ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - All righty, now. This is starting to feel like a British Open, unlike that Bob Hope Classic birdie-fest that masqueraded as the world's oldest golf championship on Thursday . What could be more appropriate than to celebrate the 150th birthday of this tournament on the Old Course -- which is more than three times the age of the British Open -- in the kind of weather that motivated sheep to burrow into the dunes seeking shelter from the elements, thus creating that wonderful hazard known as a bunker?
The Scots are a hardy lot who accept that the reality of their harsh homeland is that if you wait for a nice day to play golf, you are going to wait a long time. So they've just factored the weather into the equation. "If it's nae wind and nae rain, it's nae gawf," is a whimsical old Scottish expression that sums up the role they see nature plays in the game. It is as if nature here is considered to be as much a part of the game as swing plains and green speeds.
As the second round commenced on Friday at St. Andrews, it was clear this is going to be one of those days in which all four seasons show up in an unpredictable rotation. The galleries at the Old Course roamed the rolling hills and picked their way around the prickly gorse prepared for it all armed with umbrellas and rain gear. In a matter of hours, they got a chance to use it all.
By midday, when Louis Oosthuizen had finished a 67 that put him at 12 under par through 36 holes and gave him the early lead, the Old Course had seen sunshine, rain, wind and absolute calm. At times the wind off the North Sea sent shivers through the crowds and then 10 minutes later it would be frightening close to being hot and spectators would peel off layers and stuff them in their backpacks.
One minute, fans were strolling as if taking a walk in the park, the next they were angled against the wind, trying to stay dry as rain pelted down sideways. Those folks paid to predict the weather around here - which is sort of like trying to handicap ant races -- say more rain will come in the afternoon followed by the most difficult wind of the week so far, sustained at 23 mph with gusts topping 30 mph.
If what the forecaster say is correct -- and if the track record of yesterday is any indication there is little reason to believe they will be accurate, but that is part of the fun of this event -- McIlroy, and soon after him Tiger Woods, will tee off in rain and by the time they back the turn to the back nine will be playing in the teeth of the wind.
But that's part of what the British Open is -- a test of patience and the ability to accept bad luck as much as it is a test of golfing skill. That's why on Friday at St. Andrews, it felt a whole lot more like a British Open than it did on Thursday. Let the championship begin.
-- *Ron Sirak