[British] Open stuck in second gear

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Inclement weather led to an incomplete second round at the 2015 [British] Open yesterday, and while the rains have dried up, 45mph-winds have stolen eight hours of play today, Saturday, at the time of writing. We wait to see if play will resume at 5:00pm, in the hope of at least completing the second round today. The third round has already been rescheduled for Sunday, with the final round delayed until Monday.

As for Dustin Johnson, tied for the lead with Danny Willett on nine-under-par, he has done an excellent job of ploughing on regardless so far. Johnson is among 42 players waiting to complete the second round, as is Masters and U.S. Open champ Jordan Spieth, who slipped five shots behind his compatriot and playing partner yesterday.

In anticipation of yesterday’s early deluge, Open organizers the R&A sandbagged the street outside its clubhouse and the media centre, and at other vulnerable spots. The rains duly arrived, puddles on the Old Course became ponds and ducks paddled on the greens. The morning’s golf was delayed by three and a half hours to allow the waterlogged Old Course take a breath of air.

When play resumed under sunshine and with hardly a breeze, England’s Danny Willett took advantage of the soft greens and ideal scoring conditions, shooting 69 for a 36-hole score of 135, nine under par. With Johnson five holes short of halfway, Willett was the overnight leader in the clubhouse.

Johnson, Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama did not tee off until 5:48pm but the delay did nothing to slow Johnson’s progress. His unerring power and accuracy off the tee set-up four birdies in the first 10 holes to open up a two shot lead over Willett.

But has the light started to dim on the back nine, the temperature plummeted and the winds stiffened, and twice Johnson backed off a four-foot putt for par on the par-three 11th. Standing tentatively over his ball, it conjured flashbacks of his final miss at Chambers Bay last month, which cost him a playoff with Spieth in the U.S. Open. Then he pulled the putt, this time he pushed it right of the hole, to post only his first dropped shot of the 2015 Open.

Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open champion, and Australia’s Jason Day, are both well placed a shot behind Willett and Johnson on eight under par midway through their second rounds, while Adam Scott hurtled up the leaderboard by shooting 67, five under par, to share fifth place with four others.

The 2013 Masters champion, Australian Scott, 34, would have won the British Open at Royal Lytham in 2012 had he not missed putts for par at each of the final four holes, to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els.

“I definitely let that one slip [in 2012],” said Scott after his round yesterday. “I would love to be sitting here having won The Open, but I’m going to have to work hard for it. You know, I think I’m playing with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.”

As the twilight darkened at St Andrews last night, and with the gallery and R&A members assembled around the 18th green, the final putt of the day was played by Tom Watson, as he completed his stellar British Open career 40 years after it began. He is likely to finish last on 12 over par, but his fans here will remember better the five times he lifted the Claret Jug.

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