>The scorecard for the 2002 US Open shows another Tiger Woods major championship victory, and the leaderboard is littered with the premier golfers of the time with names like Mickelson, Garcia, Faldo, Harrington, and Price all in the Top 10. Tiger was the only golfer to break par, but this being the US Open this isn’t unfathomable, given the way the USGA has been known to condition a course for its premier tournament.
One doesn’t have to look far under the covers of this tournament, however, to find out just how distinctive it was on many levels. It’s this uniqueness that John Feinstein is tapping into and is using to drive the story in “Open: Inside The Ropes At Bethpage Black” published in 2003.
John Feinstein broke through to fame in 1987 with his book “A Season on the Brink”, about a season with the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team and it’s volatile coach Bob Knight. His most famous book about golf was “A Good Walk Spoiled”, which was a #1 bestseller in 1993. “Open” talks the reader through the entire process building up to the 2002 US Open, opening with an unplanned visit to Bethpage State Park in November 1994 by David Fay, then the executive director of the USGA, and ending with Fay driving into the sunset after the Sunday of the championship, listening to the broadcast of the Mets’ and Yankees’ baseball game. There are three recognizable sections to “Open”: The first grabs you, the second slows you down a bit, and the third part celebrates the tournament itself with Tiger’s thrilling finish.
Initially the book deals with the birth and development of the idea to bring the nation’s championship to a municipal course for the first time, and a course that was in fairly rough shape at that. What’s very clear here is the tremendous amount of passion the golf course Bethpage Black inspired in all who played it, worked on it, and saw it. It was truly a diamond in the rough, and eventually more and more people were able to see past the dilapidated condition of the course and see the potential underneath it.
In the middle of the book, or shall I say the muddle of the book, the author spends a little bit too much time describing the background of many of the people involved in bringing this project to fruition. It’s all interesting in itself, and he obviously spent a copious amount of time with the characters who were involved, but I don’t think this section of the book needed to take up this much room.
The last section is the buildup to and the playing of the championship itself. Though the author is obviously biased, it’s clear that the course was as close to perfect as a championship course of this caliber can be. It was sternly challenging, but fair. I found it quite interesting to find out what all goes on behind the scenes at an event like this, and having it end with Tiger beating out Phil on the last nine on Sunday was frosting on the cake.
All in all, “Open” was a very enjoyable read. The author’s tone is light and casual, at times very humorous, and his research and preparation on the subject is spectacular. The book is relevant right now for two reasons: One, the US Open is again played on Bethpage Black in 2009; and two, the author is currently working on a book with Rocco Mediate about the 2008 US Open. This book, allegedly to be called “Are You Kidding Me?”, is due out around the time of the 2009 event.