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On the second day of British Open, St. Andrews blows them away

Unheralded Louis Oosthuizen weathers the early part of the day for a 67, but most can't handle later winds, including Rory McIlroy, who blows up to an 80.

July 17, 2010|By Jeff Shain

Reporting from St. Andrews, Scotland — As he watched the Old Course bleed red with low score after low score in the opening round of the British Open, elder statesman Tom Watson felt compelled to pronounce: "The old lady had no clothes on today."

Boy, can she hit back.

Motionless golf balls suddenly off for a rollabout. Players sometimes forced to step away to regain their balance. Thursday's toast of St. Andrews suddenly looking like an 8-handicapper as he slashed his way through the heather.

And in the middle of it all, a 65-minute holdup simply to let Mother Nature get it out of her system.

"It was certainly one of the tougher days I've ever played," Tiger Woods said. And he was one of Friday's better survivors.

Somewhere back in his hotel room, Louis Oosthuizen had to be smiling. The South African had carded a five-under-par 67 in one of the morning's earliest groups. By day's end, he held a five-shot lead over 50-year-old Mark Calcavecchia in golf's oldest championship.

"It's probably in the position anyone wants to be in, playing a major on the weekend," Oosthuizen said before departing the acreage. "I'm just very happy with the two rounds I put together."

His two-day total of 12-under 132 looked even better about eight hours later.

One day after the easiest-scoring round in the Open's 150-year history, players trudged in with slumped shoulders and cards full of bogeys. The Old Course just needed her chief accomplice — wind.

Gusts measuring up to 41 mph whipped over both the Old Course and its occupants, bending St. Andrews' sturdy flagsticks and carrying away anything that wasn't weighted down. Some golfers put their hats away rather than keep chasing after.

When players began complaining about an inability to stand over their putts without the ball moving, officials were left with no choice but to call a timeout.

"Golf balls were starting to move on a number of greens at the end of the golf course," said David Rickman, the R&A's rules chief.

This was the first such delay since play was briefly stopped in 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Of particular concern was the 11th green, where play was starting to back up with golfers unable to settle over putts.

"You've got to feel bad for the guys that have been out two or three hours in this stuff," said Matt Kuchar, who was in the next group to tee off before play was halted. "It's been pretty blowy. I'm kind of glad they blew the horn."

There was no pleasing everyone, though. Several forced to play in the strong winds complained the horns should have sounded sooner. Others wondered why play was resumed after only 65 minutes.

"Ten or 15 minutes later it was as bad as it had been," Andrew Coltart said. "Either it's playable or it's not playable."

No one was victimized worse that Rory McIlroy. One day earlier, he'd blistered the Old Course with a 63 that matched the all-time scoring record for a major championship. After play resumed, that lead was blown to bits.

The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland ballooned to an eight-over 80 — unable to record a single birdie, after going the previous day without a bogey. The 17-stroke difference in scorecards equaled the seventh-biggest discrepancy in Open history.

"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."

Having carried a two-shot lead into the day, he dropped 11 strokes behind Oosthuizen.

Because of the delay, there were 30 players left on the course when darkness stopped play at about 10 p.m. local time. They will finish Saturday morning, the field will be cut to the low 70 and ties (currently at one over) and then the third round will begin.

Woods posted a one-over 73, starting his day bogey/bogey before steadying the ship. He missed some putts, but he did manage to finish with a flourish — flirting with a hole in one on the par-four 18th hole before walking off with a birdie.

"I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament," he said, "but I put it back together again and pieced together a pretty good round."

Oosthuizen's 132 was lowest ever in a St. Andrews Open and only two off Nick Faldo's Open record in 1992 at Muirfield.

He overtook McIlroy with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-7. After alternating birdies and bogeys through the early part of his back nine, he moved to 12 under by nearly driving the green on No. 18 and sinking a 16-foot birdie.

jshain@orlandosentinel.com

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