LYTHAM, England - The comforting thing about weather forecasts in England is that they are about as accurate as they are in the United States - which is to say not very. A TV forecaster who said of the upcoming day, "It will pretty much be whatever you want it to be," summed the totally erratic nature of things here. What he meant was that at some point in the day everything would happen: Sun, rain, wind, and fog. And he was right.
If the weather they say is coming to Royal Lytham & St. Annes for the Ricoh Women's British Open this week actually shows up 290 is going to look like a really good score. As I write now at midday on Tuesday a steady rain is falling at about a 25-degree angle, knocked askew by a steady wind whipping off the Irish Sea and across Granny's Bay. And right now the forecast is for more rain with increasing wind as the week progresses.
On a course with 106 bunkers where positioning your ball strategically is the key to success the elements can wreak havoc with even the best-laid game plan. One of the characteristics of links golf that makes it so challenging - and so much fun - is the role luck plays in the outcome. Truly, it tests the patience of even those with the strongest will.
A bad bounce here, an untimely gust of wind there or the pure luck of the draw with tee times - the weather can be entirely different from morning to afternoon - can rattle anyone out of their focus. The winner here this week will be not only someone who is striking the ball extremely solidly but also a player with the discipline to go with the flow. The rain suits are going to go on and off a lot this week and a lot of shots that look good in the air are going to end up in bad places.
There is an odd silence as players hit balls on the practice range under a sky that looks like a steel-gray mountain range peering down on the course. Several players are in ski caps and Jee Young Lee has on ear muffs. The silence on what is a usually very chatty LPGA range seems to shout, "Are you kidding me? It's almost August. What's with the weather?" And it's only Tuesday.
-- Ron Sirak