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Published July 16, 2016
The way Rory McIlroy is hitting the ball, he doesn't feel as though he should be eight shots behind 36-hole leader Phil Mickelson in the British Open. Blame that on the weather. McIlroy's side of the draw got the worst of it over the opening two rounds at Royal Troon.
Except that McIlroy's knows better not to complain.
Two years ago at Royal Liverpool, he was on the good side of the draw. McIlroy had a four-shot lead after two rounds and sailed to victory. So after coming in from the rain and wind — particularly one 90-minute stretch on the back nine — he was not surprised at how the leaderboard looked.
Nor was he about to complain. Not too loudly, anyway.
"It's The Open Championship," McIlroy said. "Some draws go your way and some draws don't. The last Open I played, I got the good end of the draw and good things happened that week. Then this year, it's not so much. But I'm not going to let being on the wrong side ruin my mood or ruin my week. I feel like I've played very well and that gives me optimism going into the weekend."
The nature of links golf, and this championship, is getting the good side of the tee times.
Mickelson was soaked when he walked off the course, though he managed to get in eight holes Friday morning before the rain arrived. He had three birdies by then, didn't make his first bogey until the 30th hole of this championship and shot a 2-under 69.
He was at 10-under 132 and led Henrik Stenson — also playing Friday morning — by one shot. Stenson made his birdies during lulls in the weather and shot 65.
Go down the leaderboard to find more evidence.
The top 14 players all played late on Thursday (the wind was mild and straight off the Irish Sea, the easiest direction) and early on Friday (the wind and rain didn't get really nasty until late in the afternoon).
Of the 26 players who remained under par, only four of them were playing Friday afternoon.
Some handled the misfortune well, such as McIlroy and even Jordan Spieth, who had to play the final six holes even par to shoot 75 and make the cut at 4-over 146 with no room to spare.
"It's tough when we all realize before we go out that you're kind of what would be the bad end of the draw before you even play your second round," Spieth said. "But at 4-over par, my game is not major championship-winning caliber those first two rounds. It just made it pretty interesting and actually somewhat nervous on the last five, six holes because I'd really like to play the weekend."
Justin Rose started with a bogey, ended with a double bogey and was in no mood to appreciate that fickle weather is a big part of links golf.
"It was ridiculous," he said. "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. That's really about it. That group (Friday morning) was bound to make the cut. Great players, kind of doing their best to make the cut, kind of tells you it was tough out there."
Standing outside the tented area was Padraig Harrington, who had finished moments earlier at 72 and was at even-par for the championship, 10 shots behind.
The Irishman was not one to complain, and he stands as an example of how best to handle such situations.
Go back to Royal Birkdale in 2008, when the wind and rain raged so strong that Sandy Lyle walked off the golf course after 10 holes, and Rich Beem opened with a 46 through nine holes and joined him. Such is The Open. Someone always gets the wrong end of the draw.
Why is that significant?
Harrington played in the same side, five tee times after Lyle. By Sunday, he was holding the claret jug.