Hunter Mahan never will forget that loud, echoing thunk sound that his nearly perfect approach shot made when it hit the flagstick on No. 16 at Bethpage Black. "They were metal pins," he said, "and it really hit."

It was the sound of bad luck. "The ball bounced 40 feet away, off the green, so it wasn't ideal," he said. Who knows what would have happened in the final round of the 2009 U.S. Open had he birdied that hole instead of making bogey? Mahan isn't bothered by it, though, and he doesn't hold it against Bethpage. In his mind, the roars from that week echo loudest.

He is among many tour pros who are pleased about returning a year from now, when the Black hosts The Barclays, the opening tournament in the PGA Tour playoffs. "It's a place that the PGA Tour needs to go because it's such a golf-crazy community and a great golf course," said Mahan, who is in the field this week at The Barclays, in Edison, N.J.

The Barclays is gaining a foothold, what with tickets at Plainfield Country Club sold out despite the absence of Tiger Woods, who didn't qualify for the playoffs because he missed most of the season with injuries. Woods, the winner at Bethpage in 2002, is likely to be in the 2012 Barclays.

"It's deserving, it's a great golf course," said Lucas Glover, who won the 2009 Open. "I think Barclays will be very pleased with what they're going to get. They've got plenty of room to entertain."

Two years ago, Glover did the entertaining, with his 4-under-par finish. "It's great to have good vibes," he said. "I'm not going to say I'm going to play great or have an advantage or anything. But I'm going to be excited to get back. I haven't been back since."

Ricky Barnes, who led that Open heading into the final round but finished two strokes back of Glover, said, "We're excited about it. Any time you play one of our playoff events on a really good golf course, it helps. It has got length and character, and you've got to play from the fairway out there -- even if they don't have rough and even though there are only two undulating greens. It's a great track."

Keegan Bradley, who won the PGA 11 days ago, didn't qualify for the 2009 Open, but he has played Bethpage probably more than anyone else on tour. "I played there every Monday," the former St. John's golfer said, "and it's my favorite course that I've ever played.

"When I saw that [announcement] on the website, I was freaking out, like, 'I can't wait.' That's going to be one of the best weeks of my PGA Tour career. It will be tough. I'm sure it will be real tough," he said. "I think there's no flaw to that course. It's long, it's big, it has big bunkers. I just think it's a classic Northeast golf course that's just difficult. But if you play well, you're going to shoot some good scores."

Then again, even a perfect shot occasionally can go bad on the Black. Mahan said, "It will be interesting to see the setup now that it's not a major. I'm sure it will be easier. It will probably be a little different, but the bones of the course are so good. We really enjoy playing it."

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