Open 2012: Open’s rain strain

Rory McIlroy takes cover during Open practice yesterday.
Rory McIlroy takes cover during Open practice yesterday.
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OPEN Championship organisers are on weather alert at Royal Lytham and St Annes, admitting the course may come under strain from more heavy rainfall.

A weather alert has been issued for tomorrow’s final practice day.

Though fine weather is forecast for Friday and Saturday, there is a major worry that 10-25mm of rain may fall tomorrow.

According to a forecast commissioned by organisers the Royal & Ancient, there may well be more rain on Thursday morning, when The Open begins at Royal Lytham for the first time since 2001.

Even without further bad weather, top stars like Tiger Woods and Darren Clarke have described parts of the course as “unplayable”.

The R&A blamed the weather for hampering preparations and say they canvassed opinion from professionals who are satisfied with the course.

R&A communications director Malcolm Booth said: “A large number of players have expressed how pleased they are with the course set-up, which seems to be very positive.

“The weather we have had, unprecedented in this country, means there has been a lot of moisture and rain. Combined with at least some summer heat, that has led to the rough being very thick in places.

“That is not unprecedented at an Open Championship – Muirfield in particular gets very thick rough – so we are pleased with the course set-up. The fairways are suitably scaled to allow a generous landing area if you hit the right club off the tee.”

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Booth said there had been no alterations to the course as a result of the bad weather.

He was also confident the non-golf areas would stand up to the weather, though he admitted more heavy rainfall would put a strain on the venue inside and outside the ropes.

“The water table is pretty high, which is a point for some mild concern at this stage, and we hope we don’t get absolute torrential downpours in the next few days.

“We are reasonablyOK at the moment, and the course is standing up pretty well given the huge amount of rain which has fallen on it.

“If there is sustained rain for three or four days, the tented village could become a bit muddy and not as well presented as we would like, but still perfectly navigable for spectators.

“Parking is a challenge but we have a number of good car parks which are on high ground or where it drains pretty well, so we are in pretty good shape.

“However, very heavy rain over three or four days will make it more difficult. We would advise spectators to bring waterproofs and sensible shoes.”

Adverse weather is likely to affect attendance, although Booth remains optimistic.

“Last time (at Lytham) we had 185,000 people for the week, and in ideal weather conditions we would have expected to match that, but it is impossible to predict.

“Advance tickets sales have been very strong but we still rely on a certain amount of footfall through the gates.”

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