By Paul Newberry
AP Sports Writer
TROON, Scotland — Jason Day went through four pairs of gloves, trying desperately to stay dry in the pounding rain. At one hole, he accounted for the howling wind by aiming his shot toward the Irish Sea.
Call it the luck of the draw at the British Open.
For those who teed off Friday morning, the stormy weather hung off in the distance, giving them a chance to put up some low numbers before things turned nasty at Royal Troon. For those going off later in the day, well, there wasn’t much to do except try to limit the damage.
“You’ve got to understand that some people get lucky, some people get unlucky,” said Day, the world’s top-ranked player and one of only four golfers to break par in the afternoon. “You’ve got to take what you get and roll with it and try to do the best job you can.”
One after another, those who endured the worst of it tried to describe what they had just been through, a dazed look in many of their eyes.
Having barely made the cut, Jordan Spieth moaned about “sheets of water moving sideways” as he stood at the 16th tee. Rory McIlroy, one of the biggest hitters in the world, had a drive that went only 230 yards after getting caught up in the gusts. Day didn’t even bother trying to reach the green in two shots at No. 15, the longest par 4 on the course.
By the end of the day, the leaderboard revealed a striking divide.
Paced by Phil Mickelson, the top 14 all had morning tee times. Of the 20 players who broke par in the second round, only four started in the afternoon — Marc Leishman (69), Day (70), Byeong Hun An (70) and Patton Kizzire (70).
“It was ridiculous,” said Justin Rose, who struggled to a 77 after shooting 68 the first day. “You know when you see such a disparity between the draw and you see no name from this side of the draw popping up, it’s just frustrating.”
Rose managed to make it to the weekend with a couple of shots to spare. Spieth barely got through, finishing right on the cut line after a 75 left him 14 shots behind Mickelson, any hope of a third major title all but snuffed out for the 22-year-old Texan.
Spieth was already looking ahead to the last major of the year, the PGA Championship in two weeks.
“I know my chances here are likely finished,” he said.
Steve Stricker ripped off 14 straight pars until the rain and wind caught up with the 49-year-old American.
His tee shot at the 15th wound up in thick grass left of the fairway. He hit a provisional, but couldn’t find that ball, either, at least not right away. Finally, just before he headed back to tee it up again, he found his second ball. But all he could do was hack it into the fairway. He wound up with the dreaded snowman — a quadruple-bogey 8.
“You want to throw a pity party,” said Stricker, who finished with a 75. “But you know (about the weather) when you come over here.”
Henrik Stenson was among those who took advantage of fortuitous timing. He teed off at 9:14 a.m. and shot a 65, the best round of the day. That pushed the Swede within one shot of the lead.
Stenson knew he caught a break when he looked out his window first thing in the morning.
“I timed it quite well,” he said. “You were expecting possibly a downpour when you pulled the curtains up in the morning, and it wasn’t. You always felt like it was going to start at some point, but it was nice to … have a couple of birdies before it started to rain.”
The forecast Saturday looked fairly dry until the evening, but winds expected to whip up to 20 mph figure to make things challenging again.
McIlroy, who complained about links golf after playing in story weather at Royal St. George’s five years ago, has come to grips with the capriciousness of the British Open.
“Some draws go your way and some draws don’t,” he said, remembering how fortuitous he was during his victory at Hoylake in 2014. “I got the good end of the draw and good things happened that week. Then this year, it’s not so much. But I just said out there, ‘I’m not going to let being on the wrong side ruin my mood or ruin my week.’”
During the worst of the weather, McIlroy dropped four shots in a five-hole stretch. He still managed to shoot 71, leaving him eight shots back, but still feeling like he’s got a shot at reclaiming the claret jug.
“I’ve played very well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend,” he said.
It would help even more to get the luck of the draw.