Durant opens Open

January 24, 2012

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — British Open weather.

It rained on and off all night, and those players who were able to sleep awoke to a steady drizzle Thursday morning for the start of the 136th Open. Then it became just straight rain.

Joe Durant opened the tournament, first to hit from the 6:30 a.m. "game number one," as snow-topped, iconic first tee announcer Ivor Robson said. Wearing rain pants but nothing waterproof over his gray sweater, Durant hit 3-wood and lost it right, but made par on the hole.

The ball was hard to pick up in the raindrops against a dishwater-gray sky, but despite the early hour and wet weather there were enough spectators on hand, clapping or deadly silent, to tell a good "strike" from a bad one.

Huge umbrellas. Waterproof boots. Caddies in funny hats. Players in funny hats. Insomniacs and golf junkies. Bundled head-to-toe, spectators filed quietly around the Nineteenth pub and onto Ferrier Street, through the narrow tunnel under the railroad tracks and onto the course at 6 a.m. They left the chitchat to the seagulls.

"Now on the tee from USA, Kevin Stadler," Robson intoned, and the son of the Walrus led off game number two, splitting the fairway. He made par. Of the first three groups or games off the first tee Thursday (no one starting off the 10th tee here), no player bogeyed and Oliver Wilson of England made birdie 3 to take the early lead. (He also birdied the par-4 third to go 2-under-par.) This despite the rain, the nerves. These really are the best 156 players in the world.

K.J. Choi stood on the practice green under an umbrella held by his caddie, stroking putts through a white guiding device sitting on the green.