Sunday dawns cold and wet at Carnoustie

January 24, 2012

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Arron Oberholser was standing just off the practice green waiting for his caddie at 9:30 a.m. local time on Sunday. A fine mist of rain was falling, and Oberholser was wearing a pair of quasi-oven mitts on his hands, awaiting his 10:40 starting time with Mark Calcavecchia.

Open weather again. To "warm up" would probably be overly ambitious. Oberholser was just trying not to cool down.

"I didn't know I was going to need a balaclava today," he said.

"Not to worry," a journalist said, noticing the inscription on Oberholser's huge mittens. "Titleist makes everything."

"Not those!" Oberholser replied. "We're getting the real deal this year, not that American weather we got last year. I'm going to sit in the trailer for a while to try and stay warm so I don't wrench my back."

The course was turning to dust at Hoylake last year, but as competitors rolled in for the final round of the 136th British Open on Sunday, Carnoustie was continuing to turn to mud. It's been raining on and off, mostly on, since Monday. And the early morning conditions on Sunday looked as ominous as Thursday's. In the players' locker room in the Carnoustie Hotel, next to a basket of tiny, individually wrapped soaps, sat three bottles of sunscreen. All were full.

"This is the first time I've got rained on," said Natalie Butler, a 19-year-old walking scorer working her fourth Open, after the first round. "In all the years I've done this, it's only been raining one hole. Hoylake was amazing and St. Andrews also. The weather just made it for me."

Not this time.

"It's a shame, isn't it?" Adam Scott said as he walked toward the hotel's exercise room, dressed for a morning workout before his 11:20 a.m. tee time. "Oh, well, it's only the Open."

Indeed. In Scotland, cheerfulness is a way of life, so much so that even a shopkeeper making change is likely to narrate the transaction with, "That's lovely, then." No one seemed to notice the chill in the air late Friday night, when a line for the new Harry Potter book stretched around the block at a bookseller in Dundee.

Early Sunday morning, the starter at the links course in neighboring Monifieth said: "We've had cancellations because of the weather, not too many."

Carnoustie patrons were similarly undaunted by the muck, wielding umbrellas as they filed onto the course to catch their heroes. Game No. 5 included 1996 Open champion Tom Lehman and Scotland's own Alastair Forsyth. Game No. 8 would feature another Scot, the indomitable '85 Open and '88 Masters champion Sandy Lyle, 49, who'd made the cut on the number Friday. He was playing with England's Luke Donald.

Things would get even more interesting later on. Two more of England's most incandescent talents, Paul Casey and Nick Dougherty, went off together at 12:15 p.m. At 214, one over for the tournament and 10 behind leader Sergio Garcia, they would need a miracle equal to Paul Lawrie's in '99. At Carnoustie they love Casey. His birthday Saturday was marked with a message on the giant scoreboards above the 18th green: "Happy 30th, Paul."

Masters champion Zach Johnson was paired with U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, and Tiger Woods was playing with Rich Beem, the outspoken winner of the 2002 PGA who not only defeated Woods down the stretch at Hazeltine but also openly questioned Tiger's decision to limit the field at his new AT&T National tournament two weeks ago.

Tiger, too, will need a miraculous round, combined with a complete collapse by Garcia.