Fierce wind makes for brutal day at St. Andrews
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Around the loop at the far end of St. Andrews, shots at the mercy of a vicious wind were flying in every direction as Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and so many others struggled to survive in the British Open.
Just as daunting was one thing that didn’t move – the name of Louis Oosthuizen atop the leaderboard.
It stayed there over the final 11 hours on a Friday when the mood of the Old Course turned foul. Oosthuizen finished his 5-under 67 just as the flags starting whipping and the grandstands creaked from gusts that topped 40 mph, forcing a round to be halted for the first time in 12 years at the British Open.
“She was naked yesterday,” Tom Watson said, “but she put on her boxing gloves today and just hit us with all she had.”
The next battle is catching Oosthuizen (WUHST’-hy-zen).
The 27-year-old South African, who had made only one cut in his previous eight majors, was at 12-under 132 and had a five-shot lead, the largest after 36 holes in this major since Bobby Clampett at Royal Troon in 1982.
Equally surprising was the guy right behind him – Mark Calcavecchia, who turned 50 a month ago and shot 67 in the morning when players only had to cope with a light wind and short spells of rain.
A pair of Englishmen, Lee Westwood (71) and Paul Casey (69), were at 6-under 138.
At least an exasperating day ended with a heartwarming moment. Watson, the 60-year-old who came within an 8-foot putt of winning last year at Turnberry, played his final Open round at St. Andrews, the only Scottish links where he didn’t win the claret jug.
The five-time champion leaned over to kiss the Swilcan Bridge, then posed atop the stone arch just as Arnold Palmer did in 1995 and Jack Nicklaus did in 2000 and 2005.
And just like Nicklaus five years ago, Watson finished with a birdie. His wedge across the Valley of Sin stopped an inch from the hole.
“I pulled it just an inch,” Watson said after his 75 to finish at 4-over 148. The cut will not be made until Saturday, but it was unlikely to go further than 2-over par.
Oosthuizen made seven birdies in his round of 67, finishing with a 15-foot birdie putt.
Far more compelling were the players trying to make par as the wind raged off St. Andrews Bay.
No one suffered quite like McIlroy.
One day after his record-tying 63, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland was blown away by shots into the rough and putts that he could not control in the wind. He wound up with an 80 and staggered off the course 11 shots out of the lead.
“I think all the guys were finding it tough this afternoon, and I just let it get away from me a little bit,” McIlroy said. “I actually did well to par the last three holes, if I’m totally honest. It could have been an 82 or an 83. I’m here for the weekend, so it’s not all bad, but definitely a complete contrast to what it was like yesterday.”
Of the last 75 players who completed the round, none broke par. Thirty players had to return Saturday morning to finish the second round, including British Amateur champion Jin Jeong, who was at 5-under par.
Woods won the last two times at St. Andrews by a combined 13 shots. The Old Course was nothing like it was Friday afternoon, and it was rare for the world’s No. 1 player to feel so satisfied after a 73.
He three-putted the first two holes as the wind made lag putts difficult to get within 6 feet. Woods finished with the most dramatic shot of this tournament, a driver on the 357-yard 18th hole that climbed the hill and rolled within inches of banging into the pin. His eagle putt caught the left lip, meaning one more stroke he has to make up.
Woods was at 4-under 140.
“I’m eight back, and today was a day I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament, especially the start I got off to,” Woods said. “But I put it back together again and pieced together a pretty good round.”
Phil Mickelson shot a 71 to finish at even-par 144, and the horn sounded to stop play not long after he finished.
“They were tough until it got called here, until it got suspended,” Mickelson said, referring to the conditions. Then he added with heavy sarcasm before leaving, “I’m happy for those guys. That’s great.”
It was anything but that.
Some players came off the course fuming about the one-hour delay, noting that conditions didn’t improve. Play was stopped because of gusts that caused the ball to wobble on the green, and at times on the fairway.
“Either it should not have been stopped at all or they should not have put us back out,” Tim Clark said after an 80. “If it was unplayable, then why put us back out?”
Oliver Wilson, who opened with a 68 and is likely to miss the cut after a 79, said the delay was only part of the problem. He criticized the Royal and Ancient for tough pin positions, making them inaccessible because of the direction of the wind.
“Whoever did that should be fired,” he said. “You’ve got the biggest greens in the world here, and they found the most difficult positions.”
John Daly shot a 76 and would not stop to speak to reporters.
McIlroy opened with three pars, then sat in a van for the next hour. He walked back onto the course and faced a 7-iron to the green on the fourth hole. He missed it to the left, then the wind helped carry his putt some 30 feet by the hole. It was like that all day.
After failing to birdie the par-5 fifth, he bogeyed three straight holes, and then watched a putt roll back to his feet on the par-3 11th on his way to a double bogey.
“I don’t think they should have called us off the golf course,” McIlroy said. “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.”
Sean O’Hair made a rare birdie on the Road Hole 17th and in a hard-fought round of 72 that put him at 5-under 139. Of the top 11 players on the leaderboard who finished the round, he was the only one who faced the worst of St. Andrews.
Tom Lehman, the 51-year-old former Open champion, had a 68 and also was at 139 along with Miguel Angel Jimenez, Retief Goosen and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, who had a 68 and wasn’t sure where that would leave him.
“I need it to blow,” McDowell said when he finished. “Tomorrow afternoon, I don’t need Louis Oosthuizen shooting 5-under par again.”
Woods wasn’t complaining, for he has been on the good side of the draw plenty of times while winning 14 majors. And while Oosthuizen only had moderate conditions, he played smartly on the back nine by taking less club with the wind at his back to stay out of the bunkers.
“We didn’t get what Louis got,” Woods said. “That’s just the way it goes. If you get a good break, you have to capitalize on it. He certainly did.”
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