The one thing we should have known, as sensible sporting people, was that Rory McIlroy could no more win The Open than Ayatollah Khamenei. The intense pressure of being an Ulsterman, on an Ulster Course, in a tournament that he and his fellow Ulstermen had worked hard to have held in Ulster was always going to prove an unwinnable round. That very first awful shot, on that very first hole, sealed his fate. Five seconds before, at the top of his swing, I suspect he already knew that this was going to go wrong. He prolonged it for another 144 shots, and I have never heard commentary that was entirely focused on a player simply making the Cut rather than winning. He failed to do either and inevitably there were tears and applause and sniffles and “brave facing” and a valuable lesson in backing favourites in a 100+ runner level weights race. Two others of my eight also failed to make the Cut. Adam Scott had a truly horrible time and Hideki didn’t like the course at all. Tiger played entirely as predicted and his back is clearly a source of real pain. I really did feel sorry for him, because I could see his battle with a body that simply wanted an ice bath and a massage.
One element of Xander Schauffele’s play that I was unaware of, was that his driver had failed anew random R&A test. Effectively as the face of the driver wears, it speeds the ball up, making it go further. It’s undoubtedly more complicated than that, but it’s close enough. Thus, World No.11 was left to try and find a new driver that would pass as legal just over a day before the first round of the year’s final major. We all saw the result in the first round, as Schauffele struggled off the tee to a +3 as he hit just six (43%) of the fairways, fortunately finding traction on Friday with his new driver, with a six-under 65, hitting 13/14 fairways (93%). “I was doing driver testing up until Wednesday. And then yesterday it wasn’t really matching my bag, which was a bummer. I was getting a little upset on the golf course. And today I was testing a little bit on the range again with two different heads. But moved a few weights around and sort of found a good setting, I guess.”
Both X and Stenson are 3 under. Rahm and Kuchar are good at 4 under, and Koepka is -5. I am quite pleased with progress – bar the Ulsterman – and I am hopeful that by tonight we might be in a position to green up. I am also tempted to buy Schauffele and Stenson for another couple of quid each, both at around 45/1. No, perhaps not… the tournament account currently shows a total of £21.07 in losses (Hideki Matsuyama -£2.58: Adam Scott -£3.82 and Rory Bloody McIlroy -£14.67). The Greening button on the remaining five players shows a profit of £1.21 so we are still shy of an overall profit. There is a difference between profiting and chasing, as nanny used to say.