Thursday, July 24, 2008

TROON, SCOTLAND –- When does a 12-mph wind wreak more havoc than a 35-mph wind? When it’s coming from the wrong direction, that’s when. As the first day of play ends at the Senior British Open, the scores at Royal Troon are shocking. There are 34 rounds in the 80s, and the average score is almost six over par. Shades of last week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, where gale-force winds led to similar scores.

But the conditions today are idyllic. It’s been sunny, warm and just breezy enough to keep the flags fluttering. But it’s not the prevailing wind. It’s a southeast current that has made Troon’s front nine, which is normally downwind, play unusually long. The inward wind is similarly bass-ackward, leading to some giant tee shots (Bernhard Langer smacked consecutive drives of 400 yards) and some gargantuan hole scores (17 sevens on the back nine, plus 5 eights and a nine).

“We got on the first tee today, and it was basically a new course for me,” said John Cook, who tied for third after shooting a 2-under-par 69. “I had never seen it with that south/southeast wind blowing. It kept me paying attention, that’s for sure, because I didn’t know quite where to go.”

Another American, three-time New England club-pro champ Kirk Hanefeld, checked in with a 69 of his own. “When we started this morning the wind was coming from the complete opposite direction,” Hanefeld said, “so everything was a little bit of a guess. It was very tough going out, on some of the easiest holes on the golf course, because of the wind direction. It made club selection more difficult than in any of the practice rounds.”

First-round co-leader Eduardo Romero, who bombed a 210-yard 9-iron to birdie the par-3 17th , said, “It’s unbelievable, downwind. And then also, the 16th hole. I had 280 yards [from the tee to the burn]. I laid up, I’m playing with 4-iron, and I go into the water, 280 yards! It’s crazy!”

Get used to it, guys. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for afternoon showers and southerly winds of 10 to 20 mph.

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