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Sandwich survivors prepare for savage battle

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Rob Hodgetts | 21:52 UK time, Friday, 15 July 2011


They've survived the shipwreck. Now those left clinging to the liferafts have got to weather the storm.

The notoriously tricky Royal St George's discarded a host of big names, including the world's top two players, on Friday. Luke Donald and Lee Westwood were among the casualties on a splendid, but savage, summer's day at Sandwich. But now the ante is being upped.

The forecast for Saturday is for heavy rain and 20-25mph winds, gusting to 35mph. Similar for Sunday.

The rain's not too bad. It rains all over the world. But add the wind and a course that yielded just 22 rounds under par in the sunshine - and 18 players below par at halfway - becomes a mind-twister. Like trying to play bagatelle on the deck of a heaving ship.

Saturday might traditionally be dubbed "Moving Day" as players make their charge, but "Shake It All About Day" might be more apt.

Fierce winds and a drying sun at St Andrews last year forced play to be suspended for more than an hour because balls were moving on the greens. Rory McIlroy was the biggest casualty, and after an opening 63, he returned a second-round 80. This year the new US Open champion is still very much in the hunt at halfway - four behind leaders Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover.

Darren Clarke enjoyed a second successive 68 to move to the top of the leaderboard

Darren Clarke is aiming to improve on his best Open finish of second in 1997. Picture: Getty

But irrespective of the forecast, the eye is drawn to the name of old-stager Clarke at the top of the leaderboard. The 41-year-old is enjoying a renaissance and providing another good Open story. He was second in 1997 and third in 2001 and convention would suggest a Northern Irishman thrives in bad weather.

"I believe the forecast for the weekend is very, very poor, which I quite look forward to," he said. "I've been doing a lot of practising in bad weather because that's usually what we get at Portrush. Hopefully it will stand me in good stead.

"But the course is going to play very, very tough. If that's the case, then the tournament is still wide open for an awful lot of players."

Old adages don't always work out, of course. Take Clarke's countryman Graeme McDowell, for example.

"Theoretically, it should be good for him but people always say I love bad weather, but I don't," said McDowell. Last year's US Open champion doesn't need to worry - he also fell foul of St George's on Friday.

But Clarke won't have the monopoly on rain suit and umbrella skills. "If the rain and the wind comes in then it's a battle," said Kaymer. "I'm prepared for some mental strength out there."

Even Phil Mickelson - not noted for toughing it out on a wind-ravaged links - has been talking up his appetite for a fight. "Historically, I've not played great in windy conditions and rain but I welcome the challenge," said the Californian.

Royal St George's head pro Andrew Brooks said at the start of the week that the winning score was likely to be around par and five-time champion Tom Watson concurred on Friday.

"They're not going to be screaming under par. It is a difficult golf course, but the conditions are going to make it super difficult the next two days," said Watson.

Four-time major champion Mickelson, still searching for a first Open win, says he enjoys trying to solve the links puzzle but lamented the set-up this week.

"The hard holes have fair, easy pin placements and the easy holes have ridiculously hard pin placements so we don't see many birdies other than maybe on the par fives," he said.

So is a war of attrition good to watch? Well, it depends on your taste.
But the nature of the challenge of a links course always catches some players pleasantly by surprise.

"I heard one of the players I played with in a practice round today say, 'links golf, I love it'" said Watson. "All we do all year is just play yardage, ball, air, flag, yardage. Here you get the yardage but then you start thinking, 'what do you do?' 'How am I going to get there? Where do I get this ball where I want it to go?' Sometimes you just can't get it there."

That last line might be the problem on Saturday. But as always, it's the same for everyone. Dig deep, and Sandwich may not seem so savage after all.


  • Comment number 1.

    Two solid par rounds from Clarke would do very nicely by the sounds of the weekend conditions!

  • Comment number 2.

    Kaymer is going to take the title, I can just feel it. The elegant fader is perfect for this course, although the wind and rain might be a little unfamiliar to him. Mcilroy has been over-hyped, as always. Probably the most talented player since Tiger Woods, but people have ruined his chances by comparing him with Woods, probably the best golfer ever. Obviously, I was hoping he could repeat Woods success years ago but 4 titles in a row - thats inhuman. Just let him play golf, he's won a major, be satisfied with that, don't start comparing him to masters, he's only a young boy with talent. Meanwhile, even if Woods came back at 50 percent of what he was he would be better than any golfer on the planet, so I've got my heart in my mouth.

  • Comment number 3.

    I want to come on and give my predictions on who I think will win, but with the wind picking up I feel it could be any one of the people that make the cut. I wouldnt begrudge Darren Clarke a win, he's had a tough couple of years and would be a great comeback.

    To totally do the opposite from what im saying though, I think the winners gonna come from Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel or Dustin Johnson. Ive got a sneaky feeling for Johnson, the only thing putting me off is the bbc commentators telling me he is ill all day. Whatever happens, I hope its a memorable finish !!!

