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Hardy souls who endured worst day of major weather ever recall third round at 2002 Open

Tiger Woods, 2002 British Open, Muirfield
Heinz Kluetmeier / Sports Illustrated
Galleries that braved the dismal weather witnessed an unusual sight: Tiger Woods off balance.

Starting his round two shots back, Woods bogeyed the first hole, missed a three-foot putt for bogey on the 13th, and the rout was on, the wind blowing balls hither and thither. Club selection became a guessing game, no one could get warm, and chaos reigned.

Mike Weir [74]: "I was within a few of the lead and I weathered it okay until I made an 8. We lost it in a gorse bush and had to go back to the tee -- I don't remember what hole. It was raining, but it was blowing so hard you couldn't put your umbrella up. Brutal."

Appleby: "I remember watching on TV as the players teed off, and Shigeki Maruyama was hiding behind a sign on a long par 3, just cowering."

Harrington: "While it was very windy, it was also cold. That was the real problem. It was so cold. Guys couldn't feel their hands. My playing partner topped a number of shots. I'm not going to say who it was."

[Ed. note: It was Waldorf.]

Stewart Cink [80]: The worst part wasn't the cold; it was the combination of the wind and the rain. You can deal with one or the other, but when you get both it's really hard. You were hitting drivers 200 yards, and an 8-iron maybe 80 yards, trying to somehow keep it on line."

Jimmy Johnson, caddie for Nick Price [75]: "I remember Nick hit driver on the third hole, a par 3. He hit it 208 yards to within about 10 feet of the pin. Colin Montgomerie, who was playing with us, hit 3-wood and came up short."

Paul Lawrie [78]: "Obviously where I come from you get a lot of days like that, to be fair. I think I shot 81 and played pretty nicely. It was just impossible. Seventy-eight, I shot? That's a great effort, then. I played with the little Japanese guy, the guy who wears the squashed cowboy hat? [Shingo Katayama, 74] He kept laughing. He thought it was quite funny. You've got to be that way; if you're not that way and you let it get to you, then you're in trouble."

Steve Stricker [81]: "There was no escaping anything. Umbrellas were useless because the rain was coming in sideways."

Carl Pettersson [76]: "I was actually tied for the lead for a while in the third round. It was the most brutal weather I've ever played in. The only thing I was trying to do was hit the ball. It was that hard. Seventy-six that day was -- I mean par was probably 80. The bad weather came when I teed off. I played 12 holes in it. I finished bogey, double, and I was just glad to be done."

Colin Hancock, now a producer of Living Golf on CNN, attended the tournament as a fan but skipped the third round: "We were in Aberdeen and had gone out shopping, and it was so cold we ended up coming home and making a massive fire and huddling up in front of the TV. You could barely make out Woods coming up the fairways, and he looked absolutely miserable, as everyone did."

The horrific weather and the litany of terrible scores [10 players signed for 80 or higher] turned those scores that weren't terrible into instant classics.

Els [72]: "Under really tough conditions, that was as good as I could have done. I had it for about 14 or 15 holes. I think I made two birdies coming in, which salvaged my round even more. I thought it might miss us, but it just kept coming. It was ridiculous. The ball would not go anywhere, and you get water on the clubface and the ball can squirt anywhere. I was playing with Shigeki and we were hitting drivers on par 3s. It was horrific stuff."

Ian Poulter [78]: "Ernie's score that day was fantastic. It was a hell of a score. I was just trying to survive. I remember it like it was yesterday: Tiger was playing with [Mark] O'Meara right behind me, and I was in great position. I was right there with the best names at the time and got blown off the golf course along with 70 percent of the guys who teed off. It was 35 mph wind with driving rain. It's a 5-iron going 110. It's an eight-club wind -- I don't know what it is. It's s---, is what it is. It was awful. I mean, call it what you want -- it was a 9-iron flying 210 and a 5-iron going 110. It was disgusting. It was one of the worst days of tournament conditions I've ever seen. It was shocking."

Rodriguez, who saw his man, Garcia [71], play one of his best rounds: "He played unreal golf under those conditions. He was in the middle of the whole thing, other than the first three or four holes. I remember dinner after the round; my face was still frozen." ["I feel like I shot 5 or 6 under par," Garcia said after his round.]

Arthur, deputy chief marshal: "Our eldest son was working in the locker room, helping the players, and he said Tiger Woods just sat there with his head in his hands for about 10 or 15 minutes. That was after he'd pulled it all together and given all his interviews and everything else. I don't think he knew quite what had happened. It was like, What on earth have I done?"

McLaren, Waldorf's caddie, watched his boss, who had been tied for the lead through 36 holes, go out in 45 and come back in 32: "He'd hit in a bush on the sixth hole and we found the ball and went back to the tee -- and I said, 'From here on in, our focus is purely to find the ball and make the most solid contact we can and think of nothing else.' We didn't care about where it went or score or anything else. It was, without question, the worst day ever."
 

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