An ill wind blows no good

July 17, 2010 

— Among the things that separate the Open Championship from all other golf tournaments are its 150-year history, Scottish brogues and the threat of haggis.

Then there is the weather, particularly this week when the atmosphere has been as extreme as John Daly's wardrobe.

There is weather at other major championships, of course. The Masters is characterized by yellow pollen clouds, the U.S. Open (except when it's at Pebble Beach) is defined by sweat stains, and the PGA Championship is defined by lightning strikes named Wayne Grady, Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang.

The Open Championship has always allowed Mother Nature a starting time, given that it's usually played in places not conducive to sunbathing or skinny dipping. Such as St. Andrews, where if you don't like the lousy weather, wait 15 minutes and it will be worse.

A little weather is fine. It wouldn't be the Open Championship without a breeze, a shower, and fish and chips. But through two rain-soaked, windswept days, the conditions have been so rough that the wind stopped play for an hour Friday and blew Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen - Shrek to his friends - atop a strange-looking leaderboard.

Let's take a moment to consider the first 48 hours of this championship. Thursday began with fog and a day as still as luxury home sales. Then the wind freshened and the rain blew in, leaving puddles on the Old Course and Phil Mickelson in a foul mood.

Friday morning dawned on the edge of perfect, all sunshine and softness. Then it turned gray. Then it rained. Then it rained some more. Then the wind arrived, and it blew so hard flagsticks were doing the samba.

You've probably heard the cliché about golf over here, the one that goes, "If there's 'nae wind, there's 'nae golf." It was amended Friday. There was 'nae golf for more than an hour while everyone sat around and tried to dodge flying scones.

It gave Ian Poulter time to tweet the following: "Blown off the course by the blustery Scottish winds. Having a nice pot of tea in the conservatory at the Old Course Hotel. Lovely jubbly."

Lovely jubbly, indeed.

Here's how the day changed: The two leaders - Oosthuizen and Mark Calcavecchia - were in the first two groups out Friday. Twenty-four of the first 51 players out broke par. Then more than 80 players came in without breaking par. And it took forever. Trevor Immelman needed 45 minutes to play the par-3 11th hole. Steven Tiley needed 31/2 hours to play his first nine holes.

It was a beautiful day for conspiracy theorists. Mickelson, who admitted he got a little chapped about catching the wrong end of the draw on Thursday, had just finished his second round Friday when play was suspended with Tiger Woods on the first green.

Mickelson was talking with reporters about his disappointing performance when he paused to listen to the suspension announcement.

"I'm happy for those guys," Mickelson said. "That's great."

You didn't have to see the expression on his wind-reddened face to get the sarcasm.

It didn't help Woods, who waited an hour to three-putt the first green, then three-putted the second hole, too. Cheers.

Woods doesn't seem to make putts anymore, once the strongest of his multiple strong suits. It's the reason he didn't remain among the leaders Friday.

Rory McIlroy's ordination as the game's next Hall of Famer was postponed by a second-round 80 that was the day's most unexpected event. It means McIlroy has now played 10 competitive rounds on the Old Course and never shot in the 70s, his first nine rounds being in the 60s.

Oosthuizen - who pronounces it "WUST-hizen," just like it looks - is a genial South African who has more game than most people know. Just how much game we're going to find out this weekend.

Who knows what the wind might blow in.

rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5118

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