Jordan Spieth has gathered plenty of momentum heading into the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, but he knows that certain aspects of links golf are out of a player’s control.
Of the four majors, the Open is the one most affected by the weather. The courses in the R&A’s rotation are designed to use the wind and rain as natural defence mechanisms, and Great Britain’s soggy climate usually obliges. However, patches of terrible weather often last for only part of the day, creating different course conditions for different players.
“At this tournament [the weather] tends to fall on half the field,” said Spieth. “You kind of cut half the field, depending on the draw. Sometimes it’s more or less 75 per cent. But most of the time there’s at least a group that gets the worst weather. And it’s almost impossible to win in that circumstance at an Open Championship. So nothing you can do about that other than keep your head down and play as well as you can.”
The 23-year-old Texan is no stranger to these Open Championship struggles. Spieth found himself on the wrong side of the draw at last year’s tournament and posted a second round 75 during the worst weather of the week. He ended up tying for 30th, 22 strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson.
Spieth isn’t the first player to be frustrated by the Open’s fickle conditions. In a blog post for the PGA Tour, World Golf Hall of Famer Ernie Els recalled his opening round of 80 at the 2008 Open Championship. He managed to recover later in the week to finish in a tie for seventh place, but it’s hard not to wonder what might have been if the weather had been better on Thursday.
Spieth said that varying conditions provide the fortunate players with more than just a numerical advantage, citing a certain intimidation factor.
“If it’s an afternoon round and the other side has already played the morning, that’s when it’s tough,” he said. “Because you’re like, ‘I can’t shoot those scores. It’s not possible.’ And that’s frustrating when you think you can play your best and it doesn’t happen.”
Those at Royal Birkdale this week have experienced good weather so far, but heavy rain and 20 mph winds are in the forecast for the coming days. Spieth will tee off on Thursday morning, along with playing partners Stenson and Si Woo Kim.