Jul
17
2015
Friday at The Open: Who rains supreme? Who blows?
By Stephanie Wei under British Open

Torrential downpour delayed the second round of the Open Championship by three hours and 14 minutes. Small ponds formed around the Old Course’s fairways and greens — a weird sight to see at a links course. The grounds crew worked frantically squeegeeing and pumping the standing water to make the course playable. With the rain easing off, the R&A announced that play would resume at 10:00am local time. However, that called for a long day for all, with first-round leader Dustin Johnson not teeing off until 5:48pm, alongside Jordan Spieth, the Masters and U.S. Open champion, and Hideki Matsuyama.

Weather you like it or not, here are winners and losers from Friday at St Andrews. (#sorrynotsorry)
 

WINNERS

Tom Watson: Who thought they would see Watson, who was making his 40th Open Championship start, walk over the Swilcan Bridge and doff his cap at the Old Course one last time? Again. It was probably more poignant the first time because the stands and the street adjacent to the 18th hole were completely packed with adoring fans in 2010. Five years later — for real this time (we think) — Watson’s final farewell to St Andrews was almost ruined by the weather day this morning, but luckily, fans wandered out of the pubs and gave the five-time Open champion somewhat of a proper send-off in the near dark as the sun had already set.

Play should have been suspended earlier, but tournament organizers let it continue so that Watson could finish. Els told reporters afterwards that an official wanted to call it on the 17th tee, but he told them, “You need to talk to someone.” Snedeker, who ended up doubling the Road Hole to likely miss the cut by two shots, agreed that they should complete the round, despite the fact that any daylight was quickly waning as the sun had set.

As he walked to the 18th tee, he told his son, who was caddying for him, “Michael, there should be no tears, this should be all joy. There have been lots of wonderful memories we’ve had, we’ve shared here. You and I have shared some and had so many others that let’s go up and go out and enjoy the walk up the last hole.”

Walking down the 18th fairway, Watson saw the crowds lined up around the hole and recalled hearing the tale of Bobby Jones, who had won the Grand Slam, playing a “friendly” round at the Old Course when thousands of people engulfed him.

“I think I had an inkling of what Bobby Jones probably felt like when he walked up the 18th hole,” Watson said in his final press conference at the Open.

Watson hit his drive well down the left side — as all the players were doing on Friday to have a good angle into the pin — but then he shanked his pitch, which just made it onto the green. His playing partners Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els (who are also honorable mention winners!) finished putting out first and gave Watson the stage. As Watson stepped up to his birdie putt, he hollered to his son, who was caddying for him and standing a few feet from the hole with the pin, “You’ve got to hold (the flag), son. I can’t even see (the hole).”

Tom Lehman, Matt Kuchar and Graeme McDowell were among the players waiting for Watson behind the 18th green at nearly 10pm.

Unfortunately, Watson three-putted and made bogey. In fact, he bogeyed six of his last seven holes to post an eight-over 80. But at least he had a proper farewell to the Open Championship, a tournament very near and dear to his heart.

Nick Faldo: Sir Nick bid farewell to the Open, as well, but he almost didn’t make it due to a freak injury last night after posting a first-round 11-over 83. He cut his hand on some deer antlers (yes, really) as he was putting on a shirt. Had it not been for the long rain delay, he probably wouldn’t have teed it up Friday, as he had to return to the hospital to have his hand mended again. His kids encouraged him to play, so he did, and good thing because he went on to close out in style, posting a one-under 71, which was highlighted with a birdie on the Road Hole.

“I don’t know what I really said to myself,” said Faldo. “I was just trying to say, thank you, St. Andrews. That’s why I looked at the gods, the St. Andrews golfing gods at 17. I thought, thank you very much for that. I felt beat up yesterday, but that was one of my great moments of any career, making a 3 there and walking the walk. That won’t get any better.”

Faldo also got to wear the same (ugly plaid) sweater he donned when he won his first of three Opens in 1987 (yes, he kept it all this time, but hey, it’s cashmere!) and walk over the Swilcan Bridge one last time. He will return to the TV tower for your regular CBS Golf programming.

Danny Willett (and his mom): After the Englishman posted a three-under 69 to follow his opening six-under 66 (in tough conditions Thursday afternoon), Willett received a cheeky text from his mother Elisabeth that read, “Well done, you’ve made the cut.” At the time, he was the clubhouse leader at nine-under.

Oh, yeah, WIllett’s favorite color is red.

Adam Scott: The 2013 Masters champion is trying to seek redemption at St Andrews for throwing away the 2012 Open at Lytham, where he had a four-shot lead with four to play and bogeyed them all. It’s no shock that he’s up near the leaderboard once again after shooting a solid five-under 67 in the second round for a 36-hole total of seven-under to put him in T5 at the moment. After all, Scott’s last three finishes at the Open look like this: T5, T3, 2. (So, if you didn’t back him this week, you’re an idiot.)

Even better, he’s got Stevie Williams, who went into semi-retirement after last season, back on his bag for the summer. For whatever reason, Williams brings the best out in Scott, who has had a lackluster year for his standards. With Stevie caddying for him at the U.S. Open, Scott made a late Sunday charge to finish T4.

“It was the right call for me to make at this point in the year to get him back out and instill a bit of confidence in my game and get back in that flow,” said Scott. “He’s a huge factor in the way I’ve played the last few years. I have to absolutely give him a lot of credit for that. He helped take my game up to the levels it’s been, along with my coach the last few years and a lot of hard work from all of us.”

