The old course took its revenge on the young leader in chilling fashion here yesterday. After a 63 in the first round, Rory McIlroy shot an 80 in the second round. Seventeen shots difference, so nearly one for each hole. The crestfallen Ulsterman was the poster boy for an X-rated show.
So Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen was the name that everyone had to get their wind-chapped lips around last night. The opening calm of the 139th Open Championship gave way to gust-ridden mayhem. Yes, St Andrews struck back, downing Rory with her 40mph gusts. But only after allowing an unheralded South African to steal a remarkable five-stroke march on the field.
In fairness to Oosthuizen – known as Louis in the programme and Shrek to his friends – his early-morning 67 for a championship-equalling halfway total of 12-under was beautifully composed in grey conditions that could only be classed as easy in relation to the hell to follow. Like his nearest pursuers on the scoreboard – Mark Calcavecchia on seven-under, England's Paul Casey and Lee Westwood nicely placed on six-under – he made the most of his good fortune. Oh how he must have enjoyed returning to his hotel room sometime before lunch to watch the havoc ensue.
The afternoon starters who had capitalised on the benign birdie-filled millpond of the morning before were now presented with a bogey-laden whirlpool. There were 13 scores in the 80s and there may be a few more when 30 players resume at 6.30am to finish their rounds. With the scoring average leaping up five shots, it was fair to say the links lottery had balanced the books somewhat. From hitting the jackpot, McIlroy hit dirt.
"I've never experienced anything like that before," he said. "It was a complete contrast. It was very, very difficult and I just let it get to me." And not just the conditions, either. At 2.40pm the hooters sounded across Fife. Balls were oscillating on the greens and with the ridiculous rule which says a player will be penalised if the ball moves when addressed, the officials felt obliged to suspend play. McIlroy didn't see the point. "I don't think they should have called us off the course," he said. "When we got back out there the conditions hadn't changed; in fact the wind had probably got a little bit worse. It wasn't a smart move."
Should they have been brought off? Should they have been brought back on? Should they have been brought in, even, instead of having to sit in vans parked by their fairways? It was total chaos. Initially, the crowd was none the wiser as to what was going on, although Tom Watson should be applauded for walking over to a disabled section in the galleries on the first fairway and explaining the scenario. For 65 minutes they waited. Then the carnage resumed.
From looking rather comfortable in parring the first three, McIlroy returned to bogey four of the next five. What a wildly contrasting figure the 21-year-old cut as his devastation intensified on the back nine. A four-putt on the 11th, further bogeys on the 13th and 15th. "I did well to par the last three," he sighed.
There was notable bravery, including the 73 by Tiger Woods. The world No 1 summoned all his recovery powers to stay in the hunt at four-under. He so almost produced the characteristic grandstand finish when driving his ball to 12 feet on the par-four 18th. Somehow the eagle putt stayed out and Woods threw his putter in anger.
And all the while Louis rubbed his hands. The world No 54 had come into this championship with a record in the majors to inspire dread rather than hope. Oosthuizen had appeared in eight majors before and missed the cut in seven of them. The one time he had made the weekend – at the 2008 USPGA – he finished dead last. "It's probably the position anyone wants to be in playing a major on the weekend," said Oosthuizen.
With the flags pointing straight outwards there was no "probably" about it, although Casey and Westwood will be more than satisfied with their position. The former has been suffering with a throat infection, but produced the latest advert for the miracle of antibiotics with a second successive 69. It would have been so much better had he not treble-bogeyed the Road hole 17th after a visit to the daftly thick rough on the left. But as he put it: "If you'd offered me six-under at this point I would have snapped your arm off."
His countryman was not so enthused with the same total, but then Westwood has high expectations at every major nowadays. "I should be 10-under," said the world No 3 after again three-putting the last green. "But I'm right there." Indeed, he is and with his calf injury painful but clearly manageable he must have one heck of a shout of ending the 11-year void of home winners at The Open.
Alas, there will no dream reprise of Watson's heroics at Turnberry last year. The 60-year-old was far from disgraced with a 75, but at four-over his tournament is over. As is his career at St Andrews, this being the last Open he will contest here. When the hooter blessedly sounded to signal the end of play at 9.50pm, Watson was on the 18th. So, as the legends do, he stopped on the Swilcan Bridge to wave his goodbye. A touching scene to climax a day otherwise devoid of sentiment.
Open left in suspense
Yesterday's was the first suspension of play in the Open Championship due to wind since 1998 at Royal Birkdale. Two years ago there was a brief wind delay, again at Birkdale, but it was not official as the players remained in position to restart. Stewart Cink, the defending champion here, recalled the previous suspension 12 years ago. "The wind then was blowing at least 10 miles per hour faster than today. But that delay only lasted 30 or 40 minutes," the American said. Yesterday's suspension was called at 2.40pm and play restarted at 3.45pm.
Old Course Leader Board
12 under L Oosthuizen (SA)
7 under M Calcavecchia (US)
6 under P Casey; L Westwood; A Canizares (Sp); S Tiley
5 under T Lehman (US); R Barnes (US); P Hanson (Swe); M A Jimenez (Sp); G McDowell; R Goosen (SA); T Woods (US); J Jeong (Kor)
4 under I Garrido (Sp); T Taniguchi (Japan); R Karlsson (Swe); M Kaymer (Ger); N Watney (US); S O'Hair (US); R Ishikawa (Japan); F Andersson Hed (Swe)Reuse content