Moreso than any other major championship, weather might be the sole most important variable in determining a champion at the Open.
Scottish seaside links courses like Royal Troon weren't designed over a century ago with 75-and-sunny conditions in mind. The standard fare of an Open Championship includes cool conditions, rain and winds -- and such less-than-ideal weather acts as the course's best defense against low scores. But when those conditions aren't present, there's little else to protect the links courses from today's uber-skilled, big-hitting players. There are no hyper-long par-4s like on modern American courses, no wrist-breaking greenside rough. Sure, there's plenty of gorse and pot bunkers to go around -- but scores are still gettable when conditions are favorable.
And right now, that's the story of the 145th Open.
When Troon's famed winds atypically laid down on Thursday afternoon, it set the stage for Phil Mickleson's historic 63 -- and a number of others to fire scores as good or better than anything posted by that morning's wave, which saw much windier conditions. Still, had Friday's conditions followed the pattern of Thursday, there would be no imbalance in the field. That's why alternating flights of tee times exist.
Problem is, the opposite happened. Winds and rains came Friday morning at Troon, but at expected levels for an Open Championship. The golf course was still reasonably scoreable -- allowing a 65 from Henrik Stenson, a 66 from Charl Schwartzel and plenty of under-par scores from others on the golf course. If you were playing reasonably well, a 1-under-par or 2-under-par showing could be expected.
That wasn't the case for the afternoon wave. With rain persisting and winds picking up to near the 30-mph mark, Troon's teeth returned for the later group, which returned to the golf course with Patrick Reed (5-under) being the closest to Mickelson's 10-under lead. By 6:30 local time, not a single player to start in the Thursday morning/Friday afternoon sat at better than 2-under for the tournament, and Jason Day was the sole player left on the golf course under-par on Friday.
Part of that afternoon carnage included the game's biggest stars, too. Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy made early progress, but ended up failing to gain any ground on Mickelson & Co. Bubba Watson and Jordan Spieth backed up to flirt with the cutline.
Here's a look at the leaderboard as it stands Friday afternoon from Troon.