Snedeker, Donald charging; others erratic at Open
(AP Photo/Tim Hales)
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) Heads up! Despite another day that seemed custom-made for going low, they were spraying shots all over the place at a water-logged British Open.
Rory McIlroy knocked his ball onto an adjoining tee box at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and needed a couple of whacks to escape a towering pot bunker. Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Keegan Bradley also got in plenty of work on their sand shots. And no one took a bigger tumble than the big-hitting Belgian, Nicolas Colsaerts.
Perhaps the most surprising player of the opening round with a 5-under 65, Colsaerts was 6-over par through 12 holes, tumbling off a leaderboard topped by charging Brandt Snedeker, who followed an opening 66 with three birdies in the first seven holes Friday to push his score to 7 under, one stroke ahead of first-round leader Adam Scott.
McIlroy was forced into scramble mode by several wayward shots, most notably his second shot from the right rough at No. 3. He yanked it far left of the green, the ball plopping down on the fourth tee box and giving a bit of a jolt to Toshinori Muto, who was getting ready to hit his drive. McIlroy actually caught a break, his ball barely avoiding the thick rough, but he still took a bogey.
The young Northern Irishman was still even for the day when he teed off at par-3 ninth. He pushed it into a bunker right of the green, then chunked his first attempt to get over a wall of sod that was about as tall as he is. He wound up with a double-bogey and slipped to 1 under for the tournament.
Colsaerts dropped even more. The European Tour regular ran into trouble right away with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3. He totally fell apart at the par-5 seventh, normally one of the easier holes on the course. His third shot missed the green, winding up in the dreaded rough. He flubbed his attempted escape, the ball going barely 10 yards and still in the tall grass.
Barely able to see it, Colsaerts took another big swing and apparently missed. Finally, he chunked it out on his third try, the ball zipping over the green. A pitch and a putt left him with a triple-bogey 8.
Rickie Fowler, a contender last year at Royal St. George's, was erratic this time around. The American had only two pars on the front nine, canceling out four birdies with two bogeys and a triple-bogey 7 at the third, leaving him 2 over for the tournament.
Last year's runner-up appeared set for an early exit from England. Mickelson bogeyed the third, double-bogeyed the sixth and made the turn at 6 over through 27 holes, very much in danger of missing the cut.
World No. 1 Luke Donald had no such concerns, giving the home fans a thrill with four birdies in five holes on the front side, pushing him onto the leaderboard at 3 under.
"Luuuuuke!" the gallery chanted after Donald rolled one in at No. 8 and pumped his fist.
The erratic play early on was a striking contrast to the opening round. Scott tied the course record with a 64, while 52 other players shot no worse than par. For the first time since 1998, no one in the 156-player field opened with a score in the 80s.
"It was just like a nice walk in the park," Scott said.
After heavy rain overnight inundated the course, turning some bunkers into ponds and prompting the R&A to request fans delay their arrival so the grounds could dry out, the second round began as scheduled under sunny, blue skies. There was just a hint of the feared breezes off the Irish Sea that give the links course its bite.
The rain which has soaked Britain throughout the spring and summer largely stayed away during Day 1, only to return with a vengeance during the night. One of the main spectator gates was closed at the start of play as workers furiously tried to push away all the standing water.
"We've had far more rain overnight than we were expecting, unfortunately," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told BBC Radio. "But the course can take it as the drainage here is good. There is some standing water, but we can play golf, and the rules of golf will deal with the casual water."
The bunkers were the main issue. Already vulnerable to flooding because of the closeness of the sea and rains that have been over the top even by the standards of this water-logged nation, several traps had been transformed into mini-ponds by the latest batch of showers. There was also some standing water in the fairways, which the morning players tiptoed through after hitting their shots.
The leaderboard was filled with major champions. Paul Lawrie and Zach Johnson also started with 65s. McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell were among those at 67. All know what it's like to win on golf's biggest stages.
Scott, who is still seeking his first major title, was determined not to take himself out of contention in the opening round at Royal Lytham, as he had done in the first two majors this year. Caddie Steve Williams gave him a pep talk to play the first hole like it was the last one.
Trying to end a four-year drought in the majors, Woods raced out to four birdies in seven holes to take the early lead, only to settle into a series of pars and one adventure through grass up to his knees for a lone bogey. In his third Open at Lytham, Woods said it was as easy as he had ever seen it play.
Lawrie won his British Open in nasty conditions at Carnoustie in 1999, and the Scot showed he could handle the calm weather with equal aplomb. He ran off three birdies over the last five holes. Johnson, who won the 2007 Masters in the wind and cold at Augusta National, flirted with a major record-tying 63 until a bogey on the 17th hole.
Snedeker is hoping to break into the exclusive club.
If he does, it would be the 16th different winner in the last 16 majors.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Updated July 20, 2012