Wind makes Bri­tish field am­a­teur weath­er­men

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

ST. AN­DREWS, Scot­land — Royal and An­cient of­fi­cials had charm­ing ex­pres­sions for what the wind did to the Bri­tish Open. When it started to gale they said it was “fresh­en­ing,” from the “west­erly” di­rec­tion. When it threat­ened to blow balls off the greens, they called it “os­cil­lat­ing.” Such courtly lan­guage hardly de­scribed what was hap­pen­ing to play­ers’ pants legs, and score­cards. Not to men­tion their heads.

They stood on the tees and the greens of St. An­drews try­ing to keep their minds still while a gi­ant in­vis­i­ble hand from the sky shoved them side­ways. Play­ers flinched on short putts, backed off their tee shots, and stared bale­fully at the flag­sticks, which bent side­ways un­til they were al­most par­al­lel to the ground.

The cross­winds blew a young ge­nius, Rory McIlroy, al­most out of con­tention with an 80, and lofted a far less renowned player who has made just one cut in a ma­jor, Louis Oosthuizen, to the top of the leader­board. One teed off early and got rain, but no wind. The other teed off late and got wind, but no rain. Think that was un­fair? Han­dle it. They had to.

Wind is an in­escapable part of the Bri­tish Open at St. An­drews, and so is luck when it comes to morn­ing and af­ter­noon tee times. The trick for the con­tenders was not get­ting too up­set about it. Those who fared best in the gusts of 35 to 40 mph didn’t let the blus­ter com­pletely rob them of their com­po­sure, those who were con­tent just to sur­vive and not shoot them­selves out of it.

Golfers turned their ball­caps around, swapped them for ski hats or sim­ply went bare­headed. Fans had a hard time keep­ing track of their fa­vorites be­cause the kids car­ry­ing the score­boards for each group dropped them to hor­i­zon­tal or risked be­ing car­ried off by the wind. At the 12th, golfers who smacked tee shots in the 300-yard range only a day ear­lier gave back a hun­dred yards.

As Tom Lehman de­scribed his round of 68, “We went out with the wind help­ing the first six or seven holes, then it laid down a bit, then it switched di­rec­tions and from 12 on­ward, there was a right-to-left wind help­ing, which makes it way, way eas­ier than the one that comes in your face.”

The un­for­tu­nates who got the af­ter­noon gusts in their face did well to re­mem­ber that they had been the for­tu­nate ones on Thurs­day, when they ben­e­fited from morn­ing tee times. They caught St. An­drews so per­fectly still and downy soft that it yielded record low num­bers. Among those who un­der­stood these va­garies were a cou­ple of deeply ex­pe­ri­enced Bri­tish play­ers, Lee West­wood and Paul Casey, whose Fri­day scores of 71 and 69, re­spec­tively, put them in a tie for third at 6-un­der-par 138.

“All you re­ally ask for (as) a golfer play­ing in the Open is a bit of par­ity, re­ally,” West­wood said. “I don’t know how much harder the af­ter­noon was yes­ter­day than the morn­ing; some­where prob­a­bly be­tween two or three shots. If the af­ter­noon to­day plays two or three shots harder than the morn­ing, that’s all you can ask for.”

The con­di­tions have turned ev­ery player into his own per­sonal meteorologist. The first thing Mark Cal­cavec­chia and his wife did when they woke up Fri­day morn­ing was run to their ho­tel room win­dow and jerk back the cur­tains “like lit­tle kids at Christ­mas,” he said.

Rain was beat­ing against the pane, but at least the flags were limp. The still­ness al­lowed Cal­cavec­chia to vault on to the board with a 67. The 50-year-old was just stop­ping by here on his way to play in the Bri­tish Se­nior Open at Carnoustie, and hardly ex­pected to make the cut at St. An­drews. Now he’s a con­tender.

But the prospect of deal­ing with these con­di­tions for two straight weeks was ex­haust­ing, he wryly noted.

“If we’ve got to be play­ing in this for seven or eight days in a row, I’ll def­i­nitely be ready to exit the coun­try,” he said.

Alastair Grant AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

sAlly jenk­ins | the WAshinGton Post Phil Mick­el­son bat­tles with his um­brella on the 10th green dur­ing the sec­ond round of the Bri­tish Open at St. An­drews, Scot­land.

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