  • Comment number 4.

    How close is this Open with just 7 shots separating all the players going into the weekend!! As a Northern Irishman I would love to see Darren use his undoubted links expertise to win the 140th Open but history would suggest that whilst his game is sound his mental strength isn't. Unfortunately I don't think Rory's game is suited to poor weather so we will have to look others to show their metal in order to win. For me players like Texans Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer are strong contenders this weekend and I know Jason Day likes his links golf so I will plump for one of those three. Any which way its going to be a very interesting 2 days and whoever wins this will be a very worthy winner.

  • Comment number 5.

    If the weather forecast is anywhere near correct, then this will really open the field up. Possible level par might be a good score and that could play in a solid player like Jacobson or someone who can hold it together whilst everyone else falters (Phil Mickelson).

  • Comment number 6.

    In rough weather it will become a lottery. Looking at it, anyone who made the cut now has a chance to win. There are only 7 shots between the entire field left.

  • Comment number 7.

    Sergio seems to be enjoying himself more than most, not something which has been noticeable for a while. But the wind and the rain.... we'll have to see. Punditry is having a bad Open so far but, given that the half way casualties mostly looked as though they were definitely not enjoying Sandwich, enjoyment may be the key to survival. I wonder how they might all have managed if the wind got up as it did in Reg Whitcombe's 1938 Open and blew the marquees down!

  • Comment number 8.

    Ball-striking will be the order of the day and so less importance on the putting I think, so Sergio's definitely in with a shout. Regardless of the hype, McIlroy is very well placed, maybe Rock to stand solid in the wind...

  • Comment number 9.

    I am not a massive golf fan and would not normally follow until the last day but this is different. The course is so different from the normal beautiful manicured ones you see so many of in the US and the wind and today the rain - it really seems to sort out the men from the boys. This is so absorbing I cannot tear myself away.

  • Comment number 10.

    Charl is a good bet. I think Love III and Lehman will be up there as well.

    Disappointed to see Lee and Luke out.

  • Comment number 11.

    Its a real tough one as would love Clarke to win but have had a bet on Lucas Glover at 200-1 so would be happy to see him win as well.

    Could see some big score racked up today and tomorrow so still wide open.

  • Comment number 12.

    I fancy Clarke or Stickler as both hit the ball low naturally. McIlroy, Fowler and most of the others are high carry hitters and I think the wind will blow them apart.

  • Comment number 13.

    I have to agree with people saying Schwartzel is looking pretty good, and I've said Day is playing well all year. Obviously backing the 1-2 finishers from Augusta isn't exactly pushing the boat out, so I'll pop a shout for Lehman in there as well.

    Should be good...

  • Comment number 14.

    It's going to be carnage out there today. You can't win the Open today but a whole load of big names will lose it with the likes of Mickelson, Clarke and Jiminez all likely to shoot rounds in the high 70s. I've no idea who's going to win but it could well be a score of 2/3 over that takes the honour tomorrow afternoon.

  • Comment number 15.

    "I heard one of the players I played with in a practice round today say, 'links golf, I love it'" said Watson. "All we do all year is just play yardage, ball, air, flag, yardage. Here you get the yardage but then you start thinking, 'what do you do?' 'How am I going to get there? Where do I get this ball where I want it to go?' Sometimes you just can't get it there."

    Irrespective of who wins, I think the most important thing is that the course is not going to be "eaten up",the weather has played its part, and players have to really think.

    Surely, the top majors should be as hard as possible, enough rough and bunkers in play to deter the power guys (surely the game is primarily about skill ?) whilst being fair in things like pin positions.

    Sit back and enjoy

  • Comment number 16.

    Rain and more rain today producing very difficult conditions.....not just in Kent but everywhere. So we have lots of club golfers eager to see how the worlds best cope. Instead, interminable interviews. Why can't the BBC provide live coverage for our greatest UK golf event ?

  • Comment number 17.

    bbc coverage started at 10am its now 11am and we haven't seen a ball struck yet. What is going on. I'd like to see some golf not listen endlessly to great and the good talking about it.

    pull your finger out beeb

  • Comment number 18.

    Every single one of the experts' picks missed the cut. hmmm:

  • Comment number 19.

    Yes, John, it's proper golf, much more enjoyable than the modern inland course. I like the quote from Tom Watson above. Some of the heathland courses come close though. And it should be hard, it is the top Major after all.

    Would love to see one of the old stagers win this time, Tom Watson, Darren Clarke, M-A Jiminez, Thomas Bjorn. It might be quite appropriate if a Spaniard won this year - I wish Sergio would finally get it together to win one, very few bogeys, if he could get his putter going.... Or one of the real young ones - Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler looks to have the temperament, Tom Lewis - if he could get out of his head the expectations of everyone that amateurs and 20 year olds don't win, then he could do it - what a story that would be.

