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Vijay Singh and the rest of the morning wave had the worst of the conditions on Thursday. (Redington/Getty Images)

Can I have an afternoon tee (time), please?

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Luck is a big part of golf's oldest championship, and that was never more evident than Thursday. Tee times were just as important as the clubs in the bag, given the dramatic turn of the weather that essentially turned one day into two.

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) - John Daly shot another 80, and it wasn't even worthy of a chuckle.

Heck, Ernie Els shot 80. So did Vijay Singh, who's never been videotaped hitting balls off a beer can or playing a round of golf sans shirt and shoes. And, if anyone comes across Sandy Lyle or Rich Beem, make sure they know how to get out of town.

Luck is a big part of golf's oldest championship, and that was never more evident than Thursday's opening round at the Open Championship. Tee times were just as important as the clubs in the bag - maybe more so, given the dramatic turn of the weather that essentially turned one day into two.

If you were unfortunate enough to be sent off in the morning, well, the reward was a steady, sometimes driving rain and a howling breeze off the Irish Sea that occasionally gusted up to 35 mph.

Which was a big reason Els signed a scorecard that including a devilish stretch of holes - 6-6-6 - among its 80 strokes, the worst Open score ever for the Big Easy. Which is why Singh actually talked of playing pretty well after putting up the second-highest score of his Open career. Which is why Phil Mickelson thought anything in the 70s - even a 79, which is what he shot - would be a pretty respectable score.

"It was miserable, miserable, miserable weather," moaned Singh, who just couldn't get off that theme. "It was just a miserable day," he added.

Now, if you were one of those assigned a tee time with a 'p.m.' attached to it, things were much different. While Royal Birkdale didn't suddenly transform into sunny, balmy Florida, the showers dried up and the wind tapered off - which, for a golfer, is about all you can ask for at a links course along the Irish Sea.

"We did get the better side of the draw, no doubt about it," said Greg Norman, who was one stroke off the lead after shooting 70. "When you watch it in the morning, you feel sorry for the guys, but there's times when you say, 'Well, I've been there before.' I've been on that side of the draw, too. You've got to take it. It all balances out, and you have to take advantage of it."

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The late starters sure took advantage of their meteorological advantage.

Rocco Mediate, Graeme McDowell and Robert Allenby were tied for the lead at 69. All played in the afternoon. Norman, Adam Scott and Bart Bryant found themselves deadlocked one shot back. Guess what time of day they played?

Anyone who didn't say afternoon might as well leave now. Besides, they probably still need some folks out at the sixth hole to look for Mickelson's ball, submerged somewhere in the prickly rough. Yep, Lefty played in the morning - and paid the price, losing a ball along the way.

Among the top 14, only Retief Goosen and Mike Weir teed off in the morning. Both shot 71s that probably felt more like 61s. Going deeper, just four of the top 27 on opening day were morning starters.

"Starting the day, I would have definitely taken a 1 over par given the weather we had when we started," Weir said. "It was just tough to keep dry, and the wind was as strong as I've ever seen."

Of the first 78 players who went out - exactly half the 156-player field - there were 19 scores in the 80s, three of them in Singh's group. Hunter Mahan and Reinier Saxton made it 80 across the board.

"You got rain blowing sideways. It was cold. It was windy," said Singh, who played the first 11 holes at 10 over and insisted, "I didn't play badly."

Lyle and Beem were on the way to exorbitant scores until they walked off the course without finishing, drawing the scorn of R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson, who accused them of not being professional. But it was certainly easy to sympathize with them based on their cards.

The 50-year-old Lyle, who's getting ready to play senior golf, was simply overmatched by the brutal conditions. He shot an 11-over 45 on the front side and called it a day after going out with some degree of dignity, a par at No. 10.

"It was just constant rain all the time," he said. "It was difficult keeping my hands dry and, of course, I wear glasses, so that didn't help. It's a brutal golf course."

Beem started this way: bogey, quadruple-bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, double-bogey. He finally made his first par at No. 8, then bogeyed the next hole too. Already at 46 - 12 strokes above par - he saw no reason to go on.

"If I had continued, I don't think I would have broken 90," Beem said.

Certainly, Kenny Perry must have been chuckling to himself after taking all that grief for deciding to skip the oldest of the majors because he didn't think it suited his game.

"It got to the point where you just don't care," said Pat Perez, who went off in the second group of the day and shot 82. "Now I know why Kenny stayed home."

Compare that with the afternoon. No one shot in the 80s. No one walked off. The average score was three strokes lower (74.4 compared to 77.4) than it was in the morning.

All because of a break in the weather.

"I certainly would be the first to admit that," McDowell said. "I sat at home this morning with my breakfast cereal and cup of coffee in my hand going, 'God, do I really have to go out there this afternoon?' Obviously we got pretty lucky."

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