Facing the worst weather of the week, including rain mixed with 25 mph gusts, the first 15 groups and 44 players to tee off Thursday got around Royal Birkdale in an average of 77.34 strokes. The best group was group No. 9, in which Retief Goosen, right, (71), Padraig Harrington (74) and Justin Leonard (77) kept the calamity more or less at bay. The worst threesome, not including group No. 5 in which Sandy Lyle withdrew, was group No. 4, where Jerry Kelly (83), Darren Fichardt (82) and Damien McGrane (79) were just happy to be done. Ditto for group No. 11, where Hunter Mahan, Vijay Singh and amateur Reinier Saxton each shot 80.
John Wood, Mahan's caddie, summed up the day this way: "Horse----, horse----, horse----."
Given the real par Thursday, 80 didn't look quite as bad as it must have felt. That and a cup of hot cocoa was the only silver lining for players like Paul Casey (78), Phil Mickelson (79) and Ernie Els (80), who will have to do better Friday if they hope to make the cut.
(Photo: Bob Martin/SI)