A difficult week at Muirfield got even trickier for Open Championship organisers the R&A yesterday as some golfers rounded on near unplayable greens on the sun-parched Scottish links.
Ian Poulter, pictured, called some pin positions “a joke”, and tweeted: “18th needs a windmill & clown face” while Phil Mickelson said those preparing the course should “let go of their ego” and make the greens easier to negotiate.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson, already under fire this week for staging The Open at a club with a male-only membership policy, was again forced on the defensive, but like his stance on gender issues he was a man not for turning, essentially telling the players to stop their whinging and play better.
“We’ve got the conditions here that we really like to have, hard, fast, running conditions. And we set up the golf course to test the players’ course management strategy, I think as much as anything,” Dawson told the BBC.
“I heard criticisms for example of the 17th where it is actually playing like the 17th hardest hole in the course right now... On the 18th we’re looking for players to have hit the fairway off the tee and then just carry the cross bunkers in order to leave an uphill putt to the flag stick.
“If you’re out of position and your ball goes beyond the 18th, you’re going to have difficulty getting down in two. Players are well under par on that hole, which the course is playing very short. We’re obviously very conscious of player comment and we’ll take that into account tonight. When we decide how greenskeeping staff overnight are going to set up the course tomorrow.
“We’re very happy with the scoring, it’s about what we would expect, five under par is about where we’d expect it to be. A good number of players under par.
“I do understand some players get very frustrated. Ian Poulter, I know, for example bogeyed three out of the last four holes. His comments will be taken and we’ll have a look at it. But we’re still very satisfied with the course. It’s playable, but indeed very testing. Far from unplayable, but we do hear player comment and we’re not so insular as to ignore it.”
- Miguel Angel Jimenez has next year’s Ryder Cup firmly in his sights after an opening-round 68 at Muirfield and it’s just as well he’s looking forward because the past is all a bit of a blur for the 49-year-old.
Jimenez set the early pace during the first morning, getting to five under par around the turn before falling back to a creditable three under for the opening round. That prompted a suggestion the four-time Ryder Cupper, who was a vice captain to Jose Maria Olazabal at Medinah last year, might fancya return to Scotland next September when the biennial dust-up between Europe and the US is staged at Glenaeagles.
“Next year I would love to play, of course,” Jimenez said. “That would be the first (European) 50-year-old to play the Ryder Cup. But at the moment I don’t think about it. I just think about The Open.
Asked to compare Muirfield’s hard and fast conditions with the 2006 Open at a similarly parched Hoylake, Jimenez was less helpful, though, saying: “I don’t remember.” When pressed the Spaniard said: “How do you keep so many things in your head? I don’t know who I played with today.”
- After an opening-round two-over-par 74, Sheffield teenager Matt Fitzpatrick ties with Scotland’s Grant Forrest as The Open Championship’s low amateur after 18 holes and the 18-year-old was sufficiently pleased to brush aside a final-hole double bogey.
“Just one of those things,” said the Yorkshireman who will start college this September at Luke Donald’s alma mater Northwestern University in Chicago. “There’s worse things, and I was just thoroughly enjoyed my day, really, but it’s not too bad.”
Nor was Fitzpatrick too perturbed at being asked to identify himself when trying to take his rightful place in the Muirfield locker room. “I had to show my badge, and he was like, oh, sorry. So it was a bit bad today,” the baby-faced golfer said.
It has been worse. When Fitzpatrick arrived on the practice range earlier this week and asked for some golf balls, the rangemaster assumed he was working as a ball boy and told him to take them to Tiger Woods.
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