HOYLAKE, England – Out in Liverpool Bay four windsurfers were making the most of gusts of 25 mph sweeping over the region. Unfortunately, a few competitors in the second round of the $2.5 million Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool were trying to make the most of trying conditions.
It’s fair to say the windsurfers had a better time.
The Ladies Golf Union made the strange decision to start play at 7 a.m. despite the strong winds. The result? Carnage.
Twelve matches managed to tee off, but the scoreboard looked like the B flight of a club championship rather than a major. England’s Felicity Johnson started her round at 6 over but quickly doubled that in the first two holes. She began with a nine on the 392-yard, par-4 1st hole. She bogeyed the next and double-bogeyed the third to be 8 over for three holes. Caroline Masson’s scorecard read 6-6-6. Not the sign of the beast, just three beastly double bogeys for the German.
The 18 players who teed off on the front nine were a cumulative 52 over when common sense finally prevailed. Play was suspended and all scores made null and void.
“The competitors began their round in extremely adverse weather conditions and conditions subsequently worsened despite our belief that they would remain stable,” said Susan Simpson, head of Golf operations for the Ladies Golf Union. “It would have been unfair to those competitors not to declare play null and void and cancel all scores for the round in question.”
Simpson later defended the LGU’s decision to start play. “As far as we were concerned, it was playable this morning,” Simpson said. Needless to say, some competitors disagreed.
“Play suspended due to players being blown off the course,” joked 2004 champion Karen Stupples via Twitter. Stupples began with two doubles in her first three holes.
“We never should have teed off,” tweeted Cristie Kerr. The American remonstrated with officials before teeing off but was told to play anyway.
She and the rest of the starters were finally pulled off the golf course because balls were moving on greens. Japan’s Erina Hara hit her ball to 2 feet from the flag on the par-4 12th hole only to see the wind blow it 8 feet past the hole.
“By the time we suspended play, balls were moving,” Simpson admitted. “Twenty-five miles per hour was the highest (wind speed) we recorded, but it was a steady 18-20 miles per hour. So we reviewed it (the situation) and pulled players off.”
Simpson said it was “fair comment” that some players were upset about being made to play. “We have to do what’s right for the event,” she said.
What’s right for the event turned out to be an abandonment of play for the day. The second round will resume at 6:50 a.m. on Saturday. With similar winds expected on Monday, the LGU is desperate to get 72 holes played. As a result, the cut will be reduced to 50 and ties, and rounds three and four will be played on Sunday, with a two-tee start and no redraw after round three.