FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Occasionally, it really does come down to the whims of the draw.
The folks who teed off Thursday morning, when the weather conditions at Bethpage Black grew progressively more miserable until play was suspended, obviously got the worst of it at your 109th U.S. Open.
And there's nothing any of them can do, except hope it works in their favor the next time. For now, they're the ones who had to return early again yesterday to complete their opening rounds. The best any of those 78 - half the field - could shoot was 1-under-par 69, by Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell and amateur Drew Weaver, who could be competing at Merion in September as part of the American Walker Cup team. Tiger Woods played his closing four holes in 4-over, for 74. Only once has he shot a higher opening number as a pro.
By the time the rest of the players started hitting the course for the first time at 10 a.m., the sun was about to come out and scores were there to be had on greens that started behaving like magnets. Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, even managed a 64 (which included a double bogey), one off the record low for any major. The average scores were about two shots lower than the first wave.
At 4:30, those players began heading back out for their second 18. And they'll be finishing up this morning, assuming the forecast calling for another inch or so of rain is wrong. If not, this might end on July Fourth. The hope is to get the second round done by the end of today and try to play 36 tomorrow, as they used to do way back when. We'll see.
This much is known: When darkness finally arrived at 8:24, Lucas Glover was 6-under through 31 holes. He's won once, in 2005, and missed the cut in all three of his previous Opens.
"I've been putting well, and the greens have been receptive, luckily, or we would be in a lot tougher spot," he said. "I've got to do what I've been doing, and that's hitting the ball in the fairway. If you can do that, you can make birdies.
"I'm tired and hungry and sleepy. I've been on the other side [of the draw], too. I had the rain here in 2002 on Thursday or Friday, whatever day that was. Half of the field was good, and half of them weren't. We are going to have a couple more long days, so we'll just take what comes."
He's one ahead of Ricky Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champ, who's missed the cut in three of his four prior Opens. He's played 27.
Weir was at 4-under, also after 27, which tied him with Sweden's Peter Hanson, who's gone 29. Hanson got here by winning a playoff in a London qualifier with a hole-in-one. Weir has finished in the top six in this major three times, with the best being a tie for third 6 years ago.
Todd Hamilton, who won the 2004 British Open but has done little before or since, is at 3-under through 28.
Six are at 2-under: West Chester's Sean O'Hair (29 holes complete), whose wife Jackie is about to deliver their third child; Adam Scott (also through 29), who's yet to deliver on all the promise; Nick Taylor (32); Japan's Azuma Yano (30), who's making his Open debut; Soren Hansen (29); and England's Ross Fisher (28).
O'Hair finished his first round with a double-bogey after taking an unplayable lie that was inches away from being very playable.
"I was pretty frustrated," he said. "I didn't want to make double all week. You're going to make bogeys out here. So that's U.S. Open golf.
"You just try to keep it in play and make pars."
Phil Mickelson, whose wife Amy is home in Southern California awaiting treatment for breast cancer, is 1-under through 29. He's finished second in the last three New York-area Opens and is obviously the crowd favorite here. Or perhaps anywhere.
"The people have been tremendous," he gushed. "It's been amazing. It was great all day. It's hard to miss [all the support]. It's not like they're whispering it. It's very flattering, and very cool . . .
"It's not going to get any easier than it is right now. I think the wind will be the biggest factor. I'm OK. We've got a pretty quick turnaround. I don't feel tired. I want to play more golf."
David Duval, the former No. 1 who won the 2001 British Open, but has made only six of 20 cuts in majors in the interim, is also at minus-1 after 30 holes.
Woods, who won last June in a playoff at Torrey Pines and in 2002 when this championship was first held here, was five down when he walked off. By the time the first round was over, he trailed by 10. The most any winner was ever behind after 18 was nine, by the infamous Jack Fleck, who beat Ben Hogan in a playoff at Olympic in 1955.
"I wasn't playing poorly," Woods said. "I was right where I needed to be. I didn't finish off the round the way I needed to. I had a mud ball about four times. The staff did a hell of a job getting the golf course ready. It looked great.
"Everyone has to deal with the same conditions. It is what it is. It's potluck."
He's scheduled to resume play at 10:06, or just before the wet stuff allegedly will arrive. So there's always a chance he might not hit his next shot before tomorrow. At least. Nobody said normal had much to do with any of this.
The USGA has said that anyone who purchased a ticket for Thursday can come to watch on Monday. If there is no golf that day, fans can get a 50 percent refund. If less than 90 minutes of golf is played today or tomorrow, ticketholders will be allowed to come back for any "subsequent" golf. For updated info, go to www.USOPEN.com and www.USGA.org. *