Inclement weather forces Royal & Ancient to shorten three holes

By V. Krishnaswamy, IANS,

Southport (Britain) : There was some cheer as the Royal & Ancient Golf moved the tees forward on the three holes at Birkdale following weather reports that the wind was expected to pick up and reach as much as 48 miles an hour at times. The three toughest holes this week have been the 6th, 11th and 16th. Even in their shortened forms, this trio of par-4s, which are respectively first, second and third hardest, will still present a tough challenge.

Support TwoCircles

The yardage from the back of the 6th tee will be 486 yards, down from 499, while the back of the tee at the 11th will be at 358 yards, almost 80 yards further forward and the 16th hole will be about 80 yards shorter Saturday, at 371 yards. But despite that, the wind directions and speed will still keep them tough enough.

Curiously, the last time that The Open visited Birkdale it was also Saturday that the wind was at its strongest.


Six champions bid adieu

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie was one of six former Open champions who made his exit at the midway stage of the 137th British Open here Friday. His second round of 73, married to 77 Friday left him 10-over and adrift of the cut which came at nine-over.

Also heading back despite his heroic 74 in the first round was the Open legend Tom Watson. The five-times champion showed the best and worst of his game in the second round, his close-range putting letting him down, and contributing to a run of five bogeys in six holes from 11 through 16. Even a birdie at 17 could not push him up from 10-over.

Mark O’Meara’s journey back to the scene of his 1998 triumph was over after he fired a second round 77 to add to his earlier 74. Mark Calcavecchia, Open champion in 1989, improved on his first round 76, but only by one stroke and that left him stranded on 11-over.

Sandy Lyle, the winner at St. George’s in 1985, made a controversial exit pulling out of his first round after 10 holes at the height of the worst Thursday weather when he was 11-over with eight to play.

John Daly, Open champion at St. Andrews in 1995, also went through a tough time with an 80 and an 89 to finish 29 over par.


Two amateurs squeeze in

Chris Wood, a 20-year-old amateur from Bristol, and Thomas Sherreard, 19-year-old from Maidstone, held the flag up for British amateurs even as the professionals struggled in windy links conditions at Royal Birkdale.

Wood, number six in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, had three birdies with three bogeys in his round of 70, with an amazing pitch in for a birdie at the last hole. Wood made the cut with ease and was tied for 22nd place at the halfway mark.

Sherreard started steadily and played beautifully, with three birdies and two bogeys for a round of 69 that was among the 10 best efforts of the day. Australia’s Rohan Blizard, another amateur, also looked as if he might make it, but fell away and missed out by three shots.


Old is gold

Greg Norman, 53, was the leader for most of the second day, though K.J. Choi overtook him at the end. But Norman’s effort forced statisticians to the book to see if any other 50 years plus golfers have contended in a Major championships. Jay Haas tied for 9th in the 2004 Open, but it was way back to 1966 that a 50-plus golfer held the 36-hole lead in a Major at that year’s US PGA. Snead was then 54.