NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Sports

July 19, 2013

'Bring a lot of Kleenex for the tears'

(Continued)

"We've got to let go of our ego sometimes," said Phil Mickelson, who by "our" meant the officials of the Royal & Ancient responsible for letting the fairways bake and the rough grow, then stashing the water hoses. He implored them to "just set the course up the way the best players can win."

The empire struck back — in a hurry.

"We're obviously very conscious of player comment and we'll take that into account when we decide how greenskeeping staff overnight is going to set up the course tomorrow," R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said.

In other words, deal with it.

The strange thing is that a player's view of Muirfield wasn't always reflected by his score. Mickelson carded 69 and Fisher a 70. Poulter, despite collecting four bogeys in the last five holes, still shot 72.

"I wouldn't pay much attention to him. He's always complaining," laughed Poulter's countryman, Lee Westwood. Asked a moment later about some of the precarious pin positions, the Englishman bared a stiff upper lip.

"Well, they're on the greens," Westwood said. "Actually, I wouldn't have even thought about them if you hadn't asked."

If parts of the debate sound familiar, they should.

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, officials setting up major championship venues over here have generally avoided lengthening the courses in response to balls that fly farther and better-conditioned athletes, relying instead on pot bunkers, thick gorse and dicey weather to protect them. That attitude was best summed up by John Philp, the former greenskeeper at Carnoustie, who delighted watching the best golfers in the world squirm.

In 1999, already facing criticism for a tough setup, Philp could barely hide his glee when gale-force winds pounded the course two hours up the coast as the first round began.

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