FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - According to the song lyrics, it never rains in southern California. But when it does, well, it pours, man, it pours.
During El Nino, or when the Santa Anas blow in off the desert, the clouds get dark and swell with water and the wind shrieks and the temperature plummets and it is then, on those days that the Chamber of Commerce never brags about, that a young Tiger Woods would beg to go out and play.
“I loved to play in bad weather because we didn't get hardly any of it,” Woods said. “The only hard part was trying to convince my mom that I could go out and play without catching a cold. That was not easy. I had to do a lot of convincing.”
But Kutilda Woods would always give in and the old man would drive and Tiger would tee it up and be happy as a pig in slop.
Tiger Woods keeps temporarily dry under an umbrella held by caddie Steve Williams on the eighth tee at the Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
The old man, Earl Woods, has told this story.
“Tiger's walking with his umbrella and his bag and his towel. And he birdies four of the first five holes.”
By then the course was empty, the carts in the barn, save for one. Earl was sitting in it, shivering, his fingers brittle from the damp cold.
“He walked all 18 holes, happy as heck, never complaining,” the elder Woods said.
Tiger was 11 years old. He shot a 67 that day.
The sun never came out of hiding yesterday on Long Island. It poured, man, it poured at Bethpage State Park. Water puddled in the bunkers, gathered in the hollows, pooled on the greens, and on and on they played in the 102nd U.S. Open.
When it rained so incessantly at Pebble Beach two years ago that Woods was forced to play 27 holes in one day, he won the Open by 15 strokes.
He won at Augusta when it was so sloppy that Titleists became Masters mudballs.
He won the Claret Jug at St.Andrews when the wind howled and bent the heather sideways.
And he shot 68 yesterday.
This isn't fair, folks.
Already the longest course in Open history, Bethpage Black was playing at, oh, about 9,482 yards yesterday. And Tiger shot 68.
On a day fit for neither man nor beast, on a day that his A-game was in drydock, on a day where your socks got wet and gloves got slippery and water dripped off the bill of your cap, a day the mailman would have called in sick, a day not unlike the day Noah went looking for two of everything, Tiger Woods shot 68.
“Everyone has to deal with it,” Woods said, not mentioning that very few did. “You go out and you just play. You plod along.”
He is three strokes up on Ireland's Padraig Harrington and seven shots clear of everyone else with 36 to play. He seems poised to move out of sight today.
Can anyone catch him?
“It's going to be difficult, there's no doubt about it,” he admitted. “In any Open, it's always difficult to make up shots because it's not easy to make birdies. You get rewarded for making pars. And this course is getting that way, where par is a really good score.”
But is it all over but the shouting?
“I'm very pleased with the way I'm striking the ball and I'm ecstatic I'm at the top right now,” he said. “But there's a long way to go. There's 36 holes to go. I've still got to go out there and play hard on the weekend.”
Anyone who saw his stretch run yesterday and has a sense of history - Woods has never lost a major that he led at the midway point - would doubt Tiger has any intention of spitting the bit.
At No. 15, Woods missed the fairway and the green, chopping his second shot out of the spinach and into a greenside bunker. He drained a par putt of 12 feet. He hit it in the junk on 16, too, and made par. Then at the par-3 17th his ball flew the green by some 10 feet and nestled into rough so dense he could barely see a speck of white.
“The lie was not very good,” he said. “I had to get enough height to land it softly and then just let it tumble down. It came out absolutely perfect.”
It began tracking the cup, diving left at the very last instant. He tapped in for par, then hit an 8-iron shot to within 18 feet for a birdie at the final hole.
So he went a four-hole stretch in 1-under when most contestants, facing the same problems, would have been content with 1-over.
Woods hit just nine fairways, missed six greens and shot 68.
Somebody posted a 92. More than two dozen others, most of them professionals and four of them major championship winners, failed to break 80.
Tiger Woods shot 68.
It's just not a fair fight.
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