ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) - Floods, fireworks and farewells were the order of the day as a rain-interrupted second round ended with Dustin Johnson occupying first place on the leaderboard in the 144th British Open on Friday.
The big-hitting American was 10-under-par for the championship through 13 holes, one stroke clear of England’s Danny Willett (69), when darkness ended play just before 10pm with several groups still out on the course.
“I feel great and I’m in a good spot,” Johnson told reporters. “I’ll get a good night’s rest and get back out here tomorrow.”
After an early-morning deluge caused play to be suspended for more than three hours, it was inevitable the second would have to be carried over into Saturday.
Sharing third place on eight under were 1999 champion Paul Lawrie (12 holes) of Scotland and Australian Jason Day (11).
Jordan Spieth, 21, bidding to become the first player since fellow American Ben Hogan in 1953 to triumph in the opening three majors of the season, was five under through 13 holes.
Fourteen-times major winner Tiger Woods, who has slumped from first to 241st in the rankings in the past 14 months, was five over for the championship through 11 and looks certain to miss yet another halfway cut.
The day, though, belonged to five-times Open champion Tom Watson and triple former winner Nick Faldo.
Watson, playing in golf’s oldest major for the last time, missed the cut on his swansong appearance and was given an emotional send-off by the crowd when he walked off the final green with flashbulbs illuminating the gloaming.
“Last year I asked the R&A (Royal and Ancient organizers) if they would grant me one more year of exemption for this old guy to walk the Old Course,” said the 65-year-old American after an 80 gave him a 12-over total of 156.
“I do feel very thankful for this place is special, the history of St Andrews is documented, it goes back 400 years and will always be the golf course people think about when they think of links golf.”
Faldo, who turns 58 on Saturday, also failed to qualify for the weekend on his last outing at a St Andrews Open, although he refused to close the door unequivocally on his major championship career.
“I think that might be my last week (in a British Open),” said the Englishman after returning a 71 for 154.
The fireworks were supplied by Englishman Willett, who took advantage of the calmest conditions of the day to reel off five birdies in a three-under-par round that left him on 135, nine under.
“I said yesterday it could be Armageddon today and it was this morning,” he said.
“Luckily we didn’t have to play in the rain. The wind we had was a good wind for St Andrews, a 20 to 30-yard wind. It was playable, you can certainly hit golf shots and it wasn’t too ridiculous.”
The winds picked up the longer the day went on and the forecast is for stronger gusts of up to 45mph on Saturday morning. If that is the case, play may not restart on schedule at 7am.
The last hour and a half on Friday proved a real test for the players in chilly conditions.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, seven under for the tournament through 11 holes, looked more like a Formula One driver than a top-notch golfer as he wrapped a snood over his mouth and nose for protection against the elements.
The difficult conditions appeared to even get to the normally calm and assured Spieth who swished his putter around in frustration when he three-putted the 11th from long range.
Johnson, who also led after Thursday’s first round, again sent out a series of big, booming drives as he birdied the fourth, fifth, seventh and 10th before dropping his only stroke of the day at the 11th.
Editing by Alan Baldwin/Martyn Herman/Mark Lamport-Stokes