Windy morning at British Open protects leaders; that could change in the afternoon

The breeze woke up along the shores of the River Dee Friday morning, changing everything but the leaderboard through the early hours of the British Open’s second round. Those who played before noon could survive, and head for protection to watch the rest. By the time Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy prepared to tee off after 2 p.m. local time, the lead hadn’t moved. The question for the rest of the day: Would it ever?

South African George Coetzee managed to move his way up Friday morning with an early 69 that got him to 5 under par, a shot behind McIlroy, who was due off at 2:27 p.m. (9:27 p.m. EDT). But beyond that, there were fits and starts as the breeze — a non-factor Thursday — kept the field at bay.

“This morning was quite bad,” said Coetzee, who was celebrating his 28th birthday. “The wind blew. … We’ll see how the day pans out. If the wind drops down, obviously I think we might have had the rough side.”

No major championship is as routinely affected by the weather as the British Open, where benign days like Thursday are the exception rather than the rule. This year’s version already has the smell of one that could create a lopsided field, with the players who teed off early Thursday and late Friday possibly enjoying a distinct advantage.

Fifteen of the best 18 rounds on Thursday were turned in by players who teed off before noon, when the wind barely blew. The afternoon was far more difficult, with the breeze kicking up, toying with shots and changing directions regularly.

So play was, predictably, all over the place, and charges were difficult to come by.

Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion who is the top-ranked player in the world, began the day at 4 under after his opening 68. But he had to fight for his 73 Friday, birdieing the final two holes to sit at 3 under.

Phil Mickelson, whose 2-over 74 came in the teeth of Thursday’s wind, had a chance to establish momentum when he birdied the fourth, eagled the fifth and struck his approach at the par-4 seventh to four feet — a good look at what would have been his fourth straight 3. But he missed that birdie putt, then flubbed a chip at the eighth to stumble back.

“To hit that terrible putt … ” Mickelson said. “And then I wasn’t patient.”

He still pulled off some typically outrageous Phil material — hitting his tee shot out of bounds at the par-5 10th, striping his next down the middle, hitting his second shot to six feet and making the putt for a ridiculous par — and his closing birdie left him with 70 to pull him to even par for the tournament.

Mickelson won this championship a year ago, and he said that has freed him to deal with the fact that he — and all those who played Friday morning — may have been on the lousy end of the draw. Winds are predicted to drop off in the afternoon.

“I’m more accepting of the fact that I’m on the poor end of the tee times, and I’ve also been on the good end of the tee times,” Woods said. “You accept that as part of the tournament rather than let it get to you. The tendency is this: I see the scores. Seven, 8 under par is probably going to be leading or so. And I have to force birdies. But the conditions I had didn’t allow for it. And I have to play as well as I can with the conditions I’m in.”

Woods, who opened with a 69 Thursday, opened his second round with a poor tee shot and a double bogey to drop back to 1 under for the tournament.

The top 70 players, and anyone tied for 70th, advance to play the weekend. In the early part of the afternoon the cut was projected to sit at 2 over par, with those 3 over missing out.

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
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