Wind wreaks havoc on players at ‘the loop’

Rory McIlroy punches a shot under the wind during Round 2 of the British Open.


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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – I haven’t read “Gone with the Wind,” but the sequel could have been written Friday afternoon at “the loop” – Nos. 7-11 on the Old Course at St. Andrews, the most exposed part of the links that hugs the Eden Estuary.

After play was halted for an hour starting at 2:40 p.m. local time due to wind – the Open’s first wind delay since 1998 at Royal Birkdale – players headed back to the course and faced a gale sustained at 25-30 mph and gusts that clocked even higher. 

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Ernie Els chips to the eighth green in Round 2 of the British Open.

By the time I arrived at the enormous shared green of the par-4 seventh and the par-3 11th, the wind was whipping. Here’s what transpired in a 90-minute period:

Playing from the tee of the 174-yard 11th, and into a left-to-right wind that made the flagstick lean sideways, Soren Kjeldsen hit his ball hole high . . . to the seventh pin. When he arrived at his ball, Thomas Bjorn, who had finished putting out on No. 7, stood by Kjeldsen’s ball laughing as his fellow Dane approached. What came next was a 70-yard putt back into the wind with a 15-foot right-to-left break. Kjeldsen’s backswing got hip-high and he launched the ball with so much top spin that it got airborne for the first 10 feet. The crowd roared with laughter as the ball climbed the hill and turned to the left, only to stop 20 feet short. Two more putts. Bogey.

Ernie Els was next on the 371-yard seventh and hit a marvelous approach into the wind that skipped up to 7 feet. Three putts later, Els had a bogey, his pants flapping so hard his ankles could be seen.

As Els putted out, Ross McGowan’s tee ball from the 11th tee got tangled into a strong right-to-left gust, bounded up onto the green and rolled to nearly the same spot as Kjeldsen’s near the seventh hole location. McGowan opted for what looked to be a 7-iron and struck a low skimmer that rolled 15 feet by. Two putts later, he had a double bogey.

Trevor Immelman, also in McGowan’s group, faced a 50-yard putt on the 11th green and three-jacked. Bogey.

The wind may have been at its strongest as Yuta Ikeda lined up his 4-foot bogey putt on the seventh green. He backed off, remarked, then flipped his cap on backwards, set his ball down and jammed it in the hole. Bogey.

Game 35 was next to reach the 11th green. Ryan Moore faced the same 50-yard putt from near the seventh hole as did the players in the previous groups. But Moore got too greedy. His ball tracked toward the hole, but wasn’t played far enough right to ride the slope correctly. His ball went scurrying down the false front off the green to the left. Two more putts. Double bogey.

Charl Schwartzel, playing alongside Moore, faced an 80-footer that tip-toed along the edge of the false front and stopped 8 feet short of the hole, precariously on a ridge. Not wasting a second, and to the delight of the massive gallery, Schwartzel sprinted up the hill and marked his ball before a gust could blow it back down the ridge. Two minutes later, he holed the putt. Par. Victory!

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