Danny Willett weathers the storm at British Open

Danny Willett mastered the horrendous conditions to take the lead at the weather-affected British Open on Friday.

With rain disrupting play at The Old Course on St Andrews, Danny Willett has emerged as a threat to win the British Open. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
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St Andrews // Danny Willett mastered the horrendous conditions to take the lead at the weather-affected British Open on Friday.

Torrential early rain meant the first group had not completed the opening hole before play was suspended because of waterlogged greens and fairways on the Old Course, leading to a delay of three hours and 14 minutes.

When play resumed at 10am, Englishman Willett – who carded an opening 66 to lie one behind overnight leader Dustin Johnson – took full advantage of the relatively benign conditions with birdies on the second and fifth to claim the outright lead.

With the last group scheduled to tee off at 7.27pm local time, many players will have to return today to complete their second rounds.

But R&A chief executive Peter Dawson insisted that significant changes would not be made to the order of play, unlike last year at Royal Liverpool when a two-tee start was used for the first time in Open history because of a bad weather forecast for Saturday’s third round.

“[We’ve] only done it once at Hoylake,” Dawson said. “The prospect of changing it during competition and doing a two-tee start is not something we are going to do. The order you play the holes in on a links course is very important.

“The forecast is for very strong winds so it is a very tough course today and tomorrow, but because we have had so much rain it’s nowhere near as fiery as it can be so I’m very hopeful that (wind) won’t affect play.

“Our target is to finish on Sunday. We do have the ability to go into Monday (the last time that happened was at Lytham in 1988), but we certainly hope not to.”

Scotland’s Marc Warren, 34, said he is relishing the moment after he followed his first-round 68 with a fine second round of 69, which included five birdies against two bogeys, to put him in contention.

“It was a long morning, obviously, with the delay. But definitely worked in our favour. It was going to be a tough morning if you had to go out and play in those conditions,” Warren said.

“The crowds were incredible today. Big difference to yesterday. I don’t know if that was the difference when we teed off or just in attendance, but every hole seemed to be lined and a lot of great support out there.”

Warren is bidding to become the first Scottish player since Paul Lawrie, in 1999 at Carnoustie, to win the Open, and first Scot to win at St Andrews since James Braid in 1910.

“A couple of times today I allowed myself to look at the leader board when kind of I joined the lead with a couple other guys, and just trying to soak up that moment. It doesn’t happen every day and, like I said, just tried to enjoy that my name was there,” he said.

Australian Steven Bowditch thought he had won the lottery after a penalty-shot reprieve on the notorious 17th hole.

Bowditch was addressing a three-foot putt for a bogey on the testing 495-yard, par-four Road Hole when the wind caused the ball to move and he dropped his club in despair.

Until a recent rule change, a player would be docked a stroke if the ball moved while addressing a putt but it turned out that Bowditch, who finished with a 69 to add to his first-round 70, had forgotten the regulations.

“I forgot they changed the rules,” Bowditch said. “It used to be a penalty, I had a kind of mind blank. I went from making a pretty soft five to a really mad six to a ‘felt-like-a-birdie five’ again.

“When (the official) said there was no penalty I felt like I just won the lotto.”

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