A year ago, Tiger Woods went to Turnberry looking to claim his fourth Open Championship. A course that Tiger was excited to play, he went out early on Thursday and posted a workable 1-over 71. On Friday, Tiger was a part of the afternoon groups, when the weather really turned at Turnberry. His British Open was over when the conditions got nearly unplayable around the famed lighthouse, as Tiger went bogey-double bogey on 11 and 12.
That is, in a nutshell, the British Open. Get stuck in the bad conditions in one of the first two days, and kiss your hopes of a Claret Jug goodbye.
This year, at St. Andrews, the early groups on Thursday had it good. So good in fact that Tiger compared the windless conditions to playing in a dome. The major championship record was given a run by Rory McIlroy. John Daly was able to play the first 11 holes in 7-under. Eighteen of the 54 players that teed off before 9:42 AM were 4-under or better.
Then, just as quick as a drive can find one of the many pot bunkers on this golf course, the weather switched. The wind picked up. It started to rain. The conditions turned almost instantaneously, and the afternoon group had to deal with a totally different St. Andrews.
That is the beauty of links golf. The stuff we call wind in the States is just a breeze, or nothing at all. If your hat isn't nearly flying off and scrambling down the fairway away from you, it isn't even worth tossing grass in the air.
Phil Mickelson was the most popular victim of the condition change on this Thursday. Stuck in the afternoon, opposite Woods, Lefty had to navigate a golf course that saw pars as good scores, not birdies. Unfortunately for Phil, 16 pars weren't nearly good enough, and his 73 has him down on the leaderboard, and another victim of a bad draw.
Friday will be another day. If the early guys can go out in calm conditions and post good numbers, they'll be able to sit back and watch the afternoon groups battle a wind that is expected to be around 20 mph. If the wind is constant all day, it'll be the morning guys that never got to see ideal conditions.
Unlike the other three major championships, where being lucky might mean hitting a tree and kicking back in the fairway, it's all luck of the draw at the British.