It’s a borderline lottery on some holes claimed Charl Schwartzel, grateful to have completed the morning shift.
Don’t ask how hard it is in the afternoon when the greens have been glazed for hours under a remorseless sun. Schwartzel, who shot a 68 to better his score by seven on the second day, predicted horrors on the back nine for the late starters. The important thing is: it has been a horror shared on equal terms.
The golfers on both sides of the draw have effectively played on the same pitch, having each had a crack at the course at its most receptive, which is not always the case in this great championship. Since the weather favoured none above another it was all on the golf, and therefore, if blame were to be attributed, by definition, it could not be laid at the course. It’s links golf, for goodness sake.
Besides, the temperatures are falling on Scotland’s east coast. We might even get drizzle at dawn, taking the heat out of the unplayable greens debate. Lee Westwood had the worst of the conditions on Thursday. He thought the course fair. In a more favourable climate, notionally at least, first thing yesterday he rattled off four birdies to the turn. His great chum Darren Clarke fired a hat-trick of birdies going out. Yes, he had an eight as well but that was the result of an adhesive greenside bunker reluctant to let his ball escape.
The man directing operations here, the Royal and Ancient chief executive, Peter Dawson, accepted the greens had quickened more than anticipated because of the weather but did not agree the course was as unplayable as alleged by some. For every Ian Poulter and Mickelson, advocates for the prosecution, there was a Westwood and a Graeme McDowell speaking in defence of a stupendous venue. As Westwood said, it’s not meant to be a birdie fest. It’s a major.