For select few at Barclays, the wetter the better

August, 27, 2009

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- For weekend hackers like you and me, rain is a pain.

Slippery grips increase the chances of sending your 4-iron airborne. Wet turf leaves soft spikes covered in more grass than Snoop Dogg's basement. And don't even think about breaking out that oversized umbrella unless you've already grown an extra hand.

It's the type of weather in which the best shots of the day always come on the 19th hole.

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For the most elite professional golfers in the world, though, this isn't usually the case, as caddies armed with dry towels eliminate many distresses of playing in the rain. As for scoring conditions, precipitation softens the greens, in effect giving these players a green light to take dead aim at the flagsticks.

The critical word in that last paragraph is "usually."

When the morning wave of players arrived at Liberty National Golf Club for the second round of The Barclays on Friday, they were met by rains so heavy that positioning was adversely affected. "You know, when it rains like this at home," said Irishman Padraig Harrington, "you stay indoors. We go to the pub or something, sit by a fire."

Sure, the putting surfaces may have been softer, but like those "Sea Monkeys" toys you enjoyed as a kid, the course -- which plays to 7,419 yards on the scorecard -- expanded exponentially when doused from the heavens.

"Forget about the PGA," Sergio Garcia said of Hazeltine National, which played to a majors-record 7,674 yards two weeks ago. "It was the longest course I've played this year, the way it was playing. I mean, I don't know how many 5-, 4- and 3-irons I hit into the green. I hit some woods into the green. … Like on 10, for example, I killed my drive and I had 220 to the pin and I was hitting 3-wood."

Anytime a player like Sergio -- not to mention most others, too -- is hitting fairway woods into greens on par-4 holes, it's proof the course has bloated to unconscionable length, which was reflected on the early leaderboard.

Of the 59 players in the Friday morning wave who completed their second round, only 11 improved their score from the previous day. And just two -- Charles Howell III and Bill Haas -- were able to break par, each posting a 1-under 70.

"I don't think you wake up and see this weather and say, 'I feel a good one coming on,'" said Howell, who followed an opening 76 with a round that included three birdies and just two bogeys. "It's such a grind, hole to hole, that you don't even think about the whole round. You're just thinking about the next shot. I mean, there are some par-4s that I'm struggling to reach in regulation. You're just trying to find some goofy way to make par on a lot of holes.

"It definitely felt like a major. It absolutely did, no question about it. Look at the scores, they'll tell you that."

After the field averaged a total of 71.95 in Round 1, the early group of players collectively ballooned to 75.55. That includes seven guys who failed to break 80.

When it rains, it pours.

Until it stops.

That's exactly what happened in the afternoon, as the late wave of players competed after the most daunting rains had already tapered off. Under overcast skies but only brief periods of drizzle, the remaining competitors fared much better than their peers, posting an average score of 73.23, less than two strokes lower than those in the morning draw.

"I was watching it a little bit this morning, and it didn't look like anybody was having a whole lot of fun," said Paul Goydos, who followed a first-round 65 with an even-par 71. "And quite frankly, I went downstairs about 9:00 and looked down, and it didn't look like the guy parking the cars was having a whole lot of fun, either."

Liberty National was inherently more "fun" in the p.m. hours, as each of the top 5 players on the 36-hole leaderboard competed later in the day. Currently in the lead is PGA Tour rookie Webb Simpson at 8-under, trailed by Goydos and Steve Marino two strokes back, with Heath Slocum and Fredrik Jacobson sitting four shots off the lead.

When Simpson arrived at the course before his round, he knew scoring would be at a premium -- and enjoyed that notion.

"I actually liked it just because I knew that even-par would be a really good score," said Simpson, who tied Ernie Els with a Friday-best 3-under 68. "Those days, if you're playing well, are really fun because you don't have to go out and make five, six, seven birdies. You can just hang around."

By all accounts, Saturday will be another one of "those days." Local weathermen have predicted a 90 percent chance of thunderstorms, which has already prompted PGA Tour officials to schedule tee times in threesomes going off both the first and 10th tees beginning at 10:48 a.m.

With casual water already collecting on this course, players should expect another long day -- in more ways than one -- here at Liberty National. Either that, or they should just heed the advice of Carl Spackler, who once declared, "I don't think the heavy stuff's going to come down for quite a while."

"Whatever comes," Simpson said, "I'm sure we'll figure out a way to go about the golf course."

Call it "Sea Monkey" golf. For additional length, just add water.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for He can be reached at

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Golf Editor,
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became's golf editor in July 2004.




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