ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Lucas Glover stood over a 2-foot bogey putt on the Old Course’s treacherous par-3 11th hole for two minutes. When the fastest player on the PGA Tour takes several minutes to prepare for a putt of that length something is amiss.
On this day, at the home of golf, in a country known for terrible weather, the afternoon portion of the Open Championship’s second round was suspended for an hour, but should have stayed suspended for the remainder of the day. And the madness of it all was that it had nothing to do with Scotland’s trademark rain. Rather, the Old Course simply was not setup to withstand the winds that whipped across this charming town like a tornado that pelts America’s Heartland.
“Every pin they put on a knob on the back of the green,” said Oliver Wilson, who followed a 68 with a 79 and has the weekend off. “If you went to every green and said, ‘where is the worst place we can put these pins,’ they did it on 18 greens. Whoever set these pins should be fired.
“It’s links golf, it’s going to be like this. Either don’t cut the greens so short or put the pins somewhere where it’s flat.”
Just after 2:30 p.m. local time tournament officials blew the horn when conditions were deemed unplayable because wind gusts were over 40 mph, causing balls to move on some of the greens that were most exposed to the wind, particularly those along St. Andrews Bay. It was the first delay for wind at the British Open since 1998 when there was a 38-minute stoppage during the second round at Royal Birkdale.
This delay at the Old Course lasted just over an hour. The only problem was that conditions weren’t much better when players returned to their positions. In fact, they may just have been worse.
“To be honest, I think they just wasted an hour of our time,” said Andrew Coltart following his 77.
Said Tiger Woods: “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. 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.”
That seemed to be the theme of the day. Players were either miffed that they were taken off the course for an hour and put back on in similar conditions, or they were annoyed that they had to be on the course at all.
Funny how after the first round it was thought that those who played later in Round 1 and early in Round 2 were the ones who landed on the wrong side of the draw. In reality it was the opposite. The top four men on the leaderboard – Louis Oosthuizen, Mark Calcavecchia, Paul Casey and Lee Westwood – all were finished Friday before Mother Nature decided to play favorites.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest conditions were unplayable. On the aforementioned 11th hole, which was playing 174 yards, Nick Watney aimed left of the flag but his ball ended up way right, giving him a 120-foot birdie putt. His first attempt only went 80 feet, leaving him another 40 feet for par, which he missed.
Phil Mickelson played through rain in the morning and when he was finished his 1-under-par total was hovering right around the cut line. By day’s end he was in a tie for 38th place and easily able to punch a Saturday and Sunday tee time.
Camilo Villegas, not a short hitter by any definition, hit a poor shot off the sixth tee but still failed to reach the fairway on the 412-yard, par 4 hole. On the same hole, Woods yelled “go left, go way left” to his ball because he knew there was more room on that side and that he wouldn’t end up near Villegas.
After the round Woods said that playing partner Justin Rose hit a tee shot “fat” on the third hole because during his swing he thought the ball was moving but it was just oscillating.
Most players were afraid to ground their putters for fear of being assessed a one-stroke penalty should the ball move.
“I don’t think they should have called us off the golf course,” said Rory McIlroy. “When we got back out there the conditions hadn’t changed. The wind probably got a little bit worse. It probably wasn’t a smart move.”
To McIlroy’s credit, he didn’t blame the conditions for his poor play. The 22-year-old from Northern Ireland sent a buzz around St. Andrews Thursday when he opened with a major championship record-tying 63. The round quickly got sideways Friday when he made bogey on four of his first eight holes. He was never able to rebound and shot 80, essentially ending his hopes for a first major.
Woods' round was probably the most impressive on the day although a score of 73 would hardly make the world No. 1 pleased. But he was 2 over early in the round, got both shots back, lost two more near the end of the round before closing for birdie on the home hole that nearly was an eagle. Still, Woods sits eight shots behind Oosthuizen, who holds a five-shot lead over Calcavecchia.
“When we started off we had the bad wind because the front nine was tough,” Oosthuizen said. “And we got to 10 and it started raining again. And then it just dropped completely, the wind, and from 14 we had the last five holes downwind, which is a huge difference.”
The same can’t be said for the afternoon. While Oosthuizen was likely watching this Open Championship on the telly, conditions got nasty and stayed nasty.
Nasty enough for the speedy Glover to turn deliberate while standing over a short putt, proving that on this day around St. Andrews, something definitely was amiss.