ST ANDREWS, Scotland (AFP) - The British Open was blown off course on Saturday with organisers forced to call a delayed Monday finish for just the second time in its 155-year long history.
The tournament has been badly hit by weather delays - over three hours for rain on Friday and 10 and a half hours for high winds on Saturday - making it impossible to conclude the biggest tournament in golf as scheduled on Sunday.
“The intention is to complete the second round today with round three to be played on Sunday and the final round to be played on Monday,” The R&A said in a statement.
The only other time there has been a Monday finish in 143 previous British Opens was in 1988 when Seve Ballesteros won the last of his three crowns at Royal Lytham.
It was a momentous decision by golf’s ruling body, which has organised the Open Championship since 1860, but it became increasingly inevitable as the day wore on and the winds coming in off the North Sea refused to abate.
The remnants of second-round action had got underway early in the morning, but officials soon called another halt to proceedings as the wind picked up, gusting to 64kmh.
More than three hours of play was lost at the start of Friday’s action when a rain-storm deluged the Old Course, and 39 players were unable to complete their rounds by the time darkness fell.
The wet weather had passed through by Saturday morning and play got underway on schedule at 7am, but it soon became apparent that on the more exposed parts of the course, balls were moving about in the high winds that came in behind the rain.
Officials called a halt at 7.32am and the long wait began for the winds to lessen.
Several deadlines came and went and finally, in mid-afternoon, the R&A took the decision it had been putting off all day - the final round would be held on Monday with the third round on Saturday and the 42 players unfinished in their second rounds to conclude on Saturday evening.
Play finally resumed at 6pm, a delay of 10 and a half hours.
In the short time that play was possible in the morning, leader Dustin Johnson fluffed his chip to the 15th green and dropped a shot to slip back to nine under.
Playing partner Jordan Spieth stayed at five under as he continued his quest for a third straight major title after his wins at the Masters and the US Open.
“We should never have started,” Jordan Spieth was heard muttering as he was informed of the decision by a R&A official.
There were complaints also from other players over the decision to even start play with the wind so punishing.
The clubhouse leader was England’s former world amateur number one Danny Willett, who fired a 69 on Friday to stand at nine under 135.
Willett, a 27-year-old from Sheffield who is aiming to become England’s first Open champion in 23 years, has steadily risen to 39th in the world this year.
Two strokes further back were a quartet consisting of former world number one Adam Scott (67), fellow Australian Robert Streb (71), 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson (71) and top Scot Marc Warren (69).
Still out on the course, Scot Paul Lawrie was at eight under after 13 holes and 2010 champion at St Andrews, Louis Oosthuizen, at seven under after 12.