Storm blows Scottish Open off course at Castle Stuart

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland at the Scottish Open
Castle Stuart
Torrential rain caused severe disruption on day three of the Scottish Open

Since the last time I wrote from the Scottish Open, a ball has not been hit in anger.

After Friday's suspension because of lightning, there was hope that the course would be playable at the weekend.

Instead, at around 0430 BST, another, more violent storm hit the Highlands.

Loud claps of thunder filled the air directly above Inverness, followed by torrential rain which caused flash flooding. It was impossible not to be woken by it.

The competitors would learn later in the morning that there would be no play until 1400 BST at the earliest.

Upon arriving at the links, it became clear why. Greens were flooded, the course was unsafe to walk and there were landslides on the 1st and 12th holes.

Yes, landslides. Those two holes are right on the banks of the Moray Firth.

I went down to check this and found a visible scar had been left by the storm, a scar that the diggers were brought in to fix.

But that was only the start for those working to somehow make the course playable again.

"I've never seen a landslide before anywhere, but we have two here," tournament director Mike Stewart of the European Tour told BBC Scotland.

"It's unbelievable - totally unprecedented in my experience. It was a lot of rain in a very short space of time and it's done a lot of damage.

"I don't think any of us expected it to be quite like this."

The course opened in 2009 and has been very well received by the players, but just a couple of days into its first proper tournament, it has been slapped in the face by mother nature and is struggling to get up off the canvas.

And, unfortunately, two spectators from Friday fell and sustained leg breaks.

"I've never seen anything like this before," Chris Haspell, Castle Stuart's course manager, told BBC Scotland.

"We had the two-tier system and it was literally just pressure of water this morning coming down the bank and it released it.

"Thankfully, nobody was around to get injured, but we'll have to look into that over the next couple of months.

"Generally, we never have a problem as it's fairly stable ground, but 80 millimetres of rain - it's going to be a problem."

As the day progressed, the rain continued to fall, the thunder rumbled and the start time was continually pushed back in the hope that there could be some play.

As I write this, Colin Montgomerie is in a car outside the media centre waiting for the all clear. He and the rest of the field.

Decisions were being made almost every minute. One of those was to reduce this year's event to a three-round affair with the possibility of shocking weather on Sunday to follow.

That ruled out the chance of a 36-hole final day.

"We were considering completing the 72 holes, it's always something we look at," Stewart added.

"But we realised we were going to struggle with the weather today and the forecast is also poor for tomorrow.

Scottish Open tournament director Mike Stewart
Stewart had hoped for a 72-hole tournament before further rain

"We just felt it was in the best interests of everyone concerned to try and ensure a good solution to the event, to reduce it to 54 holes.

"We would prefer it not to go into Monday if at all possible, but we may have to consider concluding a round on Monday, though it's something we don't really want to get into."

There were a few questions thrown at the organisers speculating that Castle Stuart's design may be at fault, but it has been dealt an unlucky hand this week.

"The land's been here forever, it's never happened before, so it's extreme to say the least," a frustrated Montgomerie told BBC Scotland.

"It's a shame for the fans, players, everyone, including me. I hear Ernie Els is having a day off up at Skibo Castle learning to play archery, so I hope he doesn't injure himself.

"We were up at 0430 BST because of that horrendous thunder clap that woke everyone up.

"You just have to assume you can get out there, it's like at the Ryder Cup last year, I just had to tell the team to be prepared."

The worst-case finish to this tournament appears to be the chance that it will be decided over only two rounds, though the prize money will remain the same.

The Scottish Open left Loch Lomond this year. Apparently the sun is splitting the sky there today. Now, that is frustrating.

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