    Well, the forecast says it's an excellent weekend to be sitting watching it all on TV.

  • Comment number 20.

    this is the worst open coverage i've ever seen..absolute rubbish

  • Comment number 21.

    @ Artistsview number 5

    Rory is far more gifted than tiger woods, tiger woods greatest ever???hes not even near to jacks record of 18 majors, so how ytou have come to that conclusion is beyond me.

    Rory is a far better ball striker than woods, better swing, and if he gets woods mental strenght he will surpass woods. Dont forget when woods won the masters in 1997, it took him a while to win a major. Rory could have and perhaps should have won 3 at the age of 22, if thats not talent then i dont know what is.

    Woods is a nasty person in everyway on and off the course, so stop worshipping some sinking ship from the past and support the great european golfers such as kaymer, rory, manessero etc...

  • Comment number 22.

    I have tuned in to watch the golf all i can see is so called experts yaking on for over a hour I want to watch golf not listen to this rubbish

  • Comment number 23.

    1 hour 26 mins into the program and we finally see a shot!

  • Comment number 24.

    Yes I agree the coverage has been swamped by a lot of irrelevant waffle, anyway for what its worth I believe Jason Day and Simon Dyson are good outside bets to come through and lift the Claret Jug.

  • Comment number 25.

    How many slow motion shots of people under umbrellas or kids eating ice cream can be shown before somebody at the BBC realises they are ruining a potentially exciting days golf.
    Terrible coverage. It's getting worse every year.

  • Comment number 26.

    This is the worst BBC Open coverage ever but it has nothing to do with the weather! Aimless shots of the course, players walking the length of a hole, pictures of umbrellas etc lead me to believe that they are pandering to the Americans by allowing them time for an advertising break. Come on BBC there are loads of golfers on the course so let's see them playing!

  • Comment number 27.

    The commentary so far as told us that the big British names at the top of the world rankings have all gone home having missed the cut.

    Why can't the BBC now focus on some of our other British players like Robert Rock. He hasn't done much this year apart from winning the Italian Open and making the cut in his first US Open, ( and because he arrived unavoidabley late and jet lagged, didn't even have time for a practice round.

    Come on let's hear it for RockyQ!!

  • Comment number 28.

    What has happened to the "World Number 1 & 2"?
    How can they play so well one week and so bad at the Majors? Dreadful display by Donald and Westwood!

  • Comment number 29.

    Nice to see our Northern Ireland golfers doing so well. Just remember that I come from the Southern part of Ireland and the golf levy I have paid per year over the past 40 years has helped create/foster the McIlroys, McDowells, Clarkes & Harringtons to be the golfers they are today. You must remember that the GUI (The Golfing Union of Ireland) is based on the whole of Ireland and not just the Northen part as some BBC comentators seem to think.

  • Comment number 30.

    Weather similar to Burnley GC where Captain Michael Bentley has had to abandon his Captains Day. Question Why do pros not wear wet ones ie specialist wet weather gloves

  • Comment number 31.

    Can we get a comment from the great Peter Allis pse

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm finding the coverage of the Bjorg and Jimenez game abysmal. We'er lucky to see a single stroke per hole. It's worse than watching highlights ! Lots of shots of the crowds though.

  • Comment number 33.

    I tend to agree with the adverse comments about the coverage. Still miles better than the coverage we get on American events, but less of the "arty" stuff and more shots being shown please. I also thought the first part of today's coverage was wasted. I don't mind some discussion, but show us pictures of the play, not the discussion group.

  • Comment number 34.

    And don't forget it's advert free!

  • Comment number 35.

    the bbc coverage is so bad, prefer to show players walking down the fairway than playing shots, 10 of the top 20 have hardly been seen today.

  • Comment number 36.

    The Irish are on top again...when will these guys give the rest of the world a chance.

    Well done Darren Clarke!

  • Comment number 37.

    Trust me to back the wrong North Irishman. But surely its not too late to recover !!

  • Comment number 38.

    Great Open coverage on the iplayer allowing me to work and watch.
    I don’t understand why our local Midlands star Rocky who is doing great is never mentioned or seen.
    We have had hours of less successful golfers that never made the cut but nothing of our Rocky who did and is a definite contender. If he dose win it will be great and the BBC will have to find some footage.

  • Comment number 39.


    Ifs and buts. LOL!

    Do you think it's easy to win a major? Any one of 150 players can win!!!

    It's possible that Donald and Westwood will never win a major. It's possible that Rory will not win another major.

  • Comment number 40.

    It would be difficult to be more wrong so far if I tried with my predictions.I thought an englishman would win and dyson is the closest and miles back and to be fair didn't give the americans a prayer.As I am from Northern Ireland (there are 1 and 1/2 million of us approx) I am glad to see that DC has a chance to make it 3 different NORTHERN Irish major winners within 14 odd months.odds anyone feb 2010?
    Go on darren,what a story also for the big lad if he does it!


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