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Jul 18

Open Becomes Disaster Area

Winds at the Open Cause a Disaster

wind

Winds Become Unmanageable

I once walked in a 90 mile per hour wind, and wondered if I could get off the ground by stretching my coat out – what a stupid idea. Fortunately, I couldn’t quite do it. The winds at St. Andrews might not have reached the magnitude of a 90 mph gale during the second round of the Open, but for a golf ball it did, and for someone trying to play golf – ditto.

While on the road in California today, I watched a sports broadcast that detailed the entire event, except that it barely spoke of golf at all, mostly because so little was played in the last 24 hours. First of all, it was difficult to comprehend precisely which round we are on, and if the third major of the year can be finished by Monday.

The broadcast spoke of winds and terrain that made this year’s Open resemble the Oklahoma dust bowl in the early 20th century in America. It showed balls about to be putted make sudden escapes, requiring keystone cop chases by players. They showed flags straining to stay on their moorings, hats flying here and there, and players running for shelter, hands covering faces and hunched over for protection. What kind of a golf swing is anyone going to produce in an environment like that?
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I stayed with it for a few minutes to see who was leading, and deduced that Dustin Johnson was up there somewhere, with a British golfer sitting pretty in the clubhouse. Of course, I was trying to find Jordan Spieth’s position, but he seemed to be stuck at even par on the same hole for hour after hour after hour. Later, I found that Bubba Watson, who was in contention after the first 18, mysteriously missed the cut. I was, if you’ll pardon the expression, blown away by that. Further, Tiger Woods not so mysteriously missed the cut as well, and was similarly blown away. The post-cut interview was one of Tiger’s best concession speeches ever, and he was the only person on the broadcast from the Open who talked about golf, even if it was all his own.

The tournament was stopped and started and stopped again within short stretches of time. During this period, some horrendous three-putts and approach shots took place that might have gone better if they had all waited for the storm to fade a bit. From a distance, lofting a shot more than five feet off the ground was playing with fire, and depending on which way one was facing, breathing was not necessarily a given.
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By the time the broadcast on today’s Open action was finished, it resembled a meteorologist’s demonstration on the Weather Channel. Golf was nearly absent, except for some player frustration at the stuttering starts and stops. It was the nearest thing I have ever seen in the game of golf to a frightening, Old Testament, Biblical event, the Book of Revelations aside. The quirky ending, however, came when the commentators emphasized optimism that tomorrow, the winds would lessen, despite the fact that we’re now ready for the rain to come ashore. It sounded as if the field would be so happy to have a ball sit still on the green until they have a chance to reach it, that the rain would be a minor inconvenience at worst. That’s aristocratic, green rolling hills Western thinking. Logic dictates that if St. Andrews can do this wind, think of what it could do with rain, straight off the shore with nothing to break it up.

As of now, Jordan is in limbo with his try at a third consecutive major, but who knows? It might turn out all right. He might, in the end, blow away the competition, or they might just all get blown away for real – that is, if the tournament is ever finished at all.
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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.