Here’s some of what you get with a major golf event at Bethpage Black:
A spot-on Donald Trump impersonator against the ropes behind the first green, red “Make American Great Again” hat, red necktie and reddish-orange hair with a Secret Service wannabe agent behind him, complete with aviator shades and an earpiece. Give the Trump guy this: He’s really good at it, so good some people, golfers included, did a double take when they saw him.
Big 24-ounce beers, which theoretically cut down on the trips to the concession stand, though apparently not for everyone.
Plenty of genuine golf fans and plenty more who are out there to see the golf but may be at a golf tournament for the first time. Guys calling Harold Varner III “Harry” and another calling Brooks Koepka “Biceps, baby.” In a variation on a theme, one guy screamed “fried yucchini” after some tee shots but it nearly got lost in all the raucous and unique fun and frivolity.
Because it’s New York, it’s crowded and noisy and the things you hear, well, it will never be confused with Augusta National.
And, in 2024, the Ryder Cup will be played at Bethpage Black.
“I think it would be intimidating, no doubt. It’s like a 13th man for the U.S. team. Big advantage.” – Paul Casey
“I can’t imagine what a Ryder Cup will be like around here,” Englishman-turned-Arizona resident Paul Casey said.
Yeah, he probably can.
That’s the scary part. The Ryder Cup at Medinah outside Chicago was red, white and blue, like a big Midwestern party. In Paris, it was so continental.
By the time the Ryder Cup rolls out to Long Island and the trains start spilling fans onto the Black Course, it’s going to be, um, spirited.
“I think it would be intimidating, no doubt,” Casey said. “It’s like a 13th man for the U.S. team. Big advantage.”
Eddie Pepperell said he didn’t want to be on the European team in ’24 after getting a few days of the Bethpage experience. He was believed to be half joking given the frustrating day he’d just had but it’s going to be rowdy. And just wait until the afternoons.
Koepka, who heard the Bethpage gallery chanting for his buddy Dustin Johnson while suggesting Koepka was choking, liked what he saw and understood what he heard. His Sunday playing partner Varner didn’t care for it – “not my cup of tea,” Varner said – but Koepka said the ’24 Ryder Cup was a popular topic.
“Good luck to Europe with the fans. I can’t wait to play it. I hope I’m on the team. If not, I just want to be here,” Koepka said.
“It’s going to be very special. It’s going to be a lot of fun. This is one hell of a place to play Ryder Cup.”
Like no other.
• That guy who finished tied for third at the PGA Championship looked a lot like Jordan Spieth.
He putted like no one else and kept grinding on a golf course that tended to grind the spirit out of many players.
Past tense, according to Spieth, who corrected a questioner last week who asked about the slump he is working through.
“Was,” Spieth said.
Does one good week prove Spieth has put the worst behind him? Not entirely but it’s a start.
I’m buying what he’s selling in terms of the work he’s put in and the progress he can feel in his swing and his overall game. He desperately needed a week like the one he had Bethpage Black to validate what he’s doing. No matter how good you are, results matter.
Spieth figured out his putting a while back and he’s never had a better putting week than he did at Bethpage where his 10.6 strokes gained putting number was a full three strokes better than any other player in the field. Holing putts can cure a lot of ills.
So can confidence and Spieth seems to have rediscovered that.
• Dustin Johnson is 2-for-2 in majors this year – as in T2 at the Masters and solo second at the PGA Championship.
Take him at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Johnson doesn’t typically show much emotion on the golf course but he played inspired golf on Sunday at Bethpage, trying to chase down his buddy Koepka. The best score on the weekend was 67 on Saturday and Johnson had it 3-under par for a time on Sunday when the golf course turned into a terror.
Two late bogeys did him in but they were brutally difficult holes that got a lot of players.
In the last five years, Johnson has a first, second, third and fourth in the U.S. Open with the odd missed cut two years ago at Erin Hills. He lost his No. 1 ranking this week but completed the career runner-up grand slam for whatever that’s worth.
Johnson was a quiet No. 1 for a long time and now it’s Koepka’s turn at the top. While it’s understandable that the pre-U.S. Open attention at Pebble Beach will focus on Koepka, Tiger and Phil, don’t overlook Johnson.
Tony Finau poses with a Donald Trump impersonator at Bethpage Black. Photo: Patrick Smith, Getty Images
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