Bethpage Black earns high praise from officials for Barclays event
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A day after players' criticism softened even more than the greens did, organizers and New York State officials had nothing but praise for the way Bethpage Black hosted the Barclays.
The event did generate controversy, which might have reverberated on the possibility of future tournaments at the state park's signature course. Golfers said Saturday that the hard, dry greens made the course almost unplayable. Ian Poulter characterized his round this way: "The worst course setup I have ever played in 13 years on tour. They have ruined what was a great course."
But Sunday, the greens and players were more receptive. That was a relief to the PGA Tour, which has a commitment to bring the playoff opener back to Bethpage in 2016. The PGA of America also is in talks with the state about holding the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup on the Black later this decade or early in the 2020s. Negotiations could intensify when the association's new president and chief executive take office in the next few months.
Nothing that happened this past week at the Barclays will discourage future tournaments, according to the two sides who brought this one to the Black.
"I thought it was a great, great, great success," said Rose Harvey, the state parks commissioner who was in the gallery Sunday. "The course looked great, and it was wonderful to see it over and over on TV, and have everyone realize it is a state park."
"We couldn't be happier," said Peter Mele, the tournament's executive director. He said that as of Monday, attendance figures had not been tabulated, but anecdotal indications were strong. Concession sales were the highest that the tournament, which started as the Westchester Classic in 1967, ever has produced.
Preliminary reports from Golf Channel said ratings for the Thursday and Friday telecasts were the highest for this tournament in 15 and 17 years, respectively. "I think the Rory-Tiger pairing had something to do with it," Mele said, referring to Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. "Bethpage, being the venue it is, also had to be a factor."
George Gorman, deputy regional director for the state parks department, said: "The state parks police reported that there were no major incidents whatsoever. Traffic moved smoothly, the play on the course was great and spectators enjoyed themselves. It was in line with the kind of golf tournaments Bethpage should be hosting."
The event was not perfect. The mini-stadium built around the 17th hole did not produce the weeklong electricity of No. 16 at the Phoenix Open and the greens did turn somewhat brown Saturday.
But Poulter made sizable putts on the final two holes Sunday, shot 69 and was representative of the pros' more conciliatory tone.
"I guess they put some water on the course," said the Englishman, named to the European Ryder Cup team Monday. "The players' perspective on this whole thing is, what we like is a good shot to be rewarded and not punished, and unfortunately, [Saturday] a good shot was not rewarded. I think a number of guys were very frustrated."
He walked off in a much better mood Sunday, with no hard feelings.
Harvey, the parks commissioner said: "We're all signed up for 2016. And we'd like to hold many more events."