FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) – About an hour after U.S. Open play was suspended Thursday, a course worker gingerly worked his way across Bethpage Black’s flooded 18th green to remove the flag, futilely trying to avoid leaving footprints.

A few yards away in a swale, wind whipped up waves on a green-long swath of water, exposing the top of a player’s white ball marker.

Back down the fairway in the soggy landing area, a yellow drainage hose bisected meandering ribbons of standing water.

“Believe it or not, as much rain as this course has taken, it drains beautifully, with really the exception of that area down in 18 fairway,” said Jim Hyler, the chairman of the USGA’s championship committee.

In a low-lying area just beyond the large bunker complex that lines the right side of the fairway, a nearly 2-foot deep pond left the few remaining spectators with little choice but to trudge along the narrow muddy bank.

The players had a lot to negotiate, too.

“The issue there is if a player hits their drive, the ball’s embedded,” Hyler said. “So under the rules you can lift your ball. You drop it as close as you can to the indentation. … So then you take relief from casual water. And how far do you have to go to get complete relief? And the player may very well decide to play it right there, even though they’re in casual water. Because complete relief could be 50 yards away.”

Hyler bristled at the mere thought of allowing players to use preferred lies on the fairways, a regular practice on the PGA Tour.

“Lift, clean and place is about mud on the ball,” Hyler said. “If you’re getting mud on the ball, the tours will play lift, clean and place. Here we’re not faced with the issue of necessarily mud on the ball. And we just don’t play lift, clean and place. If it gets that bad, we’re going to suspend.”

Jeff Brehaut, tied for the lead at 1-under, was in the only group that completed the 411-yard, par-4 closing hole. Playing with J.P. Hayes and Greg Kraft in the first group off the 10th tee, Brehaut hit a creative shot on 18 to set up a two-putt par.

“It was OK from the wetness standpoint when I was playing it,” Brehaut said. “I had an OK lie, but it was one of these lies where it probably called for a 5-iron, but I didn’t think I could get enough hit on a 5-iron.

“I was telling my caddie, don’t laugh at me, but I’m going to take out my 3-rescue and I’m going to choke it down and play a big slice and chop at it. … It had a big old carve up there and it went 25 feet behind the hole.”

Mike Davis, the USGA director in charge of course setup, watched helplessly as more than an inch of rain on the soaked layout further derailed his plans.

“It is rather frustrating, the second U.S. Open here and we had a rather wet, soft U.S. Open last time,” Davis said. “This course, if you come out here most of the time, plays beautifully firm, because it does sit on kind of a sandy loam soil. So it’s very frustrating that we’re not really getting to see the true Bethpage.”

The sandy soil is a big advantage in rainy conditions.

“As bad as it looks right now on camera,” Davis said, “if this was a course on heavier soil or clay, I think we’d be real worried right now. Not that we’re not worried, but I think that it’s nice to be on this type of course.”

Davis also pointed to the second green as a trouble spot.

“I would say there’s a few other greens on the course, such as the second hole, which does tend to puddle up a little bit more than other greens,” Davis said. “In fact, No. 2 was the one we had the most problems with in 2002.”

AP-ES-06-18-09 1838EDT

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