Jul 20, 2012 at 8:44 am
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) - Heads up! Despite another morning that was custom-made for going low, they were spraying shots all over the place at a water-logged British Open.
Rory McIlroy knocked his ball onto an adjoining tee box at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley got in plenty of work on their bunker shots. And no one took a bigger tumble than the big-hitting Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts.
Perhaps the most surprising player of the opening round with a 5-under 65, Colsaerts played the first seven holes at 5-over par, tumbling off a leaderboard topped by Adam Scott.
McIlroy was forced into scramble mode by several wayward shots, most notably his second shot from the right rough at No. 3. He yanked it far left of the green, the ball plopping down on the fourth tee box and giving a bit of a jolt to Toshinori Muto, who was getting ready to hit his drive. McIlroy actually caught a break, his ball barely avoiding the thick rough, but he still took a bogey.
The young Northern Irishman also bogeyed the sixth, but a pair of birdies had him even on the day and 3 under for the tournament, right in the thick of things.
That was no longer the case for Colsaerts, who ran into trouble right away with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3. He totally fell apart at the par-5 seventh, normally one of the easier holes on the course. His third shot missed the green, winding up in that dreaded rough. He fluffed his escape, the ball going barely 10 yards, still in the tall grass.
Barely able to see it, Colsaerts took another whack and apparently missed. Finally, he chunked it out on his third try, the ball zipping over the green. A pitch and a putt left him with a triple-bogey 8.
Rickie Fowler, a contender last year at Royal St. George's, was erratic this time around. The American had only one par through the first seven holes, canceling out three birdies with two bogeys and a triple-bogey 7 at the third, leaving him 3 over for the tournament and facing the very real prospect of missing the cut.
The erratic play early on was a striking contrast to the opening round. Scott tied the course record with a 64 on Thursday, while 52 other players shot no worse than par. For the first time since 1998, no one in the 156-player field opened with a score in the 80s.
''It was just like a nice walk in the park,'' Scott said.
After heavy rain overnight inundated the course, turning some bunkers into ponds and prompting the R&A to request fans delay their arrival so the grounds could dry out, the second round began as scheduled under sunny, blue skies. There was just a hint of the feared breezes off the Irish Sea that give the links course its bite.
The rain which has soaked Britain throughout the spring and summer largely stayed away during Day 1, only to return with a vengeance during the night. One of the main spectator gates was closed at the start of play as workers furiously tried to push away all the standing water.
''We've had far more rain overnight than we were expecting, unfortunately,'' R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told BBC Radio. ''But the course can take it as the drainage here is good. There is some standing water, but we can play golf, and the rules of golf will deal with the casual water.''
The bunkers were the main issue. Already vulnerable to flooding because of the closeness of the sea and rains that have been over the top even by the standards of this water-logged nation, several traps had been transformed into mini-ponds by the latest batch of showers. There was also some standing water in the fairways, which the morning players tiptoed through after hitting their shots.
The leaderboard was filled with major champions. Paul Lawrie and Zach Johnson also started with 65s. McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell were among those at 67. All know what it's like to win on golf's biggest stages.
Scott, who is still seeking his first major title, was determined not to take himself out of contention in the opening round at Royal Lytham, as he had done in the first two majors this year. Caddie Steve Williams gave him a pep talk to play the first hole like it was the last one. Even more inspiration came from the international flags posted above the massive grandstand down the left side of the first tee.
They weren't flapping. They were sagging.
In surprisingly calm conditions, Scott raced out to the lead and almost into the record book. He stood on the 18th tee needing a birdie to break the major championship scoring record. Instead, he settled for bogey, still good enough to leave him tied with the course record set by Tom Lehman in 1996.
Scott knew this was a day to put up a number well into the red.
''It was not what we've experienced in the practice rounds,'' he said. ''I'm sure there's going to be some weather elements thrown at us the next three days, so just going to have to knuckle down to handle that. But I'm confident. My ball striking is good.''
Trying to end a four-year drought in the majors, Woods raced out to four birdies in seven holes to take the early lead, only to settle into a series of pars and one adventure through grass up to his knees for a lone bogey. In his third Open at Lytham, Woods said it was as easy as he had ever seen it play.
Lawrie won his British Open in nasty conditions at Carnoustie in 1999, and the Scot showed he could handle the calm weather with equal aplomb. He ran off three birdies over the last five holes. Johnson, who won the 2007 Masters in the wind and cold at Augusta National, flirted with a major record-tying 63 until a bogey on the 17th hole.
Brandt Snedeker was another shot behind at 66 and got off to a promising start Friday with a birdie on the first hole.
''We had a little wind early on the front nine, but it kind of calmed down the second half,'' Snedeker said ''That's the best Americans are going to see over here.''
Temp: 42°F (6°C)
Wind: 8 E
Weather: light rain