The Open 2015: After the deluge, Danny Willett takes St Andrews by storm and Justin Rose moves into sight of lead

Englishman holds clubhouse lead

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The Independent Online

Geoffrey Boycott’s position, self-appointed though it is, as the world’s greatest living Yorkshireman might just be under threat. No son of the White Rose has ever won the Open Championship – not that Danny Willett’s two-shot clubhouse lead, fashioned in the lee of a three-hour hiatus for rain, impressed his mother, Elisabet, much.

Willett’s second-round 69 took him to nine under par, two clear of Adam Scott, Marc Warren and Zach Johnson. “Well done, you’ve made the cut,” she said in the first of many texts assailing his phone. We assume Elisabet, who hails from Sweden, must have acquired the down-to-earth presence of the Yorkshire matriarch on life’s journey to Sheffield.

With tee times put back after the early-morning tempest forced the closure of the course before the first group had finished the opening hole, that other Johnson, first-round leader Dustin, and history-maker elect Jordan Spieth knew they would be coming back on Saturday to complete their second rounds, another reason for Willett to punch the disruptive air.

The nature of the rain delay, biblical, and the calling of Willett’s father, a vicar, was a gift for the playful wishing to link the performance of this son of a preacherman with a higher authority. That would be to downgrade the effort of the 27-year-old from Sheffield, who reached the turn in 33 and holed a birdie at the last to secure his advantage.

Willett played in the same 2007 Walker Cup team as Rory McIlroy at Royal County Down. Thereafter paths diverged. McIlroy, a year Willett’s junior, turned professional immediately and began his remarkable odyssey to world No 1. Willett enrolled in the American college system, a more common route with mere mortals, and after overcoming a troublesome back injury two years ago is beginning to put his hand up. Victory at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa at the end of last year thrust him into the world’s top 50 and through golf’s biggest doors.

There are none bigger than St Andrews. The challenge now is to adjust to the air at the top of the leaderboard. “Looking up there it’s still a little bit surreal but something I’m going to have to get used to, otherwise no point in being up there,” Willetts said. “We’re going to try and rest up and then try and go out for another good weekend and hopefully we can be up there in two days’ time.”

It would be better were Willett to looks ahead, not behind. The face of Adam Scott in your rear view mirror does not inspire confidence. Scott powered into contention with a flawless 67. His failure to close out his first major at Lytham three years ago when leading by four with four to play is a powerful motivator to take into the weekend.

 

Justin Rose is another on the shoulder of opportunity, a 68 sliding him nicely into the top 10 at the end of a classic Open day.

The first group, teeing off at 06.32, finished their opening hole shortly after 10am: play was suspended at 6.46. If only the rain had come 15 minutes earlier, Mark Calcavecchia, who shot an 80 on Thursday, could have switched off his alarm and turned over.

The deluge was of Amazonian dimensions, transforming the Old Course into an approximation of the Lake District, impromptu bodies of water forming all over the place. Calcavecchia, Marcel Siem and Jaco van Zyl required rescue by boat. When the weather eventually relented, gangs of greenkeepers were released with their squeegee devices, frantically sweeping aqua into the Swilcan Burn.

With winds forecast to blow at 40mph-plus on Saturday – and that does not allow for gusts – the prospect of further delays is obvious. The R&A, are reluctant to contemplate a Monday finish. Better that than Tuesday, chaps.

On the plus side, lots of water meant softer greens,  lots of birdies, happy golfers. If only for a brief interlude. For those going out first post-apocalypse, St Andrews had become the antithesis of a links course, very little run-out and balls checking on the putting surface. Resplendent in temporary water features, the Old Course was only 30 degrees short of morphing into an outpost of Florida.

So after the storm the plunder. As if picking through the ruins of a cargo boat washed up on the beach, the world’s best golfers went looking for bounty. Ben Martin birdied five in seven holes from the fifth, Tom Lehman opened with a hat-trick of birdies, George Coetzee slotted three in four holes and Liang Wen-Chong picked up five shots in four, including an eagle two at the sixth.

Van Zyl in particular enjoyed it at the second attempt. “Yeah, the first hole was fun, to say the least,” he said. “Good thing is we had a down breeze. I mean, otherwise we would still be out there. It was pretty bad when we started. It had really kind of set in by the time we hit our second shots.

“We were lingering around the green for about five minutes before we actually called it. By the time we got to the first green, it was literally unplayable. So you have some coffee, see the boys work on the golf course, and you look out the window and you’re just grateful you’re not out there playing golf.

“It was a very interesting morning and cleared up nicely, and by the time we got to the back nine, it was not too bad. Yesterday the breeze was up very good. Today it wasn’t quite as severe. You could actually get to 17 in two. I hit quality shot after quality shot on the back nine and managed to make one or two putts, but it was definitely a lot easier than yesterday afternoon.”

Spieth and Dustin Johnson teed off 10 minutes before 6pm under azure skies, nature’s idea of a joke. Walking up the adjacent fairway was Sir Nick Faldo, who stopped on the Swilcan Bridge to pose for pictures with his son, and fellow players Rose and Rickie Fowler. Faldo closed on 71, a dozen better than his opening effort. Not enough to bring him back but sufficient to take his leave with pride.

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