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Rain Dead Wicked weather in a wild third round killed a crop of contenders

July 29, 2002
July 29, 2002

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July 29, 2002

Golf Plus

Rain Dead Wicked weather in a wild third round killed a crop of contenders

The massacre at Muirfield began innocently enough. Last Saturday
dawned with light rain, a faint breeze and a bit of a chill,
conditions that the natives would rank somewhere between a wee
dampie and bloody typical. When Duffy Waldorf arrived at the
Muirfield clubhouse early in the afternoon, the sky had cleared.
"It was sunny and bright and only a little breezy," said
Waldorf, who was tied for the lead and had a 3:20 p.m. tee time.
"I was the happiest guy in the world."

This is an article from the July 29, 2002 issue

The Duffy, as he's known on his hat, ducked inside for a quick
lunch. When he stepped back out, "it was raining and howling,"
he said. "What happened?" Welcome to Scotland, where sunny skies
go to die.

What ensued was the squall that ate the 131st British Open. Or,
at least, the storm that swallowed the Grand Slam. Saturday's
weather was not even close to the worst seen east of Edinburgh
this year, but the conditions were the most horrendous in the
recent history of major championships, more brutal even than the
torrential rain that hit the second round of this summer's U.S.
Open. The wind gusted to more than 30 mph, the rain blew
sideways, and the temperature dropped so low--to a windchill of
38[degrees]--that the players and the fans could see their
breath. Starting his round just as the squall hit, Tiger Woods
shot the highest score of his professional career, a 10-over-par
81, falling from a tie for ninth to 67th place by the end of the
day. "On the 4th or 5th hole, I don't know if there was sleet or
not," Woods said, "but that rain hurt."

The storm was as strong as it was sudden. "I teed off at 1:55,"
said Corey Pavin, who hit woods on three of the four par-3 holes
and shot 75, "and it started raining at, oh, 1:58. You can't
play in worse weather, unless it's snowing." Said Soren Hansen
of Denmark, "I was on the range, and it was hammering down so
hard you could hardly hit balls. It was like the apocalypse. I
was simply trying to survive." Hansen scraped out a 73, in part
because he had one of the final tee times, and the wind and rain
lessened in the early evening, giving those players a break.
Nevertheless, Saturday's final eight twosomes were a combined 88
over par.

Even though only about half the field had to contend with the
worst of the squall, there were more scores in the 80s (10) than
in the 60s (four). The first 20 groups had an average score of
72.59. For the final 22 pairings, the average ballooned to 76.41.
Only three scores were worse than Woods's. One of them belonged
to Colin Montgomerie. A day after tying the course record with a
64, he gallumphed to an 84, tying Lee Janzen for high round of
the day. (Warren Bennett had an 82.)

"I can't remember anything like it since the British Amateur at
Hoylake in 1975," said Nick Price, who shot a 75 on Saturday.
"It was potluck out there. You don't expect this at Muirfield in
July." Here's what Price really didn't expect: At the 4th hole,
a par-3 that measured 209 yards to the pin--straight into the
wind--Price watched Montgomerie hit a three-wood 20 yards short
of the green. "There's only one club for this shot," Price told
his caddie, and pulled a driver, which got him onto the green,
two yards short of pin-high. "So the ball went about 207," said
Price, "but that was probably the best green in regulation I've
ever had."

The strange day caused strange shots. Stephen Ames of Trinidad
was trying to tee off on the 4th hole when the club slipped out
of his hands on his downswing. He hit the ball, but it squirted
off into the fescue, and Ames didn't even bother to look for it
because there was no chance it would be playable. He reteed and
made a quadruple-bogey 7 en route to an 81. Janzen badly hooked
his drive off the 5th tee and hit a provisional. Luckily he
found the first one, "because we never found the provisional,"
said Janzen, who nonetheless suffered a double bogey.

Even the long hitters were turned into Lilliputians. The field's
average driving distance on the two holes used for measuring,
the 5th and the 10th, were 285.3 and 268.0 yards, respectively,
on Thursday. On Saturday the average on 5 was only 246.9, and on
10 it was 245.7. Woods hit a five-iron all of 135 yards on his
second shot on the 378-yard 3rd hole, and, he said, "I ripped
it." Sergio Garcia, who played only half of his round in the
heavy stuff and shot a 71, hit driver, three-wood on the
475-yard 10th and said he had "no chance to reach the green."
When Garcia finished, he was two under for the tournament and
tied for seventh. Asked if he'd go back out if he could be four
under (which would've tied him for the lead at that point), he
laughed and said, "I don't want to be out there even if I'm 11
under." Right answer. By day's end he was tied for third.

Waldorf had the wildest ride. He shot a 45 on the front nine and
was 10 over through 10 holes but then birdied five holes on the
back for 32 and a surreal 77. "I couldn't feel anything," he
said. "Usually when it gets this cold, it snows."

Waldorf topped his tee shot at the 6th hole into a large bush 35
yards in front of the tee. He topped his provisional into the
same bush and told his caddie, "We'd better find that first one
because I sure don't want to play the provisional." They found
both balls a few feet apart. Waldorf took an unplayable and went
back to the tee for a third tee shot, this time to replay his
first ball. When he finally holed out for his second straight
double bogey, he couldn't figure out his score on the hole. "I
was running out of brain cells," he said. "That took a lot out
of me."

The luckiest players were the ones who were one or two over
after the second round and seemingly out of the tournament. They
went out early and finished ahead of the bad weather. Ian
Woosnam started the day in 69th place, at two over. After
shooting a 73, he watched on TV as the rest of the field battled
the brutal elements. "I was waiting for my name to come up to
the leader board...at four over par," said Woosnam, who did
rise 15 places, to 54th. "I had a bit of a smile on my face."

On Saturday that put him in a small minority.

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BOB MARTIN [INSIDE COVER] BRITISH OPEN Ernie Els MASTER OF MUIRFIELDCOLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY FRED VUICH [INSIDE T of C] SANDSATIONAL Ernie Els handled Muirfield's steep-faced bunkers better than most last week, making a couple of crucial sand saves on Sunday to win his third major.COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY HEINZ KLUETMEIER WHIPPED The fans had come to see Woods go for the Grand Slam but instead saw him get slam-dunked by the weather.TWO COLOR PHOTOS: ROBERT BECK (HANSON, PETTERSSON) COLDCOCKED Stung by the storm were (clockwise from left) Hansen (73), Des Smyth (74) and Carl Pettersson (76).COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN [See caption above]
"It was hammering down so hard you could hardly hit balls," said
Hansen. "It was like the apocalypse."