Open suspended until mid-afternoon

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High winds have forced the postponement of the 144th Open with no resumption before 3pm – raising the realistic prospect of a Monday finish for only the second time in the championship’s history.

Forty-two players returned to the Old Course at St Andrews to resume their second rounds – as a result of three-hour rain delay yesterday morning – at 7am on Saturday but were literally blown off course.

Play was only possible for 32 minutes before gusts of 45mph started moving balls on the greens and the decision was made to the take the players back off.

With no cessation in the strength of the wind, it will be mid-afternoon at the earliest before they can return.

“Forecasts we are receiving show that no golf will be possible before 3pm. Our intention is to commence play as soon as possible after that,” said an R&A statement.

“We will provide further information at 2pm.”

The only time the Open has previously been extended into a fifth day was when rain severely affected the 1988 event at Royal Lytham, where Seve Ballesteros went on to claim his third Claret Jug.

Some players have criticised the R&A for its decision to even begin play but the governing body defended the move.

American Jordan Spieth, chasing the third leg of an unprecedented calendar year grand slam, was one of the players recalled to finish his second round and although his five-under score was not adversely affected unlike some others he did not agree with the decision to resume.

“We should never have started,” television cameras picked up him saying as players were called off the course.

Bubba Watson’s caddie Ted Scott tweeted: “Every R & A official in player dining is getting yelled at. Lots of players p****d in here.”

England’s Lee Westwood, who marked his ball on the 16th green, wrote on Twitter: “Bit of a strange decision hereTheOpen . They seemed to stop play out on 11 and allowed the rest of us to carry on playing.”

He late told Open TV: “I wouldn’t say this is a particularly strong wind for a links course. You should be able to play in 40mph winds.

“When you do set the greens so fast this is likely to happen, especially on exposed greens.

“I don’t think we are going to play before three or four o’clock.”

However, organisers insist they took possible steps to assess the conditions and it was only after play started conditions deteriorated.

“We spent an hour at the far end of the course, before play started, assessing whether the course was playable,” said an R&A spokesman.

“Balls were not moving on the greens and while the conditions were extremely difficult, we considered the golf course to be playable.

“Gusts of wind increased in speed by 10-15 per cent after play resumed. This could not be foreseen at the time that play was restarted and made a material difference to the playability of the golf course.”

The more exposed parts of the course – particularly the 11th green – were most affected with the group of Brooks Koepka, John Senden and Tadahiro Takayama unable to even attempt a putt because the balls were moving so much, causing a back-up on the tee behind them.

But problems were evident elsewhere with overnight leader Dustin Johnson, resuming at 10 under, falling foul of the conditions.

On returning where he had left his ball in front of the par-five 14th green he chunked a chip and, somewhat naively, was slow to walk to where it had finished. Just as he went to place his marker behind the ball the wind blew it back off the green, resulting in a bogey.

That dropped him back to nine under and tied with Yorkshire’s Danny Willett, who finished his round yesterday.

Playing partner Spieth left his birdie putt short at the same hole and took an angry full swing with his putter before offering up a few choice words.

The pair safely negotiated the next before play was halted.