I wrote last night that the players in afternoon draw on Friday would be getting the short end of things in the second round, battling baked out concrete-like greens late in the day at Muirfield. And the second round of the British Open has been full of implosions, particularly in the afternoon as the cut line inched up to 8-over and the lead came back two shots. Miguel Angel Jimenez, who was out earlier in the afternoon, snuck his way around Muirfield in even-par 71 and currently holds the lead at 3-under. With no one in the afternoon posting under-par rounds, that will be the leading number on Saturday morning.
The summer months in Scotland have been historically dry and sunny, particularly in July. The players arrived at Muirfield on Monday to a course that was firm and fast and playing like a true links test. But it's quickly become unenjoyable, and what most of them were calling the "fairest" test in the Open rota is now being questioned for borderline unfair conditions and setup. After some dicey pin placements on Thursday led to several player gripes, the R&A applied water overnight in the hopes of slowing things down and not letting the course get away from them by the weekend.
But there's just no way to accurately judge how far most of these shots will go, both in the fairway and on the green. Angel Cabrera simply put his hands up in exasperation after a tight little wedge shot which was undoubtedly packed with spin simply blew through the center of the green and rolled some 15 yards off. Lee Westwood, who was out in the morning when things were less firm, hit a drive 400 yards into a fairway bunker that he never thought would be in play. What about Bubba, one of the longest hitters in the world?
Bubba's caddie: RT @jtedscott: Is course firm? Hmmmm. 6 iron off 15 tee (315 yds). Lob wedge to green (141 yds) pin high. Undoubtedly YES!!— Steve Elling (@EllingYelling) July 19, 2013
And then there were the most hardpan grass surfaces in all of Scotland, the greens. Brandt Snedeker blasted a short 18-inch putt off the lip and was suddenly 10 feet away.
It was Mickelson who really kicked off the questioning and critiques of the course setup on Thursday, but he took it easy on the R&A after the round Friday. Mickelson said the setup was "fantastic" but also cautioned that "there was going to be a lot of carnage" out there over the weekend. Lefty, who said earlier this week that he had discovered his own personal "secret" to putting, reiterated that the disastrous four-putt was just a blip in a round full of exceptional putting that kept him in it.
First round leader Zach Johnson dropped four shots back to 1-under, calling the conditions significantly harder due to the increased wind out of a new direction off the Scottish coast. As Johnson noted, everyone was simply trying to two-putt from 10 or 15 feet, with no players in the final 25 threesomes of the day posting rounds under par.
Jonas Blixt, who won just two weeks ago, didn't need any post round interview to express his thoughts on the course conditions and subsequent results:
To illustrate my day... pic.twitter.com/hcW35w8mop— Jonas Blixt (@jonas_blixt) July 19, 2013
With not much change in the weather forecasted, expect more of the same all weekend.