Royal St. George's weather report: Like walking through a car wash
SANDWICH, England -- Friday was a fine day to stroll on the beach, and I did, at the 140th British Open at Royal St. George's. Alas, I left the safety and comfort of the press pavilion for an hour Saturday, braving the elements with fellow scribe Alan Bastable during the worst of the weather, and it felt like walking through a car wash.
The rain was coming down sideways. The wind is blowing 20 miles per hour, then 5, then 15.
"Bring your brolly," said the woman who checked my passport at Heathrow earlier this week. I'd hoped she was just making light conversation.
The 11th hole was playing considerably less than its stated 243 yards, and Gary Woodland, who somehow was two under for the day, hit 7-iron into it.
Playing alongside Woodland, Ryan Moore kept having to back away from his ball for fear that it would move while he addressed it, adding penalty strokes to the already considerable challenges of the day.
Matthew Millar, a 34-year-old Australian who went out by himself in the day's first tee time at 8:55 a.m., lost his tee shot in a left-to-right crosswind on the 163-yard, par-3 16th hole and watched his ball trickle into the right greenside bunker. As I watched him settle over his second shot, which would play directly into the wind toward the flag, I anticipated Millar getting a faceful of sand. I'd forgotten the sand would be so heavy with moisture that it wouldn't be spraying anyone.
Millar hit his ball to within four feet of the pin and missed the putt, another indignity in a day full of them, and by the time he staggered off the course he'd shot 80 and was 13 over par. At least he was finished and could commence the important business of drying out.
Tom Watson, who has won this tournament five times and knows something about overcoming terrible weather, was just one over for the day through 14 holes. Did I mention he's 61? Maybe the rain and wind know better than to mess with Old Tom. It began to pour shortly after Alan and I finally gave up and returned to our laptops. Watson was still hanging in there.
At the end of Friday, when all 71 players who made the cut were within seven shots of the lead, this seemed to be the most open Open in years. Today's weather also made it the most British British. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP