I still have a US Open Hangover and I’m probably not alone. (Unfortunately it’s not because I was drinking my liver to death with the rest of the crowd.) Personally, I had an amazing experience at Bethpage last week. I was there bright and early on Day 1 of the practice round through the very end on the following Monday when Lucas Glover was presented the trophy. I only missed Saturday. You might say it was a little extreme for me to go seven of eight days. Perhaps it was. But I was presented with the opportunity and I didn’t want to miss a second of it. How often is the US Open practically held in your backyard? (OK, 3 years ago at Winged Foot.) And at a course like Bethpage Black, no less.
I became pretty familiar with the golf course. From Day 1, I understood why the course was dubbed a “beast.” I felt like I was on a rigorous hike every day. I’ll throw it out there and say I walked at least 5 miles a day. I tend to bounce around quite a bit, in that I’ll watch the players practice, follow a few groups for several holes and eventually grab a seat in the grandstand.
The only downside of being at the tournament was that I missed some of the key shots or facts shown via the TV coverage. However, I was able to observe from a different point of view. I tried my best to pay attention to course management strategies and to actually learn the course set up firsthand. And I got to watch the players that don’t get much air time or just the guys that weren’t near the top of the leaderboard but playing excellent golf.
I was most impressed with the “Rising Star” or “Young Gun” pairing of Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, in the first two rounds. That was the first time I’d seen this McIlroy kid swing in person and I believe it was his drive on No. 13 that caused me to do a double-take. I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to his distance — which was longer than his playing partners on that particular hole — but the fluidity of his swing, not to mention how effortless he made it look. It was just so…natural. I liked his vibe. Color me impressed. Look out for the kid from Northern Ireland. Mark my words.
Best of all, I caught some of the “off-air” action. I got a glimpse of their personalities just by watching them practice and interact. After the first round, I expected to see the “don’t talk to me, don’t come near me” Tiger. But I watched him on the practice green chatting and joking with Francesco Molinari, who was basically hovering over him as he worked on his 10 footers. I also saw Sergio greet two ladies on the 10th hole on Sunday. I wondered if he had flown them out on his private jet. Well, it looks like he finally figured out how to get over Morgan-Leigh. Then there was the witty banter between the fans, the players and the cops – it wasn’t just dumb drunks making abrasive remarks.
I braved the rain, delays, mud, crowds and drunks. I came home every day with mud caked up to my knees. My sneakers and golf shoes have both seen the washing machine twice – as have my rain gear and jeans. But it was well worth it. With all that said, it was a privilege to be there. Thank you, Bethpage, the USGA, the volunteers, grounds crew, players and the wonderful New York fans.