The British Open at St. Andrews is fast, firm and unpredictable

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — The dear Old Course began his final star run at 268, and when the first reviews arrived at the 150th British Open, the gorgeous geezer raked in the usual nods for beauty and history, but also received descriptions like “fiddly,” “a little funky,” and “weird.” He got a nuanced defense of his apparent permissiveness from Rory McIlroy. How typically nice of him.

Have you ever seen a course from this company, Mr. Scheffler?

“No,” said Scottie Scheffler, the reigning Masters champion ranked first in the world. “I’m not kidding, I think the fairways are faster than the greens in some places.”

They say it’s true.

“They are? I’m glad I don’t lose my mind.”

Tiger Woods gets a divot and a flurry and a 78, but it’s still significant

And to think he shot a 68, joining a crowd of 26 with scores in the 60s. It deepened a trend at St. Andrews in this century of supersonic equipment; there have been 23 first rounds in the 60s here in 2015, 45 in 2010 out of control, 20 in 2005, 25 in 2000. Thursday’s early scores, with Cameron Young’s 8-under par 64 in the lead, caused some frets that old St. Andrews might come under bombardment, a concern with a solution: Ask Rory.

“The golf course plays so, so short,” McIlroy said after his fairly windless morning 66 for second place. “But it’s always tricky. It’s not like – there’s an 8 cent, there’s a 6 cent, a 5 cent. It’s not like everyone turns off the lights. … So it’s not like it’s very, very easy there. It’s delicate. Some of the pin positions, I think that’s what they’re going to do over the next few days. They will just hide the pins and make it very difficult for some of them to approach. And even today they did.

Many people were still prospering. They included two of golf‘s impressive Camerons: Young up front and Smith in third with a 5-under 67. They included a bushel of those who left competitive golf and joined LIV Golf: Talor Gooch (68), Dustin Johnson (68), Lee Westwood (68), Ian Poulter (69) and Bryson DeChambeau (69).

They included three names from the country of golf mastery South Korea, all with 69s: Joo-Hyung Kim, KH Lee and Si Woo Kim, the last of which gave a souvenir to anyone who sat at No. 17 on their way out. from the Godzilla bunker. the. They included regular suitors such as Xander Schauffele (69), notorious young stars such as Viktor Hovland (68) and Joaquin Niemann (69), young Californians like Kurt Kitayama (68) and Sahith Theegala (69) ), and even another guy. who is not originally from California but plays there, amateur Barclay Brown (68) from around Sheffield, England, and Stanford University.

Still, everyone from four-time major winner McIlroy to descendants thought the old star was in a weird mood.

“It’s the trickiest Open I’ve played,” said McIlroy, who has played 12 before. “That’s the only way I can really describe it. It’s just really complicated there. Carnoustie was firm in 2018, but it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t, you know, okay, the 18 at Carnoustie was like a track, this fairway, but around the greens here and just all the hills and undulations and stuff, I think as the tournament is progressing, you are going to get some fun bounces and it will sometimes test your patience. And fiddly hasn’t really been my forte over the years, but I hope to make it my forte this week.

Tiger Woods, who fired a sigh of a 78 amid the afternoon’s nastiest scores, said: “When you consider the fairways are faster than the greens, it’s just a different dynamic to which we are accustomed. Throw shots around the greens, you allow them more speed, then they slow down on the greens, which is the exact opposite of what we would normally play.

It’s crazy, as newly crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick said: “It’s a golf course that’s just a little funky when it’s playing that tight and fast.

At the 150th British Open, history joins a party that has been in the making for years

He tied, as did 21 others, including defending champion Collin Morikawa, PGA champion Justin Thomas and last Open here (2015) champion Zach Johnson. Twenty-four guys at 1 over included John Daly himself, the 1995 champion here, and 35-year-old Irishman Seamus Power, who had some thoughts.

“It’s particularly different,” he said. “I don’t think it’s normal, even here. I just hit 2 irons past the high pin on 18. That’s weird. He said: “It’s hard to judge things there. You learn a few, but it’s a little hard to explain. I mean, like on 15, like 3 irons and 3 woods end up in the same spot. And on 18, 2 irons. It’s really, really fiery.

“Strongest I’ve ever seen, no doubt,” said Gooch. “Everyone I’ve asked in the past 48 hours has agreed. I think it’s the strongest golf course anyone has ever seen. It was amazing.”

There are always those souls who find refreshment in the 268-year-old novelty, so here’s 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, after turning 69: “You can just play your ball smart around this place,” he said. he declares. “You can hit some shots that you normally wouldn’t. You try to use the wind to soften the flight. You play your golf game a lot. You’re not just there hitting the same shot over and over again. You see a lot of different approaches in different holes. Guys who hit anything from 4 irons to drivers depend on what they see, what shape of shot they hit. … There’s just a lot of things you can do.

You just can’t do them very quickly because shared fairways, shared greens and firmness all add up to slowly.

“That’s how firm it is,” Fitzpatrick said after his six-hour round with Woods and Max Homa. “The way the golf course is designed. You cross a lot, and to get better angles and lines, you have to cross all the fairways. There is nothing you can do about it, unfortunately. It’s just sad more than anything. It’s just ridiculous.

“I arrived at 14,” Homa said. “Wait a moment on the tee. And then they said we were going to pick them up, and they let us drive. So we hit our reader. Then when we got up there we waited 20 minutes for them to knock which meant we had to wait another 20 minutes after that for us to knock. It was very weird.

Late in the day, a certain Padraig Harrington came in. This double winner of the Open has reached the age of 50. He looked older than that, the opposite of the norm, after his 69 and six hour round. “I’m broken,” he said. “I’m really tired. I have a headache. I’m hungry.”

His manager had two pizzas waiting.

“Good old manager,” he said.