Aug 21, 2012; Farmingdale, NY, USA; Rory McIlroy (IRL) during a practice round for The Barclays at Bethpage State Park. Mandatory Credit: Tim Farrell/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE

Bethpage Black Easier This Time

Don’t get me wrong, Bethpage Black is still an intimidating venue, but she did give up some strokes on Thursday as golf’s playoff began in The Barclays. With the greens not being as hard and fast as they were for both of the U.S. Opens played here in 2002, and 2009, they are still  running at around 12 on the stimpmeter. Shots hit to the center of the green without spin will run to the back, but not off as they did for the Opens.

The golf course still has 15 of the 18 greens that are elevated, and an errant approach shot will still find the area behind the greens, and with most of the old style greens that slope from back to front, a bogey can be had if the players get too aggressive. The best approach is still leaving the ball below the cup, as the downhill putts are very treacherous.

Padraig Harrington, with an early tee time on Thursday, took the old A.J. Tillinghaust golf course apart with a 7 under par 64. Harrington’s only miscue on the day was a bogey at the par 3 third hole. He would make eight birdies from there on out and post the low round of the day. He had a four birdie run that started on the 11th hole, and a pair of birdies at 16 and 17 . Padraig has a later tee time on Friday.

The first two rounds are being played with threesomes, and the most anticipated on the day was that of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson. With all the hype surrounding these two, and their later duel in China, it was interesting to watch them play together. Tiger and Zach shot a 3 under 68, Rory was one stroke back at 2 under. This will undoubtedly be the marquee threesome today as the Golf Channel will begin it’s coverage at  2PM Eastern, and this threesome will tee off just after 1PM.

Other names up on the leader board after Thursday’s action were defending Barclays Champion, Dustin Johnson and last week’s Wyndham Champion Sergio Garcia. Dustin shot 67, and Sergio a 66. Rickie Fowler and Nick Watney both had good rounds, and need to perform well in the FedEx Playoffs to get a possible nod from Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III. Davis had a rough day and shot 76 on the day, four shots above the projected cut which is currently +1. That will of course will change before day’s end, but I don’t see it getting up to the +3, +4 area.

Some names that didn’t fare too well on Thursday and are looking up at the cut line are Graeme McDowell and Ryder Cup hopeful Hunter Mahan. Mahan ended the regular season in ninth place on the Ryder Cup list and needs a Captains pick to make the team.

A few of the older guys played well on Thursday, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els all shot 68. Jason Bohn shot a 78 and withdrew from competition.

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Tags: Ernie Els FedEx Cup Playoffs Golf Hunter Mahan Padraig Harrington Phil Mickelson Rory McIlroy Tiger Woods Zach Johnson

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