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US Open halted by heavy rain

New York, June 19 – Heavy rains brought an early end to first-round play Thursday in the 109th US Open as water-logged Bethpage Black became unplayable and stars such as Tiger Woods battled through a deluge.TIGER_RAIN_399037449.jpg
Soaked spectators braved intense showers and ankle-deep mud to watch a super group of reigning major champions navigate the 7,426-yard course but rain swamped holes so badly that one green had a flagpole in the center of a pond.

"The volume of rain falling was outpacing our ability to squeegee the greens," said USGA championship committee chairman Jim Hyler. "The greens just became unplayable."

Defending champion Woods salvaged an impressive par at the first after his tee shot went 50 yards left into a concession area. He found a greenside bunker but scrambled up and down on the way to standing one-over through six holes.

"It was pretty tough," Woods said. "There was a lot of standing water. It was pretty wet and windy," Woods said. "It was a slow day. We had to get in as many holes as we could. We probably played more holes than we thought."

Woods was looking at an eight-foot par putt at the seventh when play was stopped and will face the putt when play resumes Friday at 7:30 in the morning.

"It could be the same thing," Woods said. "It’s a long day. We may not start on time if we get more rain. I just have to be ready at 7:30."

World number one Woods seeks his 15th major title, which would put him three shy of the career record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, and a fourth US Open crown to match the record held by Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson.

With half the 156-man field yet to start, the co-leaders on one-under par were Sweden’s Johan Edfors (through four holes), Canada’s Andrew Parr (through three) and Americans Ryan Spears (after three) and Jeff Brehaut (after 11).

"They were squeegeeing it off and it was coming straight back up," back-nine starter Brehaut said of the second green. "It just couldn’t take any more water. The course was playable and then all of a sudden it wasn’t."

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Grounds workers lost their battle with Mother Nature on a day better suited for Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps than golf’s major champions, Bethpage Black becoming a swampy mess as players and spectators slogged along.

"Where’s my canoe?" said England’s Ian Poulter, level after seven holes, in a Twitter message posting.

"It’s pretty miserable out there," said England’s Lee Westwood, two-over through five holes. "The ball keeps picking up mud and then squirting out sideways, so it was a difficult mental battle."

"Have to say, it’s not too disappointing to be taken off the course."

Woods playing partner and Masters champion Angel Cabrera, nicknamed "The Duck" for his waddling gait, was at even par, taking to the over-saturated situation like a duck to water.

Two bogeys and a double bogey had British Open and PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington at four-over after six.

"It needs a break," Harrington said. "Nature is going to take its course. We will get this tournament done. I guarantee you they’ll have a US Open champion at the end of this week, well, at some stage in the next week."

Those yet to start were set to begin at 10 am and start round two at 4 pm but rain is forecast through Tuesday with weekend thunderstorms, making it likely this would become just the second US Open extended beyond Sunday, playoffs excepted.

"We will not determine a national champion until we play 72 holes. If that takes us into Monday or Tuesday, whatever," senior competitions director Mike Davis said.

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"It’s not to the point where it’s going to be so water-logged that we’re not going to be able to play golf when it stops raining."

Only once in US Open history has bad weather pushed the finish into Monday, that coming in 1983 at Oakmont when the last five holes were played a day late. This was the first unfinished US Open round since 2004 at nearby Shinnecock.

A major worry was the condition of the 18th fairway, a low-lying swamp in the best of times and real trouble in a near-submerged Bethpage. Taking relief for imbedded balls could require moving 100 yards from landing areas.

"Eighteen is the real issue," Hyler said.

Phil Mickelson, a fan favorite in his last event before wife Amy undergoes breast cancer surgery early next month, has yet to start as he tries to forget four runner-up finishes and win the trophy Amy wants in her hospital room.

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