Something extraordinary happened here yesterday – the sun made an appearance and Paul Lawrie, a foul-weather golfer, hit the top of the leaderboard at the Wales Open, otherwise known as the Long Weekend or Groundhog Day.
Mercifully, the weather, traditionally unkind to this tournament, relented and the players were involved in a marathon session. With play severely restricted by rain, mist and lightning during what was supposed to be the second round on Friday, all the best-laid plans were redrawn.
The aim, as it always is, is to salvage a 72-hole tournament, which meant that yesterday morning the players started at 7.30am when few people in Wales, apart from cockle gatherers and greenkeepers, were stirring themselves from their beds.
There simply were not enough hours in the day to recoup all the lost time, but they played for as long as they could and, under the circumstances, it was a commendable effort from everybody involved. Well, not quite everybody. Seven players retired and four more withdrew, and if you are wondering what on earth the difference is between the two categories, the retired walked off the course during their rounds while the withdrawals informed officials of their exits before getting anywhere near the first tee. Bad backs are the chief culprits.
That and a lack of sleep. "I was up at five this morning and I was still yawning my head off on the sixth hole," Richard Green said. "It was a bit of a struggle but I got through it. Mentally it is hard to get yourself going but you just have to deal with it the best you can."
Lawrie, who won the Open when the going got tough at Carnoustie in 1999, resumed his second round at sparrows' chorus yesterday and was back in the on-site hotel in time for a hearty breakfast, looking down on the rest of the field at 12 under par for the championship.
Although most of the field had to return to the first tee to start the third round yesterday evening, Lawrie and the other leaders were excused duty. They will play, weather permitting, 36 holes today.
"That prospect doesn't worry me," Lawrie said. "I feel very fit. I've been working at my fitness over a long period and I've lost a little weight but gained strength."
The Scotsman was flying in the second round on Friday when Celtic Manor, the venue for the Ryder Cup in 2010, put on the waterproofs and took shelter. Yesterday morning, Lawrie returned to the 12th hole where he faced an 8ft putt for a birdie and sank it. "I thought it was about 6ft but when I got back and had a closer look it was more like 8ft and it went right into the middle, which was just the start I was looking for," Lawrie said.
"It was a satisfactory morning's work. I went back to the hotel to chill out. These stop-starts are just part of the job. It was the same last week in the Scottish Professionals Match Play Championship. It was called off at Deeside because of flooding so we went to Royal Aberdeen and there we had fog delays. You can't win." In fact, he did win.
Twelve months ago, the 12th hole, a par three of 211 yards, was called the glorious 12th. On that date, after play had been decimated by bad weather, three players – Lawrie, the Irishman Paul McGinley and the Englishman Daren Lee – went into a sudden-death playoff. In a compromise which was better than nothing, Lawrie made an early exit and McGinley, on his fifth visit to the 12th, took the title.
Lawrie's birdie at the 12th yesterday, followed by two more at the 16th and 18th, enabled him to compile a second round of 65 for a halfway aggregate of 132, 12 under, and two in front of the Australian Green and the Englishman John Bickerton.
Bickerton, who completed a 67 yesterday morning, said: "It's going to be a long old day. You can't really prepare for it other than to get plenty of rest, mentally assume it is like every other tournament and go out there and play against the course. We're all in the same boat and have all been there before. We've just got to get on with it. People have put a lot of effort into this tournament and it would be nice to see it paid off with some decent weather." Amen.Reuse content