Early Finishers Happy to be Off Course

July 19, 2008

SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND –- “It’s just a cold, ball-going-nowhere wind,” said American pro Heath Slocum, one of the early third-round finishers at Royal Birkdale. Slocum shot a 4-over-par 74 with a double-bogey on 18, and he looked as happy as a marsupial wearing earmuffs. Even happier was England’s Simon Kahn, who managed to shoot 71 in winds gusting to 35 or 40 mph.
“I think it’s one of my best rounds ever,” said Kahn, who finished fifth last week in the Scottish Open.
With winds of up to 50 mph forecast for this afternoon, the R&A has wisely directed the greenkeeping crew to keep the greens on the slow side –- i.e., single digits on the Stimpmeter. “They’re definitely a little soft,” Kahn said, “and a bit greener to keep the ball from moving.”

Not that they won’t wobble. Lee Westwood, who staggered in with a 78 to post +17 for three rounds, said his ball rolled “half a turn away from the hole” on No. 6. “I think they’ve left the greens long enough that the ball won’t roll away,” he said, but his wan smile suggested that he wouldn’t mind if that came to pass.
Kahn, meanwhile, went inside to watch his position improve, hour by hour, as leaders back up toward his three round total of +10. “I’ve played really well this week,” he said. “I’ve had a triple and three doubles, but aside from that ….”
His plans for the rest of the day? “Watch ‘em all struggle, I think.”
Same as the rest of us.