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Blistering winds bellow controversy at St. Andrews

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- On a course where high winds forced the suspension of play for over an hour, some of the biggest blowups happened after the round.

You know it's windy when the seagulls stayed grounded and players carped louder than the birds. Scores soared in the afternoon of the second round of the British Open on Friday as bristling crosswinds sent balls trickling into bunkers, rolling off greens and sailing into the gorse.

'It was brutal out there,' Steve Marino says about the conditions. (Getty Images)  
'It was brutal out there,' Steve Marino says about the conditions. (Getty Images)  
Play was suspended for 65 minutes at 2:27 p.m., shortly after Tiger Woods teed off on the first hole, prompting intimations of preferential treatment. Other players slapped the officials at the Royal & Ancient for failing to change the setup after knowing high winds were in the forecast.

All in all, the players in the afternoon wave waved bye-bye to any chance at a low round and catching runaway morning leader Louis Oosthuizen, who has a five-shot lead. The second round wasn't completed Friday, but if it holds up after play is resumed Saturday, it will represent the biggest lead at the halfway point of the Open since Bobby Clampett led by five in 1982.

German star Martin Kaymer, ranked No. 13 in the world, said play should have been suspended far earlier because balls were moving on greens when he played the 12th and 13th holes. He made a thinly veiled implication that Woods -- who had played part of the first hole when the horn sounded -- was given preferential treatment.

"Maybe they were protecting the better men who were playing later," he said.

Kaymer was a central figure in the day. Of the first 51 players off the tee, 24 broke par in easier morning conditions, a run that ended with Kaymer's 1-under 71 in the 17th threesome off the first hole. Nobody in the following 25 groups that finished the second round before play was halted because of darkness managed to break par.

Thus, Woods said the delay didn't give him or anybody else much of an edge, if any.

"We thought it might give us a break, but that wasn't the case," said Woods, who shot 1-over 73. "It blew just as hard when we got back out."

American Steve Marino finished his round with a knit stocking cap perched hilariously on his noggin, making him look like a tuckered-out Conehead, shooting 76 and not feeling too badly about it.

"It was brutal out there," he said. "Putting was the worst. It was probably the worst conditions I have ever played in."

More decorated players essentially seconded the notion. It wasn't the nastiest wind that former Open champ David Duval has seen, but darned close.

"Top five, for sure," Duval said.

It marked the sixth time since 1999 that a PGA Tour-sanctioned event was halted because of high winds. The seaside breeze was so stiff, Marino once had to hold off from attempting approach shots in the fairway, because his ball was moving in the wind at address on regular turf.

"We had a couple of gusts, I had to back away," Marino said. "I have never seen that before. It was just a grind. You're trying not to get down."

Column

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Or keep your score from going up. Marino estimated the course was playing four shots tougher in the afternoon session because of winds that were clocked as high as 41 mph. With several groups still on the course, the actual number was closer to five.

Even after the weather delay, it blew much of the afternoon at a consistent 30-35 mph, tournament officials said. Considering that there is nary a hill, building or tree on the entire seaside links layout and it felt more like 50 mph at times.

"To be honest, when we got back out there, the gusts were just the same," said European Tour regular Ross McGowan, who shot 68-80.

Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman, usually the last guy to complain about anything, called the course "borderline playable -- at times." Which pretty clearly indicates what it was the rest of the time.

The guys running 1-2 on the leaderboard, Oosthuizen and American veteran Mark Calcavecchia, were in the first two groups off the tee on Friday morning, when it was wet, but not particularly windy. It was no coincidence.

Nobody experienced the double-edged sword of the two days than first-round leader Rory McIlroy, who tied a major-championship record with an opening 63 under benign conditions. Out in the wind on Friday, he skied to an 80, an incredible 17-shot spread. He felt that he lost some rhythm in the 65-minute wind delay.

"I don't think they should have called us off the golf course," McIlroy said. "When we came back, conditions hadn't changed."

European Tour veteran Thomas Levet, who lost in a playoff at the 2002 British Open and has often worked as a BBC commentator, had no problem calling tournament brass onto the carpet for dropping the ball. He said he has a weather forecast back at his room that indicated the wind would blow at 29 mph, but took exception to the series of pin placements that officials elected to set on ridges and humps.

"I don't understand them at all, they are all on top of the slopes," Levet said. "It was bad management. It was written in the weather report yesterday. I saw it."

Levet clearly thrived in the massacre at Muirfield in 2002, when at times it rained and blew harder than at any point this week. But there was one key difference.

"It was set up so we could play it," he said.

At around 7:30 p.m., the wind finally began throttling down to a more manageable 25 mph or so, which is consistent with the local weather pattern, giving the last third of the field a chance to salvage some measure of success. As for the guys who played in the middle of the day, tough luck.

World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who had just completed his round, was standing in front of reporters when fans were told over the Old Course's public-address system that play had been suspended because of unplayable conditions. Just then, his longtime caddie, Jim Mackay, walked into the back of the room.

"That's great," grumbled Mickelson, who then shot a glance at Mackay. "I told you."

Mickelson was either implying that his run of bad weather-related luck had just hit a new low, or that Woods was getting another lucky break. Woods teed off at No. 1 just as Mickelson finished a few yards away on the 18th green, so Lefty's rival had been spared, albeit only temporarily. The timeliness of the suspension of play brought forth some sarcasm.

"I'm happy for these guys," Mickelson smirked. "That's great."

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