Three-hour weather delay causes havoc at Open

Ideal conditions for the gulls on the first fairway. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Ideal conditions for the gulls on the first fairway. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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ON A day when the wind and the rain caused massive disruption to the Open at St Andrews, Dustin Johnson refused to be swept off the top of the leaderboard. The American sits at 10 under par, one shot ahead of his nearest rival Englishman Danny Willett, but he will have to be up early today to complete his second round after a three-hour rain delay prevented all 156 competitors making it back to the clubhouse before light faded.

Just before 10pm players were told they could stop, but those who wished to continue were able to play through groups if needed, allowing Tom Watson to take his bow in front of loyal fans who continued to line the 18th. The 42 others will resume at 7am today. Those who make the cut will then head out again for the third round. But with more high winds and rain forecast the R&A will send the Saturday groupings out as three-balls.

Tom Watson, playing his final ever Open round, poses on the Swilcan Bridge during an emotional farewell. Picture: PA

Tom Watson, playing his final ever Open round, poses on the Swilcan Bridge during an emotional farewell. Picture: PA

Play got under way at 6:32am yesterday, but as rain poured down and the fairways and greens accumulated water, they were soon deemed unplayable. Just 14 minutes after teeing off, and having just made it on to the first green, the opening trio of Jaco Van Zyl, Mark Calcavecchia and Marcel Siem abandoned the round.

It led to Van Zyl’s fellow South African, Thomas Aiken, who was on the next grouping, to react with incredulity at the notion of contesting a major championship in the eye of a storm. “It was like D-day. When we got out on the range, it was like, are you serious? Are we really going out in this?” But at 10am, following a massive mopping-up operation, the opening trio holed out. “The first hole was fun, to say the least,” said Van Zyl. ”Good thing is we had a down breeze. I mean, otherwise we would still be out there. But yeah, very interesting this morning.”

With conditions improving Willett set the pace, along with Scotsman Marc Warren, who added a 69 to his opening round 68. He was joined in the clubhouse at 7-under by Zach Johnson, Adam Scott and Robert Streb, all of whom will be able to enjoy a long lie as other challengers, including 1999 champion Paul Lawrie and Jason Day, who were forced to give up their rounds on the back nine, sitting at 8-under, complete their rounds.

It is not the first time that the home of golf has been battered into temporary submission by the elements. In 2010, similarly strong winds buffeted the course on the Friday evening. Rory McIlroy was out at the peak of the tumult and, having carded 63 on the opening day, he followed it up with an 80 to effectively ruin his title chances.

Even when the world No 1 did finally get his hands on the Claret Jug, last year at Royal Liverpool, it wasn’t without incident. Weather reports predicted that a massive squall would hit the coast early on the Saturday evening leading the R&A to take pre-emptive action and, for the first time in Open history, opting for double tee-times to get the action completed. With half the field setting off from the 10th, they only just made it through all 18 holes. But at least the R&A are hopeful that they have done enough to stave off a repeat of the Monday finish required in 1988, the only Monday finish in Open history.

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