Mother Nature still has plenty left in the tank for Friday afternoon at British Open

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Mother Nature still has plenty left in the tank for Friday afternoon at British Open

PGA Tour

Mother Nature still has plenty left in the tank for Friday afternoon at British Open

SOUTHPORT, England – If you thought the weather Friday morning at the British Open was bad, just wait ’til this afternoon. Mother Nature has plenty left in store for the field at Royal Birkdale.

Winds began the morning around 15 mph and quickly increased to 20 mph with up to 30-mph gusts. But this afternoon, winds gusts are expected to reach 40 mph at times, and by 4 p.m. local time heavy rains are predicted to move in. The last tee time of Round 2 is scheduled for 4:16 p.m. local time.

That sound? It’s those players in the first handful of groups breathing a collective sigh of relief. Things could get real ugly, real soon.

“I’m going to go back and I’m going to rain dance all day now, about five hours straight,” quipped Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who was a shot outside the cut line at 3 over when he finished his round playing in the day’s first grouping.

Turns out, Beef only had to dance for an hour or so, because by 12:30 p.m. local time the projected cut had moved to 3 over. There’s a realistic chance that 4 over and maybe even 5 over could make it to the weekend.

Royal Birkdale is already a tough layout. Foul-weather conditions only multiply its difficulty. High winds make it especially hard considering players rarely face the same wind direction from one hole to another.

Out of the first 11 groups – or games as they’re called in the U.K. – to finish Friday, only Austin Connelly completed 36 holes in red numbers. And Zach Johnson’s 4-under 66 to get to 1 over was the best round of the morning by three shots.

“It was extremely difficult out there,” Connelly said. “The wind was gusting and chopping and changing. Just nice to get through a day like today, survive and move on to the weekend.”

There’s a good chance Connelly, at 1 under, could find himself in one of the final few pairings on Saturday. Matt Kuchar, playing in the day’s 12th grouping, got in the clubhouse at 4 under (one off the lead), and his playing competitor Richie Ramsay finished 36 holes at 2 under. But it’s possible no one else will finish in the red.

“It’s hard, and it’s only getting harder,” Kuchar said.

When Sergio Garcia finished off a 1-under 69, he was just inside the top 50. Asked where he thinks he’ll be at the end of the day, Garcia was hesitant.

“I don’t know; It’s not easy to say,” Garcia said, before predicting, “We’ll probably be somewhere on the top 25.” He likely underestimated.

Jason Day, three groups ahead of Kuchar, closed in double-bogey-double to finish at 5 over. Charl Schwartzel had a share of the lead at 5 under after a birdie at No. 4, but by the time he made double bogey on the 13th hole, he was 2 over. Daniel Berger was 2 under after six holes Friday, but he played his next eight holes in 7 over.

Martin Laird went from 2 under to 7 over after a 9-over 79.

“With this wind, non-prevailing wind, this golf course is just a beast,” Laird said. “I mean, the 480- to 500-yard par 4s are supposed to be playing downwind are playing straight into the wind. And I’m hitting driver, 2-iron in there and yesterday was hitting lob wedge into a couple of them.

“… It’s hard to prepare. I mean, I’ve not played in conditions like this for a long time.”

Co-first-round leaders Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka are certainly hoping they don’t experience similar misfortunes when they tee off this afternoon. Though it appears unlikely.

Spieth goes off at 2:48 p.m. while Koepka tees off at 3:10 p.m. Hideki Matsuyama, at 2 under, will play alongside Koepka.

It could – and likely will – be a long afternoon/evening for those playing late Friday at Royal Birkdale.

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