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Published: Friday, 7/16/2010

Fierce wind makes for brutal day at British Open; S. African leads

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Fierce wind wreaked more havoc than any player Friday at the British Open, even causing a rare weather delay.

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen surged to a five-stroke lead in the morning, then watched from the comfort of his hotel as first-round leader Rory McIlroy and plenty of others stumbled in the blustery conditions.

The flags flapped wildly, caps blew down the fairways and there were 80s all over the scoreboard, including one by McIlroy's name.

The 21-year-old hotshot from Northern Ireland went from the lowest score ever in a major championship to an 8-over 80. No other player has ever taken a bigger tumble after shooting 63 in one of golf's biggest events. It left him with an 11-shot deficit heading to the weekend.

Despite sunny skies mixed with puffy white clouds, officials decided the Old Course was unplayable because the wind was gusting to 41 mph, causing balls to wobble on some of the exposed greens, especially those along St. Andrews Bay.

Second-round play was suspended 1 hour, 5 minutes at midafternoon, shortly after Phil Mickelson finished his round in brutally tough conditions and Tiger Woods had teed off.

The last 10 groups failed to finish, meaning 30 players — including England's Steven Tiley, tied for third at 6 under — will have to come back at 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday to finish their rounds.

The last wind delay at the British Open was at Royal Birkdale in 1998, when gusts reached 40 mph, forcing a 38-minute stoppage during the second round. No one seemed more hurt by it than McIlroy, who had parred the first three holes. After the delay, he bogeyed No. 4 — and three of the next four holes, as well.

“It was just very, very difficult out there,” McIlroy said. “I just let it get away from me a little bit.”

During the break, players returned to their lounge near the first tee to wait for conditions to calm. Caddies sprawled on a grassy knoll, munching on sandwiches and bananas. Some fans claimed a patch of ground and caught a nap.

Oosthuizen (WUHST'-hy-zen), a 27-year-old from Mossel Bay whose given name is Lodewicus Theodorus, shot a 5-under 67 for a 12-under 132 at the midway point of the tournament. He was done before McIlroy teed off, hoping to put up another solid round after tying the major-championship record with a 63 on Thursday.

Not in these conditions.

Mark Calcavecchia, trying to strike another blow for the senior circuit, was closest to Oosthuizen among those in the clubhouse. The 50-year-old American shot a 67 that left him at 137, with Lee Westwood and Paul Casey another shot behind.

Woods held on in wind that was gusting more than 30 mph even after play resumed. He bogeyed the first two holes, but a fortunate break at the par-5 fifth helped him pick up his first birdie of the day.

His second shot was sailing right, toward the treacherous rough, but the ball struck a golf cart loaded with television equipment and stopped in the short grass. Woods was able to get up and down from there, leaving him 4 under for the tournament as he approached the midway point of his round.

Woods nearly finished with a flourish, driving the green — the ball skidding about a foot wide of the flag — on the par-4 18th hole. He missed the 20-footer for eagle but tapped in for birdie at a 73 that kept him in contention for the weekend, though eight strokes behind Oosthuizen.

“I'm not exactly where I want to be,” Woods said. “I'm not at 12-under par.”

Woods is trying to win his third straight Open at St. Andrews, having romped to victories in 2000 and 2005. Before he putted out, Tom Watson made what was likely his final walk over Swilcan Bridge. The 60-year-old who nearly won last year at Turnberry was likely to miss the cut after shooting 75, but he paused to kiss the famous stone walkway and posed atop it long enough for everyone to get a picture.

“When I first played here, I didn't like it,” Watson said. “But I learned to like it and, eventually, to love it.”

The weather made it a typical British Open roller-coaster of a day. The early starters found blue skies when they arrived, but heavy rains rolled in shortly after the start of the round. The sun peeked through the clouds again, then more showers struck just before noon.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the opening round was 1995 Open winner John Daly, who pulled off a stunning 66 while wearing the flashiest outfit on the course: lavender paisley pants, pink shirt, sky blue sweater and turquoise cap.

Daly didn't tone it down Friday, donning pink paisley pants, a lime green cap and a neon shirt as he got in six holes before play was halted. But he, too, was bedeviled by the wind and tumbled to a 76.

In Thursday's opening round, Daly tied his best round at the British Open with a 6-under 66 on the Old Course. It put him atop the leaderboard, a spot that would have been unimaginable during the latest chapter in his pulp fiction life.

"I've never ran from my mistakes. I've always kind of been the man that you're supposed to be when you screw up - and I've screwed up an awful lot, not just on tour, but in other aspects of life," Daly said. "I think it's how you come back and deal with it.

"When you have so many ups and downs in life, like everybody does, some smaller and bigger, it makes it so much more gratifying when you do something special."

Daly birdied seven of the first 11 holes, and he might have challenged early leader Rory McIlroy if not for four putts that lipped out.

That Daly is a spectaculartalent has never been in doubt. You don't go from last alternate to major champion, as he did at the 1991 PGA Championship, without considerable game. And you sure don't win a second major - the British Open here at St. Andrews, no less - by being lucky.

Daly is Everyman. Fans can't help but be charmed, seeing a little bit of themselves in him. Or maybe a little bit of who they would like to be.

He hits driver when he should hit irons. He goes for shots that inevitably end badly. He believes "grip it and rip it" is more than just a cute slogan. Daly's nickname was "Wild Thing," and he more than lived up to it.

Among other things, he trashed a hotel room in 1997 during The Players Championship and once did a TV interview to promote a golf course wearing only blue jeans. The PGA Tour has put him in timeout-mode five times, fined him $100,000, and ordered him to attend counseling or alcohol rehab seven times. He's also lost part of a considerable fortune to four ex-wives, gambling, and bad loans to friends.

But at 44, even Daly has had enough of his high-wire act.

He's lost almost 100 pounds since having Lap-Band surgery in February 2009, and said he quit drinking and eating as much junk. The rib and back injuries that made it painful to get his game back in shape have healed.

"I feel like I'm getting healthier," Daly said. "Being able to work on my game and get some confidence built up, [winning] would be just the most gratifying victory I could ever have."

There's still a long way to go. Daly has three victories worldwide since winning the British Open 15 years ago, and has dropped to 455th in the world rankings. He has just one top-50 finish this year, a tie for 24th at the Puerto Rico Open, and sounded as if he was ready to quit after missing the cut at Torrey Pines.

After turning back the clock with a first-round 67 at the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills that left him two strokes off the lead, he followed it up with a 73 and ultimately wound up tied for 32nd.

"I'm not out of it. I'm in it, even if somebody goes out and shoots 7 or 8 under," Daly said. "I feel the game is coming around, and when I'm hitting my driver the way I am right now, it brings confidence."

Daly may have ditched that shaggy mullet he sported back in 1995, but now he's wearing pants that can only be described as garish. Thursday's choice was lavender paisley (his girlfriend wore a matching miniskirt).

"All of these pants, the good thing about them is you get dressed in the dark, any shirt is going to match," Daly said.

Not really. Daly's sky-blue sweater, peach shirt and turquoise hat were cringe-worthy.

But as Daly is trying to prove, it's his game that matters.



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