SANDWICH, England – That’s more like it.
A day after practicing in sunshine and a light breeze, the British Open players got a better idea Tuesday of the conditions they’ll probably need to prep for at Royal St. George’s.
The wind gusted to more than 30 mph on a cloudy, cool day, turning par-3s into driver holes and showing the importance of patience, persistence and a grind-it-out mindset when the weather turns, as it always seems to do at these seaside courses.
“You don’t really know what you’re going to get,” Luke Donald, the world’s top-ranked player, said after his practice round. “That’s the nature of links.”
He welcomed the chance to hit shots in harsher conditions, especially with a forecast that calls for heavy rains and more strong gusts on the weekend.
“The guy who can scrap it around and make pars from off the green, hole some long putts and kind of keep the momentum going, especially when it’s very tough like it was today, that’s the key to playing well,” Donald said.
Phil Mickelson, who’s never played particularly well at this major championship, worked on some shots he might need when he’s keeping score.
“It’s certainly helpful being able to hit a variety of shots into the greens and practice the short game around these greens, too,” he said.
CHARL THE PROGNOSTICATOR: If ever Charl Schwartzel decides to take up a new profession, he could always give fortunetelling a try.
Predicting last week’s Scottish Open would be plagued with rain, The Masters champion from South Africa decided a while ago that his British Open preparations would be better served staying in his homeland.
The tournament in the Scottish Highlands was shortened to three rounds because of a freakish combination of torrential rain and thunderstorms that Colin Montgomerie, the former Europe Ryder Cup captain, described as “end-of-the-world stuff.”
In the Rainbow Nation, meanwhile, the weather was dry and clear, allowing Schwartzel to do “a lot of practicing.”
“I just figured that moving the Scottish Open further north, it can’t get any better,” Schwartzel said. “I’ve heard it too many times in my life, especially in Ireland, where we would arrive at a golf tournament and the locals would go, ‘You cannot believe how good the weather was last week.’ I figured it was going to be pretty much the same.”
WIN ONE FOR PHIL: Phil Mickelson didn’t play his best golf Tuesday, but he came away a winner.
He had a good partner.
Mickelson and Jeff Overton played their traditional match at a major against Dustin Johnson, who picked Rickie Fowler as a partner. Mickelson and Overton were 4 up at the turn when Johnson decided to press. Johnson immediately won the 10th hole, and his side was poised to win the par-3 11th, which at 243 yards into the wind played so long that no one could reach the green, even with a driver.
Right when it looked as though Fowler would make par to win the hole, Overton knocked in a 20-foot par putt from just off the green. Then came the big finish, when Overton made a putt close to 100 feet.
“We had a fun game, and Jeff Overton made a long putt on the last hole,” Mickelson said. “He was my partner, so I’m very appreciative of him.”
REMEMBERING SEVE: Seve Ballesteros is very much a part of this British Open.
An iconic image of the Spanish star, who won this event three times, is plastered on stands around the course, mixed in with the familiar claret jug logo.
Under the outline of Ballesteros it says, “1957-2011.” He died in May at age 54 after battling a brain tumor.
Ballesteros was only 19 when he finished second to Johnny Miller at the 1976 Open at Birkdale. He claimed his first major title three years later at Lytham, making a memorable birdie in the final round after driving his tee shot at No. 16 into a parking lot.
He went on to become the face of European golf, starring in The Ryder Cup as a player and serving as captain for a 1997 triumph in his homeland.