect.

Retief Goosen: Really digging at it, hitting a low draw that could be described as a hook.

Heath Slocum: Nice driver fade, though the ball doesn't seem to "pop" off his club face.

Gary Woodland: Definitive reverse C after he comes through it.

Hunter Mahan: Working on stopping at the top of his backswing, then coming through from there.

J.P. Hayes: Comes back flat, stays a little open through impact to hit the fade.

Ian Poulter: Really goes down and gets it, like he's going after the ball.


1:40 p.m. ET: I know I mentioned this yesterday, but it's incredible how many no-name competitors are in the field this week.

It's nothing new for the U.S. Open, obviously, but I literally just walked past 15 different players, none of whom I could recognize. And for good reason -- not one was a regular PGA Tour pro; instead, they're club pros and mini-tour guys and amateurs.

They're all sharing a locker room with the big boys this week, just living the dream. Even so, doesn't seem like too many of 'em are wide-eyed and star-struck. Everyone is just going about their business to prepare for the tournament.


1:22 p.m. ET: Just spent about 10 minutes discussing the course with one PGA Tour caddie who I know pretty well.

A few of his thoughts ...

On the wet course: "It's playing long. I mean, really long. As long as I've ever seen an Open course."

On whether shorter hitters may actually have an advantage because the greens are receptive to long iron shots: "No, it really sets up for the longer hitters. With the wet fairways, you're going to see more big guys hitting the fairway more often, so the straight hitters sort of lose that advantage."

On who this setup favors: "If a guy like J.B. Holmes is on his game, he'll do well. But unfortunately, it really suits Tiger. This is his kind of course. He'll have to hit driver a lot -- there's no way around it -- but everything about this place sets up well for him."

On the winning score: "If it stays like this, someone is going to go low. It's going to take a really good number to win this tournament."


1:03 p.m. ET: SportsNation chat is over, now time to head out to the driving range/practice green/locker room/course for a little while and see what's up.

Will continue blogging while I'm out there, of course ...


11:59 a.m. ET: Blogging has been suspended for a little while ...

But it's for a good cause.

In exactly one minute, I'll be doing a SportsNation chat. So if you've e-mailed or tweeted me with no response yet, click here and get your questions answered in the chat.


11:33 a.m. ET: Sorry, sort of stopped blogging for a while from the Tiger interview since I was sitting here with my hand raised for about 15 minutes with no success. Might have to ice down the arm after that one.

So I'll ask my question in this format and we'll find out soon enough: "Tiger, you've talked about how imperative it is to keep it in play on this course, yet you've also talked about how long it's playing. How do you find a balance between those two things and what do you expect to be your breakdown of drivers and 3-woods on the driving holes?"

See, good question, huh?

My best guess -- judging from Tiger's comment about being able to hold the greens with long irons -- is that he'll hit the 3-wood more often than the driver in hopes of keeping it in the short stuff.

And as much as Camp Tiger has preached about driving accuracy not being a concern in the past, I think this is the right move.


11:15 a.m. ET: Tiger on whether he can win this week: "Well, I like my chances at any major. I enjoy having to think my way around a golf course. ... Par is rewarded and birdie is really rewarded. That, to me, is fun."


11:11 a.m. ET: Tiger on how the course is currently playing: "The fairways are much softer than what we faced in '02. ... That's not going to be the case this year. The course is playing long. ... I'm wearing out my long irons. But if you're hitting long irons or hybrids or whatever into the greens, they're going to hold."


11:07 a.m. ET: Woods on the crowds at the 2002 U.S. Open: "I've never played in front of an atmosphere that loud for all 18 holes. After what transpired here in September [9/11], I think ... everyone was just looking for something to escape it. ... I've never seen anything like it and I don't think we ever will, considering the circumstances surrounding it."


11:01 a.m. ET: Well, I blogged earlier this year about Tiger Woods eating a banana and trail mix while on the driving range at the Match Play, so blogging from his news conference suddenly doesn't seem so strange.

His opening comments: "I'm excited to be here. The golf course is phenomenal. It's playing long. Not exactly dry out there."


10:47 a.m. ET: First e-mail of the day from Nick in Parts Unknown:

I was at the practice round yesterday -- didn't see Phil Mickelson. And today I read the first blog and his name was not mentioned, either. How is he supposed to win and have all of New York behind him if he can't even show up and practice three days before the U.S. Open?

Let's face it: There are more important things in Phil's life right now than golf. I haven't heard from nor seen him yet today, but as I've mentioned before, fewer practice rounds could actually be a positive thing for him. Mickelson is a guy who likes to analyze his game to the point of over-analysis sometimes -- whether it's carrying five wedges or two drivers or no driver. He spends more time poring over statistics than most other players. And he tends to place too much importance on strategizing his way around a course before the competitive rounds start, rather than playing by feel in competition.

Perhaps not being here early will actually help matters for Phil, since he won't be able to overthink all of this information. And let's not forget, he was here at Bethpage for a practice round last Tuesday, so it's not as if he's totally coming in cold.

Oh, and if you want to know about the last time a player barely practiced before a major yet still won the event? You need look no further back than last year's British Open, as Padraig Harrington was nursing an injury and hardly played entering the opening round, but credited his strength on the weekend to not being tired from extra pre-tournament practice.


10:14 a.m. ET: Always the early bird, Tiger Woods has already completed his nine-hole practice round for the day, having gone out right around sunrise with local club pro Andrew Svoboda.

(For more on Tiger's round, check out this blog from Mark Herrmann of Newsday.)

He has now played two full practice rounds at this course. Last Monday, he played 17 holes and a tee shot on 18 before walking off. Yesterday, he played the front nine and today the back. That should be enough to help him nail down a strategy for getting around here during tournament rounds.

Tiger will hit the interview room at precisely 11 a.m., so we'll get his thoughts on the course at that point.


10 a.m. ET: Good morning from Bethpage, where we're still two days away from the opening round of the U.S. Open, but it's never too early to live blog the proceedings.

Today is interview day at the course, as Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey have already hit the interview room, with Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, Geoff Ogilvy, Henrik Stenson, Angel Cabrera and Anthony Kim coming up throughout the remainder of the morning and afternoon.

Nice weather so far, as it's currently about 61 degrees and "variably cloudy," according to the sheet passed out in the media center. Should reach a high of 67 with a "slight chance of a shower/sprinkle" during mid-afternoon. (Insert your own shower/sprinkle joke here.)

I'll be providing updates from both the course and the interview room throughout the day. Now that most players have at least one or two practice rounds under their belts, we'll be able to get a better sense of how the Black is really playing so far.

Oh, one other quick note before we get going: As mentioned by many of you after yesterday's live blog was completed, my claim that "no tourney was ever decided on a Monday" was clearly just to keep you on your toes. Of course Tiger Woods won on a Monday last year. Just making sure you were reading carefully.

I'll be posting more reader questions and comments throughout the day, so hit me at usopenblog@gmail.com or Twitter me at JasonSobel to have your thoughts posted here. 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.