ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Whoever wins this year’s Open Championship might do so because of a simple stroke of luck.
The luck of the draw.
Tee times at the Open Championship are crucial, more crucial than in any other major, any other tournament. That’s why a good draw is important.
The winner normally comes from the better half of the draw – the half that gets the better weather conditions.
The vagaries of British weather sometimes means four seasons in one day. Links courses are most affected by the weather because they are sited besides the sea. A wind change from morning to afternoon can turn the any hole from a pussycat into a lion.
Half the field can contest their rounds in waterproofs and bobble hats, while the other half can play in shortsleeves. Half can go out in a howling gale while the other half gets flat, calm conditions.
That might be the scenario for today’s opening round. With heavy rain expected throughout most of the morning and early afternoon, the early starters are going to have to battle the elements more than the afternoon players, when the rain is supposed to ease off. According to the weather guessers, sorry experts, the sun might even poke its head through the clouds this afternoon.
The flip side to that is that the wind for the afternoon players might increase by about 10 mph.
Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk are all out in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington, Ryo Ishikawa and Tom Watson all teed off in the rain.
Three-time Open champion Seve Ballesteros argued for years for the R&A to adopt a two-tee start to bring a bit of equity to the draw. He knew more than most that the tee time lottery draw has such a huge bearing on who wins the championship.
Seve’s campaign went nowhere, as evidenced by today’s draw. Paul Lawrie teed off at 6:30 a.m., while the last group are due to go off at 4:21 p.m.
The winner doesn’t always come from the good end of the draw. Padraig Harrington played in howling winds in the opening round at Royal Birkdale two years ago and still won. His 4-over 74 was an excellent score on a day when most of those in his half of the draw were blown away.
The luck of the draw is why some British gamblers never bet until after the cut. They know through bitter experience that their pre-tournament investment can literally get blown away.
The luck of the draw. Expect it to play a part in who wins this week.