GOVERNING body the R&A last night hit back at suggestions that Muirfield is unnecessarily difficult after stars Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson criticised the Open course following an eventful first round.
Ryder Cup hero Poulter offered the most stinging views, calling pin positioning “a joke”, while four-time Major winner Mickelson called on the R&A to “let go of their ego” and make the course easier.
England’s Poulter suffered four bogeys in the last five holes to finish one over par, but was by no means the worst big-name performer, with Rory McIlroy eight over and US Open champion Justin Rose four over.
American Mickelson fared far better than most on two under par, three shots adrift of leader and compatriot Zach Johnson and equal with world No1 Tiger Woods, and R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said he was “very happy with the scoring”.
“It’s about what we would expect,” he added. “We have the conditions we really like: hard, fast, running conditions and we’ve set it up to test the players’ course management strategy as much as anything.”
Poulter took to Twitter to air his views, writing: “Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. Eighth hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill and clown face.”
Mickelson three-putted the 18th and also singled out the eighth, saying: “Hopefully they will let go of their ego and set it up reasonable, but you just never know.”
Dawson promised that players’ feedback would be taken into account when pin positions were decided for the rest of the tournament, and hinted that Poulter’s outburst was down to personal frustration.
“Ian Poulter I know bogeyed three of the last four holes – hardly likely to be in the best of moods – but Ian’s comments will be noted and we’ll have a look at it,” he added. “We are still very satisfied that the course is playable but very testing – far from unplayable.”
ON MY FONDEST MOMENTS
ROBERT TRENT JONES, JR
“The day we opened the Moscow Country Club. The Red Army Band came out to serenade us and the two greatest speeches I have ever heard in golf were given that day. Firstly by Sir Michael Bonallack who said: ‘On behalf of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, Scotland, founded 1754, we welcome all the peoples of the Russias to our game.’ And secondly by the engineer in charge of the project for the foreign ministry, who said: ‘With this new golf course at least one garden is growing in our country.’”
ON MY FONDEST MEMORIES OF GOLF
“I was a member of Hoylake and out there one evening on the par three 11th and there was a wicked wind coming off the left. I knocked my first ball into the ocean but then I holed my second tee shot – a hole in one after hitting the first into the ocean. And no one saw it!”