Rory McIlroy’s dream of becoming the youngest Open champion for 117 years turned into a nightmare at windswept St Andrews today.
Two ahead after his dazzling record-equalling 63 in the opening round, the 21-year-old was blown away by gusts of up to 40mph.
After a 65-minute suspension in mid-afternoon because balls were moving on the greens, McIlroy went back out and, by taking 40 to the turn and then four-putting the short 11th for a double bogey, fell a massive nine shots behind Louis Oosthuizen.
The South African had teed off in the second group at 6.41am and, although he had to contend with driving rain, conditions were nothing like as difficult as later on.
Oosthuizen’s superb 67 put him on 12 under at halfway and, in relation to par, matched the tournament record for the first 36 holes.
With the round looking set to spill into Saturday because of the hold-up the 27-year-old, who had missed the cut in seven of his previous eight majors, was five clear.
And, in a clear indication of how things deteriorated, his closest challenger in the clubhouse was 50-year-old 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia. He teed off at 6.30am.
Paul Casey and Lee Westwood were other early starters and, by shooting 69 and 71 respectively – Casey even had a triple bogey at the 17th in that – they were next best on six under.
As for world number one Tiger Woods, winner at the course in 2000 and 2005, he was making a better fist than McIlroy of staying in the hunt.
After bogeying the first two holes, Woods played the next seven in two under to stand five under and tied ninth.
Needless to say, Oosthuizen was delighted with a day’s work that had ended before he had any idea of how tough the conditions would become.
“It’s probably the position anyone wants to be in,” said the man who won his first European Tour title in Spain in March and with it climbed into the world’s top 50 to qualify for The Masters.
“It’s what we work to achieve and I’m just very happy with the two rounds I put together.
“St Andrews is where it all started. I think it’s everyone’s dream to win the Open Championship, but to win it at St Andrews is just... you never really think it’ll happen.”
Six hours later Paul Lawrie, Britain’s last winner in 1999, was saying after an 82 that was his worst-ever score in the event: “I thought it was unplayable three or four holes before they stopped it.”
Playing partner Thomas Levet had an 81 and the player who was runner-up to Ernie Els at Muirfield in 2002 commented: “I don’t understand the pin placements at all.
“They are all on the top of slopes – if you want to stop the play that is where you put them. When we re-started it was the same strength wind, so why did we re-start?
“I also had a putt which moved half a metre back. I don’t understand why they put the tees on two and four at the back.
“The set-up of the course is totally wrong with that wind. Muirfield was brutal conditions, but it was playable around the greens.
“Here it was not playable around the pins. For six or seven holes in a row you have things that happen on that golf course that never happen anywhere else in the world.
“It becomes stupid.”
McIlroy’s compatriot Graeme McDowell, winner of the US Open a month ago and almost inevitably another who teed off around breakfast time, was part of the group on five under after a seven-birdie 68.
But Masters winner Phil Mickelson improved only two shots on his opening 73 to be down on level par and Justin Rose, playing with Woods, was one under after an outward 37.
McIlroy's day of misery continued with more bogeys on the 13th and 15th. He was eight over for the round, all the way back to one under for the tournament and 11 behind.
Woods, on the other hand, birdied the ninth to return to five under and he was up into a tie for seventh.
Casey and Westwood were still the only two in on six under, but Tiley and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares were on the same mark after five and seven holes respectively.
Neither had any chance of completing their round before nightfall, however.