Matt Lowe was so focused on his round that he did not pay any attention to the towering risers on the 17th hole and the massive scaffolding behind the 18th green. So it was hard for him to envision those structures being filled with spectators for the Barclays next month.
What did impress Lowe, a 16-year-old from Farmingdale, was that it still was the same Bethpage Black on which he has grown up.
"This is my favorite course in the world. It feels more like home than my house does," he said after shooting 3-under par 68 and taking a share of the early second-round lead (2 under) in the storm-delayed New York State Open. Half the field will finish the second round this morning. The top 60 will play the final round this afternoon.
The State Open always is held at Bethpage, but this year it also is a dress rehearsal for the Barclays, the first leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. So far, the top local pros and amateurs say the Black is right on course.
True, the greens are not as fast as they usually are, and definitely not as fast as they will be a month from now. No one wants to put too much stress on the short grass. "It's understandable," said Lowe, who had a tap-in birdie after a perfect 161-yard 7-iron on the tough par-4 15th. "They're still fine. They're in better shape than they were in yesterday.
"It's in awesome shape," Lowe said of the course.
He was fortunate to have stayed out of the rough until his approach on No. 18 Wednesday. "But [Tuesday], it was so thick."
Fellow amateur Dylan Newman of Iona, who shot 67 to tie Lowe and Hudson National assistant pro Del Ponchock, said, "These greens are getting pretty firm, especially 2 and 5. That's probably because of the Barclays. It's awesome. It's always awesome."
Local pros know that the setup isn't as tough this week, and won't be as tough for the Barclays, as it was for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. But, as first-round co-leader Joe Horowitz of Long Beach said, "It's still the Black."