With no wind, Old Course takes a beating

Sean O'Hair tees off on the 11th hole during the opening round of the British Open.


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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The opening day of the British Open is half over, and par is taking a severe beating. An aggregate of 4-under par isn’t even in the top 10.

Why? No wind.

Golfers are manhandling par. Abusing it, really.

Rory McIlroy (63) was 7 under in a seven-hole stretch from 10 through 16. John Daly (66) was 7 under for his first 11 holes. 

Competition started at 6:30 in the morning. It was light at 4:30, so playing golf two hours later was no problem. Starting times continue until 4:21 in the afternoon. Once again, no problem – it stays light until 10:30.

For Paul Lawrie, the former British Open winner who hit the opening tee shot of this year’s championship, this pre-breakfast starting time was either a tremendous compliment or a grievous slap in the face. 

After all, Lawrie is only 41. He isn’t exactly over the hill. He had every right to be offended by an early starting time.

But Lawrie remained positive. He ate a banana on the first tee and another on the 10th tee. He missed a handful of putts inside 10 feet, but managed to shoot a 3-under 69 with three birdies and two pars in the final five holes.

“I didn’t want to completely lose touch with the leaders,” said Lawrie, meaning he and everybody else sensed the Old Course was there for the killing.

With hundreds of Scottish golf fans in tow, Lawrie kickstarted a memorable day that would become a birdie festival of the highest magnitude.

Once again, why were scores so low?

No wind.

For our next profession, all of us might consider becoming a Scottish weatherman.

We will need to memorize only three sentences:

• “The forecast is for rain.”

• “The forecast is for rain and wind.”

• “The forecast is for the world to end.”

In Scottish terms, the weather Thursday morning for the opening round of the British Open was perfect.

Translation: The sky was gray, the horizon was obscured by clouds, a light rain was falling, it was cold enough to require a sweater or thermal undershirt, there was no wind.

The key definitely was the wind. Or lack of it.

When the wind runs away to frolic in some other location, the Old Course at St. Andrews becomes as submissive as a Corey Pavin golf swing.

To the average American, the weather might have seemed appalling, but here on the east coast of Scotland, it was a glorious day for slaying par.

The key to St. Andrews is positioning your ball and keeping it in play. With the wind in recess, players were able to maneuver largely unimpeded around the course. Furthermore, they were not required to hit punch shots or knockdown shots into a blow-your-block-off wind.

On this docile day, St. Andrews became the course formerly known as ferocious.

If weathermen and weatherwomen can be permitted to root for inclement weather, then perhaps we should cheer for wet and wild conditions. St. Andrews isn’t really St. Andrews without an angry Mother Nature standing on the doorstep.

The rain on Thursday fell straight down, rather than the famous Scottish rain that is driven sideways by the wind. For a change, umbrellas functioned properly rather than turning themselves inside out.

To visitors, this damp and overcast weather might have seemed miserable. But anyone with accurate weather instincts knows the difference between rain, wind and rain, and the end of the world.

This was just rain.

A perfect day for playing golf.

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