The Open 2015: Nick Faldo feels the winds of change – blame it on that purple tank top

Three-time winner 11 over par

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The Independent Online

Nostalgia is indeed a dangerous tipple. It was a cruelty to expose Sir Nick Faldo to the vagaries of the Scottish summer, fed by arctic winds slicing through the early evening, and ultimately his scorecard, to leave him propping up the field on 11 over par.

It was bad enough that Faldo should parade about St Andrews dressed as a geography teacher in the worst tank top this side of Hadrian’s Wall. Purple. Who’s idea was it to dress the grand old dame of British golf from the lost property box?

The numbers came out in sympathy with his sartorial infractions, a whopping 83 the sum of his labours, including a wretched, triple-bogey eight at the par-five 14th. Ouch.

The game’s greatest Englishman knew the risk he was taking stepping out of the TV commentary box in the United States to immerse himself once more in the mystique of St Andrews. In his imagination the sun was shining and a gentle breeze blowing in off the bay. In reality, Faldo walked out into a stiffening breeze and plummeting temperatures, by some margin the worst conditions of the day.

The low point came at the aforementioned 14th, his errant tee shot lost in the scrub beyond detection in the five minutes allowed, requiring him to take the drive of shame, the buggy back to the tee-box. An eight would result. There was at least a par to finish, and the promise of a hot toddy to bring relief to those aching bones.

Nor was the day kind to 65-year-old Tom Watson. The end he feared is nigh after a four-over-par 76 in the best of the weather.  Should the wind get up as feared, or even if it doesn’t, that early postcard moment he sought to avoid on the Swilcan Bridge looks inevitable. Watson had hoped to eke out the St Andrews experience until Sunday at least. There was in his wildest deliberations the thought of a top-10 finish to bring him back for one more crack next year at Troon.

Were he able to summon the talent he first brought to bear on this championship 40 years ago when he won at Carnoustie on debut, he would have to go some to make the cut. The tools, as he acknowledged before a ball was hit, are no longer in the box.

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The ball pops off the face apologetically rather than explodes, as it does off the clubs of the warrior class he leaves behind. The snap has gone in this company, but not the love. Watson was greeted with a sea of masks, a measure of the esteem in which he is held by this adoring golf community. Not that he approved of his depiction.

It was a moot point which offended most, the masks or his back nine. “Those are ugly masks. I told them there are way too many wrinkles. It kind of scared me looking at those, like ‘geez, look at those things; that guy is ugly’.”

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Watson should cut himself more slack. Whether wrinkled or unlined there is beauty enough in his grand depart. For the first 10 holes he was in the game, a birdie at the 10th took him to two under. His failure to respect the old adage to keep a six off the card cost him on the run for home.

“Too many sixes. That’s what I said in the recorder’s office. I was trying when I got it to a couple under par, I knew the back nine was going to play a little tougher into the wind, and I knew I had to hit some quality shots, and I didn’t. That was the disappointment. I didn’t follow up some of the good shots I hit in the middle of the round and finish the deal. I failed. The wind is going to blow hard. I’m going to have to play an extraordinary round tomorrow probably to make the cut.”

Not so 21-year-old amateur American Jordan Niebrugge, delivering the novelty knock of the day, a 67 to place him level with compatriot and greater Jordan, Spieth.

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