Dustin Johnson: Despite playing in blustery conditions, Johnson continues to overpower St Andrews. Though he didn’t tee off until after supper time (if you eat really early), Johnson made the turn with three birdies on the front nine. He dropped a shot when he three-putted the par-3 11th, but he remains the outright leader at 10-under with five holes to play on Saturday morning when play resumes at 7am. (He marked his ball in front of the green on the par-5 14th, where he is lying in two.) The wind is already howling here at the Old Course and is expected to only get worse overnight and continue into Saturday. We’ll see how Johnson handles the expected conditions.

“I feel great,” he said. “I’m in a good spot. Definitely got very tricky this afternoon, all day. Even the front side the wind was howling and it was blowing straight left to right pretty much. It played very tough all day.”

Great news for DJ if he can manage to hang on at 10-under (or better! — though he’s got some hard holes ahead of him): The 36-hole leader has won each of the last five times The Open has been held at St. Andrews (1990: Nick Faldo, 1995: John Daly, 2000: Tiger Woods, 2005: Woods: 2010: Louis Oosthuizen).

Hideki Matsuyama: After posting a first-round even-par, which was pretty lackluster, he opened Friday with four straight birdies, and then added two more on the front nine to make the turn with a six-under 30. Matsuyama has played his way onto the first page of the leaderboard, as he’s currently six-under for the tournament with four holes to play in his second round.

LOSERS

Tiger Woods: Big Cat will very likely miss his second consecutive cut at a major championship — *and* he still has to work a bit over the weekend, with seven holes to play. The good news for Woods is that he not only got it over the burn on the first hole, but he’s also one-over for his second round through 11 holes.

He’s done. Guys, he can’t even make the cut or break par at a place where he’s won twice by large margins. He sounds and looks defeated and deflated on the Old Course. He can’t even convince himself of his own B.S. anymore. It’s beyond sad. Just stop.

(By the way, he appeared to be grimacing in what photographers thought to be pain — and increasingly so, as his first round progressed, but we can’t receive confirmation if it was due to injury or simply disgust by his play.)

Phil Mickelson: Lefty couldn’t get it going Friday and had relatively benign conditions for the second round. He followed his two-under 70 on a breezy Thursday afternoon with an even-par 72, which included a bogey on the easy par-4 18th. Yikes. Mickelson will make the cut with ease, but he’s likely too far back to play his way into any type of contention.

However, if he remains true to his word after the first round, he’ll want the wind to howl on Saturday, and apparently even if it’s blowing 50mph, he’d like to see play not be suspended — at least that was his sentiment on Thursday regarding Friday when we thought the apocalypse was coming.

“It was designed to be played in adverse conditions with strong winds,” said Phil. “There’s plenty of room to play it, plenty of room on the greens to be putting and putting the ball on the ground. It was just fun. I wish everybody had that same challenge. It looks like it may even out tomorrow if the winds pick up in the afternoon. It may even out…

“You need an element of luck if you’re going to do well in this tournament. You need the luck of the draw. You just can’t be given a disadvantage, a significant disadvantage the first two days. The winds are going to pick up tomorrow, and if they call play, I’ll probably have the same reaction as I did five years ago. We were at a significant disadvantage today, and hopefully if we’re able to play the entire day tomorrow, it will even itself out.”

Hmmm…you think Phil thinks he got the crap end of the draw? Definitely. We’ll see about that tomorrow when the other half of the field finishes up the second round in what is forecasted to be Armageddon (not really).

I’m actually just curious as to why Phil wasn’t waiting behind the 18th green for Tom Watson’s farewell. #sorrynotsorry

Tommy Fleetwood: Ugh. He was a popular long shot bet before the tournament because the Englishman had played the Old Course previously in a whopping 26-under-par in his last four rounds. Yes! He was 14-under at St Andrews in the Dunhill Links last October and 12-under the year prior. Fleetwood opened with a solid three-under 69 in the tougher afternoon conditions, but played terribly on Friday en route to a four-over 76. At the moment, he’s one-over and one shot outside the cut line.

“I played terrible to be honest,”‘ he said. “I played bad and then all of that put together, if you don’t make a birdie around there, like I said, you have to make a score on the front nine. I was 3-over. I just never got anything going, so disappointing.”

Jordan Spieth: I can’t really call him a loser, but I’m running out of material, so just bear with me. He *did* grind as hard as he possibly could out there on Friday evening, but he struggled with best part of his game — his putting. With five holes to play, he is even par for the round, but has needed 25 putts so far. In contrast, he only had 28 total Thursday. It appeared like he had trouble with his speed (which is difficult to get a handle on when it’s windy). He was probably thrilled when the horn blew, as he could then regroup and return in the morning. Spieth, however, is still in the mix, trailing DJ by five. The hope for three consecutive majors is still very much alive…

Weather delays: While it’s fun to watch the pros tackle proper Open conditions in the rain and wind, hanging out in the press room until well past midnight Friday is less than ideal. Doomsday-like gales have already hit St Andrews, as it’s practically blowing the media center away into the North Sea. But, on a more serious note, there was some chatter Friday morning about a Monday finish if the wind *really* blows Saturday and forces officials to suspend play for a substantial period. (Honestly, I don’t really care because my flight is on Tuesday, but I feel for those who would be scrambling to change flights and plans, etc., and I hate what feels like wasted time, a la this morning.) Though the R&A broke tradition last year at Royal Liverpool with a two-tee start, I highly doubt they’ll commit such sacrilege at the HOME OF GOLF. The third round, however, will be played in three-balls. I’m not sure that will make it much faster, as it’s been painfully slow the first two rounds. With the wind howling as it’s forecasted to do Saturday, then expect things to get even more tedious.

#prayforthebest