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Pros endorse Bethpage Black for Ryder Cup

Phil Mickelson has a big idea for the Black Course.

"The people here are incredible, and I just keep thinking that this is like the ideal spot to hold the Ryder Cup," he said Monday.

"First of all, the course is terrific, because 16, 17 and 18 are so close together. And the way the fans are, I think we would have a big advantage."

David Duval concurred. "Now that would be a heck of an idea," he said after tying Mickelson and Ricky Barnes for second place. "It's sure a good enough golf course for it."

The pros came away from Bethpage Black with ongoing respect for it as a major championship venue, even though they never had to face the course at its full fury.

Because of the damp conditions, the USGA couldn't play it at its full length of 7,426 yards. The seventh hole, which was to be the longest par 4 in Open history at 525 yards, never played at that distance all week, with the tee moved up to the 489 mark. The USGA pushed the tee up on 18 Monday, making it 364 yards. It was playing downwind, but none of the contenders took the bait and tried to drive the green. They were able to fly the fairway bunkers with fairway woods and leave themselves with short wedges to a tantalizing front pin position.

Tiger Woods was especially frustrated because his putting let him down. He thought the Black was there for the taking, and he didn't take it. "I was actually surprised it was this easy," he said after his final-round 69 left him in a tie for sixth. "But then again, they had to make it this easy. With the golf course playing long, the guys were hitting long irons and hybrids and utilities and a whole bunch of things into the [par-4] greens . . . It was a different week. You just had to make adjustments."

Woods won the Open in 2000 at Pebble Beach, finishing at 12 under par, the record. Five players finished under par at the Black this year. In 2002, Woods won his title at the Black at 1 under par.

He thought there was a double-digit under-par score to be had this time, until the wind blew.

"The guys could have easily gotten to double digits," Woods said. "If the wind didn't blow this morning and blow as hard as it's blowing right now, I think the guys would have stayed a little bit lower."

Even without having to deal with the perils of running fairways and firm greens, the Black still has plenty of challenge. In 2002, the players were getting a hint of its strength when the rain came on Friday.

"We have yet to play it hard and fast the two years we have played it," Woods said. "It was kind of getting there that way in 2002 in the beginning of the week until it rained on Friday. This golf course would play so differently [if it was firm]."

So should the USGA take another crack at the Black?

"Absolutely, no doubt," Woods said. "This is a great golf course."


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