SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND | With a few exceptions, competitors in second round of the 146th Open Championship were struggling to match their Thursday scores. A buffeting wind was in the driving seat and making for problems on every one of the 18 holes.
With the wind, the players had trouble staying on the greens; against it they were often finding the holes exasperatingly long. And, when it came to the crosswinds – “the toughest of them all” in the opinion of coach Denis Pugh – balls had barely set sail when they were veering wildly off line in gusts of up to 42 mph.
Pugh, though, was no different from the players in saying that the course was fair. In many years of Open attendance this much-respected teacher had never seen an Open links presented better. “The R&A are giving the USGA a lesson in the art of setting up a course for a US Open. The R&A want their courses to be difficult but fair; the USGA prefer ‘difficult but unfair.’
“The R&A,” he continued, “don’t try to manipulate scores. If, for instance, the weather is encouraging low scores, the players can get them. R&A officials leave it in the hands of the golfing gods whereas the USGA want their committee to dictate what happens on the scoreboard.”
Birdies were in desperately short supply in the early groups and nowhere was that more apparent in game Nos. 6 and 7. The six players concerned had bagged just one birdie among them in the first 15 holes before Ross Fisher and Bernd Wiesberger made a sterling attempt to render the stats more respectable. Fisher pinned down an eagle and two birdies in the space of the next three holes to follow his first-round 70 with 72, while Wiesberger reeled off three birdies to keep his score vaguely in check. (He added a 75 to his opening 69.)
Ernie Els, who was in the same group, did not enjoy that kind of late-in-the-day fling, though he was still mighty relieved to tack nothing worse than a 73 to his Thursday 68. The two-time Open champion shrugged as he said he was the wrong height for the conditions. “I mean I’m 6 foot 5 inches so the wind is always going to get me and blow me around.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the 5-foot-7 Austin Connelly, a Canadian who was reared in Texas, was lucky in that the wind didn’t seem to see him as enough of a target. Making telling use of his 3-iron, this Open first-timer added a 72 to his opening 67 in front of a mighty proud grandfather.
It wasn’t the wind which did Sergio Garcia a mischief but the Masters champion himself. In a fit of pique, he slashed his club into a thicket and damaged his shoulder – so badly that he thought his Open chances were over. He took a painkiller on the fifth, where he made a birdie, and ended up signing for a 69 and an appointment with the physiotherapist.
WATCH: As the wind blew the flagstick sideways, Lee Westwood still found the hole for eagle on this shot at the 5th:
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 21, 2017