Hard to Overlook McIlroy, Spieth, Day, and Rain at British Open

151st Open Championship, Rory McIlroy, Royal Liverpool,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
151st Open Championship, Rory McIlroy, Royal Liverpool,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

While Brian Harman currently leads the British Open, it is hard to overlook the major successes and experience of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and Jason Day, even though they are behind him on the leaderboard.

Second round leader Brian Harman has a chance to remain at the top for another day, but one challenge is that, as everyone knows, it’s hard to follow a low round with another low round. No one knows quite why this is true, but it certainly happens more often than not.

Harman shot a 6-under par 65 on Friday at the British Open to give himself a five-shot advantage over the field. Ordinarily, that could lock up a tournament. However, it’s likely that someone else will shoot a 65 or 66 on Saturday to move up by the end of the day. But exactly who will do that is an unknown at this time. If it’s Spieth or Day, they will surely threaten Harman’s position. If it’s McIlroy, that will make any leader nervous.

However, one thing that could make the current scores go topsy turvy is the anticipated rain which is expected to last throughout the day. Rain changes everything.

Rain could completely change the outcome of the British Open.

Rain softens the course. It makes it harder to hit out of the rough because the rough gets wet and gloppy. It makes sand easier to hit out of because the sand gets compacted. Rain makes it hard to putt because water slows down the ball and could actually throw it off-line.

Rain gives every shot more of an unknown result because the water gets between the club face and ball, and changes the outcome. Rain could completely change the outcome of the British Open Championship.

If Tom Watson were in contention, he’d be the pick to top the leaderboard by the end of the day because he was an incredible foul-weather player. It’s rumored that he loved playing in bad weather. These days, we seldom hear anyone say that.

Most bad weather in the U.S. is accompanied by lightning, and so PGA Tour players seldom play in horrendous rain. Not true in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. They specialize in drizzle, rain, and wind. It’s one reason that they have great rain suits and lots of umbrellas.

In the U.S., the rainiest golf tournament weather in recent memory was at the PGA Championship in May where it rained part of the day on Friday and most of the day on Saturday. However, except for some issues with casual water, players stayed on the course.  That was an unusual situation.

British Open, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day
Brooks Koepka, 2023 PGA Championship, Oak Hill, Syndication: Palm Beach Post /

What the rain forecast for Hoylake means for Saturday at the British Open is, of the three highest placed on the leaderboard who already possess major championship trophies, McIlroy has the most experience playing in the rain. He’s from Northern Ireland, and he played in Europe growing up.

In fact, better weather is one reason he gave for migrating to the U.S. to play golf.  He was tired of playing in the cold and rain. We should all take him at his word on that.

There’s something else rain does for a golfer, and it could affect scores. Rain makes a golf shot hit and stick. Like the ball and the grass have Velcro. That means balls will have less chance to run out into bad places.

They may stay where they land in a fairway, for instance, instead of rolling into an ugly pot bunker. Yes, it’s going to make for some rulings.  But who cares if the ball stays up instead of bouncing into an untoward location?

While it may seem that the rain could hurt the chasers, in a British Open, where bouncy turf and pot bunkers are the rule instead of the exception, rain may be the biggest ally for those who need to move up the leaderboard.  The golf balls of long hitters will hit turf and their golf balls are more likely to remain where they land or very close to it, which they hope is fairway.

While this sounds counterintuitive, those who tee off later will have the benefit of having more water on the ground when they tee off, which means a really gloppy, golf ball-sticking experience for 18 holes.  The rain will favor them, but it will favor the longer hitters more, like McIlroy and Day, than it will the – relatively — shorter hitters like Harman, Tommy Fleetwood, and Sepp Straka.

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On average, McIlroy, for example, will be 30 yards, at least, ahead of Harman. That is very good for someone trying to claw his way to the top.

So watch out for the rain at the British Open. It could change everything.