Big Ben's next challenge: Break 100 on 2009 U.S. Open course
In five seasons as quarterback of the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger has certainly proved one thing to be true: Don't challenge him on anything.
From being the first quarterback to go 13-0 as a rookie to being the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl to joining Tom Brady as the only active quarterbacks with two Super Bowl rings, Roethlisberger has displayed a penchant for rising to the occasion, no matter how much the odds might be stacked against him.
This time, though, Roethlisberger doesn't get to answer the challenge with his right arm. This time, he has to rely on his golf clubs.
"You know me -- I always welcome a challenge," Roethlisberger said. "Tiger tells me I can shoot 87."
Tiger, of course, is Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked golfer and fellow Nike endorser. He's the person responsible for Roethlisberger's latest challenge -- trying to break 100 on Bethpage Black, the 7,366-yard course in Farmingdale, N.Y., the sight of this month's 109th U.S. Open.
Roethlisberger, along with former NBA great Michael Jordan and singer Justin Timberlake, will play Bethpage Black on June 12 from the same tees and under the same conditions as the U.S. Open participants. It's called the Golf Digest U.S. Open Challenge, and the 18-hole round will be aired as a 90-minute special June 21 on NBC, before the final round of the U.S. Open championship.
The event was spawned from a comment Woods made two years ago when he said the average player couldn't break 100 on a U.S. Open course under U.S. Open conditions.
"That's what people don't understand -- I'm not trying to go out and shoot 72," Roethlisberger said yesterday. "I'm not trying to get birdies and pars. You play for bogey every hole and the pars will come."
Roethlisberger, who said he is down to a 3-handicap, has been working diligently on his golf game in the offseason, playing almost every day at Treesdale, when he is in town, or at any of the five courses at Reynolds Plantation (Ga.), where he is a member and owns a home.
He thinks he can break 100 because he is able to carry the ball off the tee 270 to 280 yards, distances that are required to reach the fairway on some of the holes at Bethpage Black.
"All you are going to do is go play in a foursome," Roethlisberger said. "It's not like there's a gallery. Oh, there will be some people out there, but it won't be like anything other than just going out and playing."
Roethlisberger's caddie will be someone who knows about U.S. Open pressure -- Rocco Mediate, a Greensburg native, who went 19 holes in Monday playoff last year before losing to Woods in one of the most thrilling U.S. Open playoffs.
"I think he has a chance," said Oakmont professional Bob Ford, who was retained to be Roethlisberger's "coach" for the event. "He hits it good. His good ones are really good. I was very impressed."
Roethlisberger will get his first look at Bethpage Black on June 11, when the contestants play a practice round the day before the event. When asked if the injury to his left knee in practice yesterday will hinder his golf game, he said, "I sure hope not.
"You know I don't like when people bet against me," Roethlisberger said.
First Published June 4, 2009 12:00 am