Birdies And Bogeys
July 15, 2011
Birdie: Late starters
They say it's better to be lucky than good. You know what's better than that? Being both. So it was for the players who earned late afternoon tee times on the merits of their first 36 holes, and subsequently missed the worst of Saturday's downpour. Unlike those players who were subjected to 18 holes of slogging through the wind and cold, the likes of Darren Clarke, Dustin Johnson, and Thomas Bjorn saw the rain go, the wind die, and were even able to play their final holes in sunshine. Not surprisingly, many of the players who started the day near the top of the leader board were able to end it there as well.
Bogey: Tiger Woods
The former world No. 1 doesn't even need to make the trip to the Open to steal his share of headlines here. Not all of them have been flattering. Or accurate. Among the topics discussed: Woods' playing schedule, his finances, the future of his relationship with caddie Steve Williams (although Williams told the Associated Press it's fine), even the romantic entanglements of his ex-wife. There's one reason Woods needs to get back to playing: At least then the focus can return to why he can't make a putt.
Birdie: Rickie Fowler
He's earned plenty of attention for his style, but on Saturday, Fowler won over his critics with his grit. Playing in the worst of Saturday's weather -- which he combated in an all-white rainsuit -- the 22-year-old Fowler's 68 put him in position to earn his first professional title in the game's oldest championship. It might not have been a coincidence that he did it while playing alongside the U.S. Open champion. Which brings us to...
Bogey: Rory McIlroy
Just when you thought he was going to rattle off a Tiger-like run of majors, McIlroy reminded us he's indeed mortal on Saturday. He hasn't been sharp all week, but McIlroy's real undoing came with a single swing on the 14th hole, when he busted his drive out of bounds and onto the adjacent Prince's Golf Club. A double bogey gave way to a 74, all but crushing his chances of a claret jug.
Birdie: Phil Mickelson
Raise your hand if you thought the one major Mickelson would contend in this year would be the British Open. Anyone? Hello? No, for a player who has seriously contended in the Open on only one other occasion -- in 2004 at Royal Troon -- Mickelson's position through 54 holes isn't something you could have seen coming. But the left-hander is now only five shots off the lead heading into Sunday at even par. Earlier in the week, Mickelson spoke of taking a new approach to playing in majors. It sounded like wishful thinking at the time. It appears to have been more than that now.
Bogey: Jason Day
The runner-up in the last two majors endured what he described as the "toughest day I've ever played," shooting 76 to fall 12 shots off the lead heading into Sunday. Along the way, Day went through three gloves, three hats, and five towels, and hit a drive on No. 4 straight into the wind that didn't even reach the fairway. "I was hoping for a win after my two seconds, but you can't win them all," he said.
Birdie: Tom Watson
At some point we need to stop being surprised by anything the 61-year-old Watson does, especially on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. After his hole-in-one on Friday, Watson impressed with gritty, persistent play in the worst of Saturday's weather, with his two-over 72 moving him up the leader board enough to at least be a consideration for the final round. Perhaps it's too much to expect the five-time Open champion to make another run on Sunday. But, we know now, it'd be foolish to dismiss his chances.
Bogey: Golfers as athletes
For every finely-tuned specimen like Dustin Johnson in contention at the Open, you occassionally have a cigar-smoker like Miguel Angel Jimenez, or a cigarette-smoker like Thomas Bjorn. And then there's your Open leader Darren Clarke. Asked how he intended to while away the hours until his late Sunday tee time, Clarke said he would likely gorge himself at dinner, wake up, and gorge himself again. To his credit, he also said he hoped not to drink too much.
Birdie: British fans
They either love golf or they lost their car keys, because on a day when most American fans would be content to watch the action on TV, the grandstands were still packed here. Their dedication was rewarded when the skies cleared by mid-afternoon. If it hadn't, though, they still would have hung around. They carry those umbrellas around for a reason.