- Associated Press - Friday, July 16, 2010

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Outlined against a blue-gray sky, a wind-whipped white plastic trash bag cartwheeled up the first fairway in the wrong direction.

Welcome to the Old Course on a Friday better suited to Mary Poppins than Tiger Woods.

For a century and a half, the blue bloods who run the British Open have prided themselves on testing golfers’ skills in the most fickle weather imaginable. The only concession they usually make is to have players who draw a morning time in round one, play round two the following afternoon.

“Whatever you get, you get,” former Open champion Tom Lehman said. Of course, he teed off at 7:03 a.m., getting what turned to be the best weather of the day. Even so, something Lehman said next was impossible to argue with.

“The guy who deals with it and has the best attitude for the conditions and just muddles through is the guy who does the best. Today, it’s not impossible,” he added, “but it’s difficult.”

Difficult enough, anyway, so that even the sadists over at the Royal and Ancient were moved to suspend play by 2:40 p.m., when the wind that began whistling at 11 a.m. turned into a full-time, full-blown howler. Fierce gusts of more than 40 mph sent wave after wave of ominous clouds scudding across the bay, making it almost impossible to line up a putt on several greens without the ball wobbling like a drunk _ putting players at risk of a two-stroke penalty.

“It didn’t move on the green for us,” said Phil Mickelson, who finished his round just in time. But Lefty recalled playing a round at the 2003 Open at Royal St. George when the ball “moved six times on me as I was addressing it. Twice, I actually put the club behind it and was penalized both times.

“I have seen it where it’s been unplayable and,” Mickelson added, almost grateful, “it may very well be now.”

It was.

When play resumed at 3:45 p.m., sponsors must have cringed as golfers turned their ballcaps around, swapped them for ski hats or simply went bareheaded. Fans had a hard time keeping track of their favorites because the kids carrying the scoreboards for each group dropped them to horizontal or risked being carried off by the wind, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. At the 12th, golfers who smacked tee shots in the 300-yard range only a day earlier gave back a hundred yards.

“The first normal swing I felt like I could make was on the 13th tee, where it was a little bit sheltered,” Trevor Immelman said. “But other than that, you were just trying to hang on.”

Many couldn’t.

Former champion Paul Lawrie followed up his 69 on Thursday morning with an 82.

“We were on the 10th green when they stopped it. I had a jumbo sausage and chips from a nearby van, which was actually really nice,” Lawrie said. “It was the highlight of the day.”

Robert Rock, two groups behind Lawrie, followed his 68 with a 78. Ross McGowan, another five groups back, followed his 68 with an 80.

Story Continues →