How bad was the wind on Friday? To find out, all you had to do was check the flag on the 11th green. (Getty Images)
Windswept day at St. Andrews unlike anything most players had ever seen
The wind was so bad Friday that it prompted a rare delay. Yet the breeze barely abated later, and the crazy conditions prompted a variety of opinions and observations from the competitors.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- If the Old Course was defenseless during the first round of the 138th British Open, then the fabled links went on the attack on the wild and windswept Friday that followed.
At least, that’s how Tom Watson, the venerable five-time Open champion saw it, albeit a little more colorfully.
“She was naked yesterday, but she put on her boxing gloves today and just hit us with all she had,” he said after shooting a 75. “It was a heck of a golf course today.”
Scores soared and spirits sagged under the relentless assault that prompted a rare 65-minute wind delay just as the afternoon draw got under way. Those with early wake-up calls, though, couldn’t have been too disappointed to watch the proceedings unfold on the BBC in the comfort of their hotel rooms.
Granted, Louis Oosthuizen and Mark Calcavecchia -- who set off in the second and first groups, respectively, on Friday -- contended with some wind and rain in shooting their 67s. But it was nothing like the gale that blew in after the two signed their scorecards with the South African leading at 12 under and the American veteran trailing by five.
Just ask Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland who had brought the Old Course to its knees on Thursday with a 63 that matched the lowest round ever shot in a major championship. He was the one humbled in the second round, though, when he needed 17 more shots than the day before.
The delay came at 2:40 p.m. local time as gusts in excess of 41 mph were recorded and balls began to oscillate on several of the more exposed greens. Some players retreated to the comfort of the clubhouse as their caddies stretched out on the lawn. Ian Poulter, on the other hand, simply stopped a spot of tea in the conservatory of the Old Course Hotel.
“I had a jumbo sausage and chips from a nearby van, which was actually really nice,” reported Paul Lawrie, who would follow up his opening 69 with an 82. “It was the highlight of the day.”
“I’m glad we’re finished,” agreed fellow Scot Martin Laird, who tumbled down the leaderboard with an 83. “I didn’t want to come back tomorrow for more.”
At the same time, though, the return to the blustery Old Course on Friday afternoon was something of a be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario.
“When they said you’re back out, the smiles sunk a little bit,” Andrew Coltart said, only half-joking. “You’re going back out in battle again. In the vans, at least we were warm.”
Not to mention, the wind had hardly abated. So conditions most of the players had deemed borderline before the horn blew were basically the same when they got back.
“We thought it might give us a break, and we might come out there with less wind and have a chance at posting some pretty good numbers; that wasn't the case,” said Tiger Woods, who was on the first green when play was called.
“It was blowing just as hard when we came back out, especially when we got out towards the loop (holes 7 through 11). They were saying it's a hole-by-hole scenario. They could call it at any time, but they didn't, even though it was blowing pretty good.”
David Duval, who won the 2001 British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, said the conditions were “top-five bad, for sure.” Lawrie, the 1999 champ at Carnoustie, said “it was one of the toughest days on the golf course I can ever remember, to be honest.
“But I played very poorly,” he added. Lag putts were a “nightmare,” Coltart said. And sometimes it just didn’t even matter how well or poorly struck the ball was. “The wind gets it and it just make you look like an idiot,” Laird reported.
Trevor Immelman’s assessment? “Windy, extremely windy and borderline unplayable at times,” the 2008 Masters champ said. At least he birdied the last hole for a 74 that leaves him in red numbers at 2 under through 36 holes.
“The pins were tough,” he said. “They were all on the left going out and couldn't get to them, all on the right, couldn't get to them. Just a lot of 60-, 70-, 80-foot putts that I found out today I'm not very good at.
“It was tough. Just hanging in there trying to finish without shooting yourself in the foot.”
The seventh and 11th holes are two of the most vulnerable to the wind -- and thus two of the problem areas. Coltart -- who was battling a migraine to add insult to injury -- returned to the seventh tee for the festivities immediately after the delay.
At that point, he said, “It didn’t appear to anyone who was hitting a ball on that golf course that the winds had subsided. To be honest, actually I think they just wasted an hour.
“Well, what was the point of bringing us off because it certainly wasn’t any easier by the time we were playing 11 and seven after the delay.”
Even as the players struggled to put the quirky and curious Friday afternoon in perspective, though, they understood what happened is just part and parcel of golf’s oldest major championship. And they knew the forecast called for more of the same on the weekend.
“This is the Open Championship and it’s golf played against not only the golf course but golf played against the elements,” Coltart said. “That’s why in my mind this is the best because it’s an outside sport and you’ve got to play what the outside throws at you.
“It’s going to be difficult to catch the leaders but we’ve now experienced these kind of conditions, and if Louis goes out there tomorrow when its windy … it might be a little bit tougher for him.”
Talk about seeing the glass half full.