How do tour players handle coming back early to finish a round?

July 17, 2015

It was super convenient, as far as three-hour rain delays go.

The early downpour that created the delay at the British Open came first thing in the morning, so it essentially backed up every tee time by three hours -- which left leader Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth with five holes to play Saturday morning starting at 7 a.m.


Since St. Andrews weather conditions are always a wildcard, it meant that Johnson, Spieth and the group of other players who didn't finish had something to think about as they walked off the course at 9:45 pm local time in total darkness.

"You always hate to walk off the course if you're in a good rhythm, but it can also work for you if you're not playing great," says Shaun Webb, who works with David Toms on the PGA Tour. The key to handling the interruption and going out strong is to keep the warm-up routine as similar as possible, but with one key adjustment. "You want things to be business as usual, but you'd want to end your warm-up with the exact shot you were going to come back to on the course," says Webb, who is based at Toms' academy in Shreveport, La. "If you're coming back to a 5-iron from a certain lie, that's what you want to practice, down to the wind direction and lie."

The delay in the morning and early wakeup call Saturday are just another part of a British Open experience that challenges every player's mental toughness. "It's so hard to play when the conditions are changing," says Webb. "You're hitting into the wind and then downwind. You're putting the rain jacket on and taking it off. Nothing feels consistent. The player who wins is the one who manages all those changes and distractions the best."

One thing that won't be much of a factor is the early wakeup call. Johnson and Spieth will be at the course by at least 6 am to get ready, but that's a basic part of the job. "I've never heard a tour player seriously complain about having to start early," says Webb. "You mentally prepare for that the night before, and it's something that happens pretty often. Plus, the stakes this week are really high."