Only 24 players in line make it onto the Black, and the six foursomes must tee off between 8 and 9 a.m. All other tee times, with the last one at 1 p.m., have to be reserved up to seven days in advance through a computerized phone system that's harder to crack than the Defense Department.
When you finally get to the 1st tee, the drool trickling down your chin will tell you the wait was worth it. "We drove five hours, waited 11, played for five and then drove back in six," says Bob Ternes of Waynesboro, Pa. "And we'd do it again tomorrow."
Could be because Bethpage Black is just about the most meticulously groomed grass this side of Cheech's glove compartment. It will be all you can do to keep from stripping to your Hanes and rolling around on the 1st tee box.
But the Black is long, hard and has more bunkers than Kandahar. It may be the only course in the world with a huge sign on the 1st tee telling you to turn back: WARNING—THE BLACK COURSE IS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT COURSE WHICH WE RECOMMEND ONLY FOR HIGHLY SKILLED GOLFERS.
Of course, when it's finally time to stick the peg in, "you'll probably play like hell," says Frank Navarra, the starter. "They all do. They've been living in their car for the last 26 hours. They're stiff and sore, and they haven't slept. But, hey, they're on, right?"
And during the Open next month, when Tiger shoots 63 on the Black, you'll have the inalienable right to sniff and say, "Big deal! Whaddya think he'd shoot if he had to spend the night in my damn Taurus?"