Watson doesn’t figure to make the cut after shooting 76 in the first round on an Old Course that played long for the 65-year-old. He had to take a drop, chipped up near the hole and made the putt for a 5, essentially giving up two shots at an easy hole that produced a plethora of birdies in the early going.

It was a case of when the cat’s away, the mice will play, as Willett set the clubhouse lead in the afternoon at nine-under following his three-under-par 69. “But it might be a case tonight of turning the phone off and having a little bit of quiet time”. The finality of the end is here.

This was golf’s ultimate game of two halves but the 27-year-old, who demonstrated his potential with an outstanding first US Tour win at Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament last month, expressed general satisfaction with the way he performed.

“The weekend of the Open at St Andrews does not get much better”.

On the other hand, Lawrie must be close to the best player in the world while wearing a waterproof jacket. Parts of the 18th hole were so flooded that teams of workers with push brooms swept ankle-deep water into the Swilcan Burn.

Dunne has just graduated from University of Alabama where he spent four years combining studies – Business Finance – with golf and has enjoyed a productive year on the amateur circuit.

Johnson opened with a 7-under 65 to grab the lead at the British Open on Thursday.

But perhaps the most significant shot in Lawrie’s six-under 66 was a sublime par-saving approach to 14.

On a weather-lashed day after a morning rainstorm caused a delay of three hours and 14 minutes, there were concerns that the great man would have to come back to join the other 42 who have to resume their second round at 7.0am this morning. Mike Loggie of Saltire Energy, the title sponsor, is a big fan of John, who hasn’t played in Aberdeen before, I don’t think, so he can’t wait to meet him and play with him. But he has a lot to look forward to, quite apart from the next three days on a course where he won the 2001 Dunhill Links Championship (when he birdied the final hole from the Valley of Sin to clinch victory).

Winning a third successive major would be an extraordinary feat, and one that remains some way off, particularly with some bad weather forecast on Friday, but it is now a serious possibility.

It also put him on the first page of the leaderboard, rubbing shoulders with the likes of 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and former Masters victor Zach Johnson.

HAPPY: Paul Lawrie received a hug from Arnold Palmer [GETTY] “Today I hit a decent shot on the first and missed the putt and then holed the bunker shot at the second”.

But this is Scotland, so that’s nothing new.

Johnson insisted before the British Open that he was over that bitter disappointment. Tiger Woods is another player who would’ve been considered a top contender, having won twice at St. Andrews. And it was raining.

On the return leg, Lingmerth couldn’t keep it going.