TROON, Scotland – The top 14 players on the Open leaderboard all have one thing in common:
They played late on Thursday and early Friday.
The luck of the draw is always a part of The Open, but rarely is there such a wide disparity as what we saw over the first two days at Royal Troon.
Conditions in the first round were mostly benign, but those who played in the morning Friday clearly got the best end of the draw, with only a pesky rain and light wind.
It became much tougher for the afternoon wave, a group that included Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, who did well just to make the cut. During a half-hour span, players turned their umbrellas horizontally to block out the 35-mph wind and driving rain.
The first half of the draw was a combined 175 over par. The latter half was 362 over.
“When you see such a disparity between the draw and you see no name from this side of the draw popping up, it’s just frustrating,” said Justin Rose, who shot 77.
McIlroy was on the 13th hole when the worst of the weather hit. His drive started 20 yards to the left, so he yelled, “Fore!” When he walked to his ball, he noticed that the wind had pushed it all the way into the middle of the fairway.
“Made a (bogey-) 5,” McIlroy said, “and it was a good par in the conditions.”
Day went through four gloves in a 30-minute span and walked off the course with leaky rain gear.
“I’ve got to somehow dry it out before tomorrow,” he said.
But all three stars took a positive attitude when it came to the draw.
Spieth said he could tell watching the coverage at his rental house that his side had gotten a raw deal. “We kept saying, ‘Those flags are not moving,’” he said.
Spieth wasn’t about to blame his poor position (14 back) on the draw, however. He knows he hasn’t played well enough to contend through the first two rounds here.
Like anyone who has played The Open long enough, McIlroy has found himself on both sides of the draw throughout his career. He was on the good side in 2014, when he won at Hoylake and there was an unprecedented two-tee start in Round 2. Here at Troon, he could only wish there were another split start to even out the draw.
“I’m not going to let being on the wrong side ruin my mood or ruin my week,” he said. “I feel like I’ve played very well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend.”