I’ve had the good fortune to play golf in the UK three times. I’ve experienced it all — 24 degrees and sunny at North Berwick in April; wind that meant I hit a 550-yard par-5 at Cruden Bay in two with irons; and a time at Troon where I was so wet after nine holes that even though I was wearing Gortex, I looked like I’d been swimming.
So nothing at Birkdale during the first (and looking at the television this morning, the second as well) round surprises me. That’s what makes links golf so fun and so maddening at the same time. The links have a randomness about them, as does the weather. The result? Lee Westwood had a ball blow straight off the green yesterday, and he holed a chip instead on needing to make a putt. Of course there was the footage of golfers in toques, though Ian Baker-Finch assured viewers that the temperature was in the 50s.
That apparently wasn’t the case:
“It was miserable,” Craig Parry said after his round. “It was an honour to hit the first tee shot but other than that … when we got on the practice range this morning at 5.30 the rain was coming in, I felt like my face was going to be frozen before too long and it was just really, really hard.”
Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames played well yesterday, with Weir salvaging his round by making an eagle on the 17th hole. Interestingly Weir told me last week that Birkdale is one of the courses he had not played. Given his busy schedule, Weir decided to simply watch the tournament from a decade ago on televisioin as a primer.
As for the solution to all of this — Parry had an interesting one:
“The golf course itself is an extremely tough golf course before you have conditions like this so you don’t need bad weather to make it even worse,” Parry said.
“I reckon you should grab a carton of beer or a hot coffee and go up and sit behind the sixth hole.
“I tell you what, that’s going to have some bogeys and doubles and triples, there’s no question about that one.”
Picks? I just don’t see Greg Norman hanging around, though he’s played well again today. Rocco Mediate? He apparently needed a chiropractor to keep his back in shape during the round. Graeme McDowell is playing the best game of his life and pulled together a 73 this morning. Weir is in a good position if he can keep in sight of par today and Retief Goosen plays extremely well on difficult courses. But it wouldn’t shock me if Jim Furyk, who had another strong round today, takes the title. Wonder if he shows up in Canada next week if he wins?
Worth checking out: Our very own Allan McDonnell, who may well be leaning on the counter watching the British Open as we speak, but who also thinks it is a curse to win the Open Championship. Read his very funny take here.