Imagine if you had told Tiger Woods, Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa that when they teed off at 2.59pm in the first round of the 150th Open they would still be playing past 9 o’clock.
Six hours and 10 minutes. To play 18 holes of golf. Homa estimated it took an hour to play the par-5 14th alone.
“It’s just a joke, isn’t it?” Fitzpatrick said afterwards. “Six hours 10? This just shouldn’t be happening ever in golf.”
This was no anomaly on day one either as The Open returned to St Andrews. The pace of play throughout Thursday at the Old Course was brutally slow – a combination of drivable par-4s and route classes leading to frequent waiting on tees and inevitable delays.
Fitzpatrick has made no secret of his hatred of slow play. Indeed, I was stood by the 17th tee as this headline group looked at each other in utter bemusement. The group in front was somehow still in the fairway that flanks the Old Course Hotel. Woods just shook is head in disbelief as the sun set behind him, almost certainly wondering if he would have enough recovery time ahead of his 9.58am second-round tee time.
“It’s the way the golf course is set up,” Fitzpatrick added. “There’s nothing you can do unfortunately. It’s just sad more than anything. Ridiculous.”
Referring to his 15 major-winning playing partner, the Sheffield native added: The only good thing of it taking so long is that you get extra time out there with him.”
It was a sentiment echoed by various star names throughout the day as slow play put a dampener on what was otherwise an entertaining first day at the Home of Golf.
“I figured it would be slow,” Collin Morikawa, paired with Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele, said. “But I didn’t know it would be this slow. We were waiting on groups at tees, waiting on fairways. Xander and I talked about it, we’re watching more golf than we ever have. You stay in the fairway, and you’re watching two other groups play golf.”
Not everyone was upset, though. Seemingly content with being on the iconic Open venue for half a day was 2019 Champion Golfer Shane Lowry.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to deal with days like today,” he said. “If you’re standing there trying to make excuses for your bad day for being too long on the course, well, don’t come here and play because it’s The Open at St Andrews. It’s going to take six hours to play a round around here. That’s just the way it is. I know how to deal with that.”
McIlroy, as always, provided a more nuanced response, while hoping for drastic improvement by the weekend.
“Playing this tournament, you expect it to be that way the first couple of days,” It’s quite stop-start, but I think St Andrews is that way,” McIlroy said. “There’s a lot of crisscrossing and waiting on greens to clear because the drivable par-4s. It is what it is. [Hopefully] it speeds up over the weekend, and [with] two balls it gets moving a little bit more.”
Xander Schauffele: “I was not expecting to wait on pretty much every hole on the back nine. I thought we handled those holes fairly well considering the long wait there. I guess when it’s firm and the ball’s rolling out to 400 yards, everyone’s going to wait.”
With rain forecast for much of the second round, don’t expect day two to be any quicker…
The R&A has announced details of how you can get tickets for the historic 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2023. Click here to find out more.
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