As he graduated from the University of Arizona in 2003, Ricky Barnes was already the U.S. Amateur champion, with big expectations on him as he joined the pro tour. He fulfilled his promise in 2009, when at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black he broke the 36-hole scoring record and shared the lead going into the final round. Though he finished second to Lucas Glover, he’s cemented his place among today’s top golfers: In 2010, he was tenth at The Masters and fifth at the Verizon Heritage. So as the U.S. Open approaches, Ricky recalled the ‘09 Open and gave his thoughts on 2010.
JH: We hear that you have ties to Long Island. Do tell.
RB: My grandpa is from Long Island, and I have some cousins down in Long Beach. So I’m familiar with the area.
JH: Do you remember what you were thinking the night before the final round of the 2009 U.S Open at Bethpage?
RB: It was an extremely long week; there were so many weather delays that I felt like every day I played 36 holes. But I think that actually helped me a bit. I was staying with my family’s friends on the South Shore, and every night I got home and was so tired I fell asleep quickly and slept well.
But the week afterward was a different story. That’s when it really set in that I finished second in the U.S. Open. Then I had a hard time falling asleep for a few weeks.
JH: What did you learn from Bethpage that made you better?
RB: I gained confidence. I know that any given week on any course, even at a major, my game is able to get to that next level. The nature of being out here on the PGA tour is that you’re one week away from changing your life. If you have the game and also confidence to do it, and get a few breaks, it could be one heck of a ride.
JH: Your thoughts on the Black course?
RB: People don’t realize that the greens are pretty flat yet they are still ridiculously hard. It was good and bad that the course played wet and soft. It played so long from tee to green, but at least you could hold the greens. The fact that they got the course playable was a huge accomplishment; it was actually in phenomenal shape.
JH: But you broke the 36-hole scoring record, so how hard could it have been?
RB: It was just one of those weeks when you get into a zone, and I took advantage of it for 66 out of the 72 holes. I only had a seven-hole stretch in the third round where I hit some bad drives–there was a solid club-and-a-half wind, and most of the back nine is exposed to the elements.
JH: Any memorable meals you had while you were here?
RB: Dario’s in Rockville Centre has unbelievable Italian food.
JH: How do you feel about your chances at this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach?
RB: It’s a course I’m familiar with. I grew up in Northern California and played my first U.S. Open in 2000 at Pebble. When it comes to knowing poa-annua greens, I grew up on that stuff. So I feel good there.