/ 22 June 2009

Early slip costs Barnes outright lead

Americans Ricky Barnes and Lucas Glover held a share of the lead after one hole in the US Open final round on Sunday as the weather-delayed tournament spilled into a fifth day.

PGA Tour rookie Barnes, surprise pacesetter after the second and third rounds at Bethpage Black, bogeyed the par-four first after driving into the left rough to join playing partner Glover at seven under, five ahead of the chasing pack.

The duo then teed off at the second, Barnes again ending up in the left rough while Glover found the fairway, before the siren sounded to end play for the day in fading light.

Although they had the option to complete the hole, the co-leaders decided to leave the course and will return for the resumption of the final round at 1pm GMT on Monday.

Former world number one David Duval, making a popular return to form after spending most of the last eight years in the golfing wilderness, was among their closest challengers, bogeying the first to lie two-under overall after two holes.

Level with Duval in a four-way tie for second were fellow Americans Hunter Mahan and three-times major winner Phil Mickelson, plus Britain’s Ross Fisher.

Mahan and Bethpage crowd favourite Mickelson, playing his first major since his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer last month, had 16 holes remaining while Fisher was yet to complete the second.

”I feel like if I can get a hot round going, I can make up the difference,” left-hander Mickelson said of his bid for a first US Open title.

Triple champion and holder Tiger Woods, who won the 2002 Open at Bethpage, was seven shots off the pace, having knocked in a six-foot birdie putt at the par-four seventh shortly after play was suspended for the day.

For much of a marathon day at Bethpage, the long-hitting Barnes was in firm control in pursuit of his first PGA Tour title, forging six shots clear midway through the third round.

Afternoon wobble
He became only the fourth player to reach double digits under par at a US Open when he rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt at the fourth but he began to wobble in the late afternoon.

”If you don’t have a little bit of nerves when you’re in the heat of competition, and especially in the last group, you’re not human,” the 2002 US amateur champion said.

Glover, a more experienced campaigner than Barnes, liked his own position atop the Open leaderboard but felt a five-shot cushion could be easily overhauled at Bethpage.

”There are too many great players and the golf course is too good,” said the 29-year-old who clinched his maiden victory on the US circuit at the 2005 Disney Classic.

”The greens are still soft and they are rolling perfect so I fully expect a handful of guys to make a run. You have Phil sitting there and everybody that’s playing is a great player.”

Of all the compelling Bethpage storylines, a first victory in eight years for Duval would probably the most popular.

”I know I’ve been there before,” said Duval (37) who has not been in the winner’s circle since the 2001 Dunlop Phoenix in Japan. ”It’s not like a distant memory.

”I feel comfortable in what I’m doing and confident in what I’m doing and that’s all you can ask for.”

Players were sent out in pairs from the first and 10th tees for the final round, which organisers hope to wrap up by about 6pm GMT on Monday.

The 109th US Open was forced into a fifth day after heavy overnight rain delayed the resumption of the third round by four-and-a-half hours on Sunday morning. – Reuters