Even with 155 years of history, the British Open can still serve up some strange twists at St. Andrews.
The second round lasted nearly 39 hours from the first tee shot to the final putt. Brooks Koepka hit one putt in 30 minutes, and he might still be on the 11th green except that he refused to keep going because his golf ball wouldn’t stay put. Jordan Spieth, who won the Masters and U.S. Open on the strength of his great short game, three-putted five times in one round and still kept alive his hopes of a Grand Slam.
If that wasn’t enough, 40 mph gusts that led to a 10 1/2 -hour stoppage meant the British Open will end on Monday for the first time in 27 years.
But Dustin Johnson gave Saturday some semblance of order.
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For all the chaos on the Old Course, and for all the debate whether play should have even started Saturday because of the wind, Johnson only cared about the finish. He drove the 18th green and took two putts from 150 feet for birdie and a 3-under 69.
That gave him a one-shot lead over Danny Willett of England, who for the second straight year did not hit a single shot in the British Open on Saturday. Last year it was because he missed the cut. This time it was because he finished his second round Friday.
Not so unusual — at least not now — was Tiger Woods. He missed the cut for the third time in the last four majors.
One month after a three-putt from 12 feet cost him a shot at a playoff and the U.S. Open title, Johnson walked the Old Course with a swagger. He did enough damage over 13 holes Friday that even a couple of bogeys didn’t get him off track, and he showed in the short time he played Saturday that he could handle the wind.
“Every aspect of your game is challenged,” said Johnson, who was at 10-under 134.
Paul Lawrie, the 46-year-old Scot who won a crazy Open at Carnoustie in 1999, played without a bogey over the final 14 holes to shoot a 70 and was two shots behind. Louis Oosthuizen (70) and Jason Day (71) joined the large group at 7-under 137 that included Adam Scott and Zach Johnson, who finished Friday.
Spieth, going after the third leg of the Grand Slam, shot 72 and was five behind.
As gusts began to top 40 mph when the second round resumed in the morning, Johnson chose to chip up the steep slope at the front of the par-5 14th green. He didn’t hit quite hard enough. And then, the player with a reputation of being in too much of a hurry at the majors made the mistake of taking his time. An inch away from placing his coin behind the ball to mark it, a gust moved his ball and it picked up enough momentum to roll off the green, causing Spieth to race toward his ball and then jump out of the way.
“My coin was about to hit the ground when it took off,” Johnson said. “Then I went to mark it again, and it took off again. And then Jordan was running to his ball. It was pretty funny. I was laughing at him. I wasn’t laughing at myself.”
Three putts later, Johnson had his second bogey of the week. One hole later, the R&A realized it was too windy to continue.
Johnson returned nearly 11 hours later, made two solid pars and finished with his birdie. It was the fourth time in the last six rounds at the majors that he has had at least a share of lead, though not when it mattered most — at the end.
This might be his best chance yet.
Spieth three-putted for par on the 14th hole and swiped his putter in disgust as leaving two of those putts short. He had another three-putt from about 90 feet on the 17th hole. But he stayed in the game by driving the 18th green for a birdie.
“I believe I’m still in contention. I still believe I can win this tournament,” Spieth said.
But after spending two days playing alongside Johnson, he also realized a third straight major will require some help.
“I need a really solid round tomorrow because Dustin is not letting up,” Spieth said. “Dustin is going to shoot a good round tomorrow with less wind, and I’m going to need to shoot a great round to really give myself a chance.”