TROON, Scotland – Scotland delivered the weather that fans tune into the Open Championship for. After a surprisingly sunny first round, Royal Troon Golf Club was hit by rain and wind Friday.
Shirt sleeves were replaced by black rain suits, caddies were armed with umbrellas and flags blew in the breeze. These are familiar sights during a Scottish summer.
As is often the case at The Open Championship, the weather will play a role in this week’s final result. Players who teed off late Thursday and early Friday appear to have received the favorable end of the draw. Thursday afternoon was calm and sunny. There were spurts of bad weather Friday morning, but the toughest conditions were in the afternoon.
The top 10 players after 36 holes all teed off before 10 a.m. Friday; six of them teed off before 8:30 a.m.
“It’s just tough,” said Branden Grace, who teed off at 1:04 p.m. Friday. He shot 70-74. “That’s when you win majors. You’re going to get things that go your way. The rest is about grinding it out.”
All Open Championship groups start on the first hole. Tee times in the first two rounds started at 6:35 a.m. and ran for nearly 10 hours.
As of 3 p.m. local time, the course was playing to a 72.8 scoring average, a little less than a stroke harder than the first round. Things got more difficult as the day progressed, though. Rory McIlroy shot 71 on Friday to finish at 2-under 140; he was in 15th place when he finished his round and the highest-ranked player on the leaderboard who teed off Friday afternoon.
Jordan Spieth, who teed off at 2:04 p.m. Friday, shot 71-75 to make the cut on the number.
“You wish your score didn’t matter when you play in this. You wish this was just a round with your buddies where you go into the clubhouse and have one or seven pints afterwards,” Spieth said. He faced gusts up to 25 mph and “sheets of water moving sideways” when he stood on the 16th tee.
Soren Kjeldsen, who shot 68 on Friday and is three shots behind Mickelson, was happy to see a change in weather from Thursday. He teed off in Friday’s seventh group.
“I always think about The Open like this. You want to get all sort of conditions,” he said. “You want different wind conditions. You want sun, you want rain. We need all four seasons in a good Open, I think.”
The morning players did face some trying times, as heavy rain and wind did occasionally hit the course. Scotland’s Russell Knox said “it was absolutely chucking down” when he played Nos. 11 and 12. Henrik Stenson, who shot 65 on Friday and is one behind leader Phil Mickelson (63-69), said he was “hanging on for dear life” on those two holes.
“It was interesting because it was several different conditions,” said Matt Kuchar, who teed off Thursday morning. “There were a couple different bits of conditions, as kind of comes around here. I can remember putting a rain jacket on and off six different times in a round of golf in the past here.”
Besides the clouds, the biggest difference from the first round was the direction of the wind. The front nine played into the wind Friday, opposite of the usual direction. Eight of Troon’s first nine holes usually play downwind, making it important to collect birdies early. The front nine played nearly a stroke over par for Friday’s early starters.
On Thursday, players could drive the first hole. Charl Schwartzel teed off with 2-iron today and used 7-iron for his second shot from 142 yards. He usually hits that club 190 yards.
“This morning, it was cold,” said Schwartzel, who shot 66 on Friday. “The wind wasn’t as strong, but it still affected the ball a lot.”
Zach Johnson, the defending champion, hit an 8-iron for his approach shot to No. 9 on Thursday after teeing off with a 3-iron. He hit a 3-wood and a 5-wood on that hole Friday.
“If you teed off really early today, you had an opportunity,” said Zach Johnson, the defending champion. “And we still had an opportunity considering that our first four or five holes were pretty benign. We had a couple holes that were tough and then it slowed down again.
“But it felt like there were five or six holes where you were just trying to keep one foot in front of the other and stay vertical.”
Friday’s weather added some character to The Open’s second round. We still haven’t seen the worst Scotland has to offer, though.