By Joe DeJesu
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke took advantage of his late tee off time and posted a third round 1 under par 69 to take sole possession of the lead heading into the final round of the 2011 British Open.
18 players began the day under par and in contention for the oldest, most historic, and possibly the most prestigious championship in golf. By day’s end, a cast of six random characters remain in the red, making the final round guaranteed entertainment for any golf fan. Dustin Johnson, a man with a knack for recent final round major drama (and not in the good way) will join Clarke in the final grouping tomorrow after posting a third round 68 (tied for low round of the day with Rickey Fowler). Thomas Bjorn, another infamous name known for the late-hole meltdown (at this course no less!) is currently two under after three rounds. As is Rickey Fowler, the young fiery American who finished the day with three birdies on the final six holes. The 2009 U.S. Open Champ Lucas Glover follows at one under. And last but not least, we have the 47 year old pony-tailed, cigar-smoking aerobics instructor, Miguel Angel Jiminez, who continues to play well and is one under par.
Of course, the treacherous downpour and blustery winds did not help anyone’s cause, especially those with early starting times. For a long while Links Wizard Tom Watson, golf’s version of Rocky Balboa, had the low round of the day at two over par 72 as he seemed to be the only golfer with the ability to weather the course. Watson’s 72 was by far the most impressive score of the day as he played during the worst of the weather.
Undoubtedly, the horrendous conditions early on knocked many out of contention, such as golf’s new phenom, Rory Mcilroy, Stewart Cink, Charl Schwartzel, Y.E. Yang, and Sergio Garcia.
I found myself constantly asking, “how can these guys play in this weather?” Umbrellas turning inside out, rain as thick as grapes pouring from the sky (at times horizontally), visibility zero at best. I mean, even the viewers sitting on their comfortable couches from home had to deal with the elements as the camera lenses were so soaked that it was impossible to determine whether a putt fell in the hole or not.
As the skies began to clear later in the day, the course eased up. We saw a pair of 68s shot by Fowler and Johnson, a 69 fired by Clark and a slew of 70s and 71s, including a 71 by Phil Mickelson who is currently five back at even par.
They really do play a different game across the Atlantic. There is no doubt that had this been any of the other three majors played on American soil, we’d be looking at a Monday final round. I guess when the weather is consistently so horrible, it becomes the norm and you just play on. You have to respect it. But is it really fair? I enjoy a blizzard-ridden football game as much as the next guy. But at least the opposing teams are playing under the same conditions.
Of course, it is a part of golf that weather conditions change and some will get lucky that their tee time corresponds with good weather. But Saturday at the Open was a prime example of how inequitable this facet of the game can actually be. The leaders did not play the same course as the others trying to climb the leader board on moving day. Isn’t the quest in professional sports to eliminate as much luck as possible? To level the playing field as much as possible? We don’t give the visiting team a different umpire than the home team. I guess these extraneous thoughts are beyond the scope of a British Open Round 3 Recap, but I cannot help but share them.
Tomorrow’s forecast promises to be equally as brutal. No matter your thoughts on the inequities suffered by those forced to play through the storm, you cannot deny the appeal and pure entertainment value in watching professionals struggle to open their umbrellas, put on BOTH gloves, turn their hats around and attempt to swing through three shirts and a windbreaker only to have their follow through abruptly halted by a gust of 30 mile per hour wind. Let’s just hope the tempestuous weather sticks around for the leaders this time.