Barnes in eye of U.S. Open storm
By BILL HUFFMAN
It’s going to be a very long night for Ricky Barnes, the surprising leader at the midpoint of the U.S. Open at rain-plagued Bethpage Black. But that’s nothing compared to the long day – 36 holes — that awaits the former University of Arizona All-American come Sunday.
Barnes, who lives in Scottsdale, is sitting at a tournament record 132 after a 5-under-par 65 completed Saturday’s second round. He never made it to the starting gate to begin his third round, one of 11 guys who were stuck on the practice green when the U.S. Golf Association called play because of rain and soggy conditions around 8:30 p.m. (East Coast time).
How Barnes handles his lofty status remains to be seen, as he is one stroke better than Lucas Glover and two shots in front of the little Canadian, Mike Weir. Barnes’ best finish in five spotty years on the PGA Tour is a tie for 14th in the 2004 FBR Open. Barnes’ best finish this season came last week at the FedEx St. Jude’s Classic, where he tied for 47th.
That Barnes is 11 shots in front of defending champion Tiger Woods seems improbable at best. But Woods has had his struggles, and for the second straight day he closed with a bogey that left him 3 over with 35 holes to go.
The No. 2 guy on the planet, Phil Mickelson, was in much better shape, holding steady at 1 under and stuck on the second fairway when the greens became unplayable due to the never-ending deluge. More rain is in the forecast, meaning a messy Sunday and a Monday finish still might be in the cards.
“I think if I can get hot with the putter, I like my chances in the next two rounds,’’ said Mickelson, who would have been one shot better if not for a weird ruling that cost him a penalty stroke when his ball became embedded/unplayable during his second round.
There are others with great opportunities, most notably Lee Westwood (2 under), Sean O’Hair (2 under) and former U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen (1 under). But the truth is that even Woods might not be out of it with the tournament turning into a survival test.
Remember, Lou Graham came from 11 strokes back at the midpoint in 1975 to win the U.S. Open at Medinah. Of course, Graham needed 90 holes to do it as he beat John Mahaffey in a playoff.
If that would happen this time around, the 109th U.S. Open has an outside shot to finish up on Wednesday.