HOYLAKE, England – The British Open once again lived up to its fickle, unpredictable weather reputation, and doesn’t half the field at Royal Liverpool know it.
Ideal weather greeted morning groups Thursday, but the wind picked up in the afternoon. On Friday, those same afternoon golfers got the worst of gusty morning conditions.
By midday Friday, the wind died down, creating similar conditions for the same lucky golfers who benefited from good scoring opportunities Thursday morning.
That left George Coetzee, who shot 69 Friday, as the only player among the leaders who drew the unlucky Thursday afternoon-Friday morning double.
Those guys shouldn’t despair: Padraig Harrington experienced battering wind and rain during his first round at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and shot 74. Three days later, he won his second British Open.
U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer shrugged his shoulders when asked Friday about his unlucky draw over the first two rounds – a 1:38 p.m. start with gusting winds Thursday and even worse conditions Friday when he began play at 8:37 a.m.
“I can’t take care of the weather,” Kaymer said. “I just take it the way it is. That is what The Open is about.”
Darren Clarke, the 2011 champion at Royal St. George’s, was on the lucky side of the draw. He agreed with Kaymer.
“You get good sides, and I’ve been at enough Open Championships where I’ve had the bad side of it as well,” Clarke said. “They all even out.”
Adam Scott, among the few players who were on the leaderboard after playing in the afternoon on Thursday, saw more of the same on Friday. Except worse.
“Today was much tougher out there, just the slight direction change and the gusts,” Scott said. “All of a sudden there were holes where I was hitting 6-iron from in the 140s (yards). That’s when you know it’s pretty windy.”
Justin Rose, who played in Scott’s group, saw the change immediately.
He has just finished his morning round and was doing media interviews when he pointed to a television monitor showing a limp flag at No. 2, and said: “When I was playing the second hole, it was howling.”
Both Scott and Rose play on the U.S.-based PGA Tour, where conditions usually become tougher for the afternoon golfers and the luck of the draw usually isn’t an issue.
The forecast for Saturday? Rain and possible thunderstorms. But at least it should be a near-level playing field for the leaders going off late in the round.
Jason Day, who shot rounds of 74 and who was in Kaymer’s group, says “you take what you can get” when it comes to the weather.
“You can come over and play social rounds and get used to the course this way, but it’s nothing like playing a tournament on links golf,” Day said. “It’s very frustrating, but there’s some luck involved. And obviously it can change in a heartbeat.”
The British Open will use a two-tee start for the first time in the tournament’s 154-year history for Saturday’s third round due to predicted heavy rain and thunderstorms.
Tournament official David Rickman said Friday play is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. (0800 GMT) Saturday off the first and 10th tees. That compressed schedule would allow for up to five hours of delays and enable the round to be completed.
The British Open has always used a one-tee start, but Rickman says the decision to use a second for the 70-plus players in groups of three would allow the tournament to be “in a better place on Sunday.”
The forecast calls for deteriorating weather to begin overnight Friday, with an expected break of up to four hours late Saturday morning.