The Open: Weather favours first wave off the tees
The “luck of the draw” has rarely seemed so apt a statement than here at the Open Championship.
A breathless morning gave way to a rough afternoon when the wind picked up and a squall came in, effecting what Paul Casey claimed to be a four-shot swing for the early starters who, Lee Westwood declared “could have kicked it around in a low score”.
However Graeme McDowell, the US Open champion, feels anyone under par can still force their way into contention.
“Weather plays a huge part in this tournament, there’s no doubt about it,” he said, after his own afternoon 71.
“It was certainly a day of two halves. Watching putts going in from everywhere over breakfast and watching guys shooting five, six, seven, eight, nine under.
“We had the worst of the conditions out there, but you’ve just got to keep your head and grind it out.
“It is always intimidating going out there nine shots behind the leader on a tricky day like that, but you’ve got to stay patient.
“However, Rory’s going to be tough to catch. I said I really fancied him here and he hasn’t disappointed. This place sets up so well for him. It’s made for him.”
Casey wasn’t so philosophical. “I always get the rough end of the draw,” he lamented after a battling 69.
“I spoke to Angel Cabrera on the 17th green and we felt it was four shots tougher this afternoon, although there’s no way of measuring that”
The true measurement came on the leaderboard. Of the top 13, only Westwood (right) went out after 1.20pm and the Englishman was in no doubt about the disadvantage for the second wave.
“The difference between the early and late tee-off times was huge,” said the world No 3, after his round of five-under kept him within four of McIlroy.
“To be honest, you could have kicked it around in a low score this morning. The course was defenceless and I was actually surprised somebody didn’t post a 62 for the first time in a major. I have never seen St Andrews so calm; it was a piece of cake.”
He added: “We got unlucky with the weather, but that’s the nature of links golf. One half gets it good, the other doesn’t. So I have to be happy with a 67 in those conditions.”
What made Westwood's performance all the more commendable was the torn muscle from which he is plainly still suffering. The injury sustained in France two weeks ago hampered his practice last week and he turned up here worried about his lack of preparation.
“It was a tough day and now I’m going to have physio again like I’ve had after every practice round and every session on the range last week,” said the 37-year-old, who missed last year’s play-off by one shot.
“I started to feel my calf towards the end of the round, but I’ll just have to keep having treatment and hoping it doesn’t get any worse.”
Westwood and everyone else in his half of the draw will be hoping that the elements favour them this time.
Luke Donald requires an under-par round if he is to recover from a 73 and is not to miss his sixth cut in 10 Opens.
However, the weather forecast was predicting that today’s second round will be the opposite to the first — ie grim in the morning, before brightening up.
Westwood's and Donald’s half is in danger of sinking without trace.