With players griping and moaning about the tough playing conditions at Muirfield on Thursday, R&A chief executive Peter Dawson assured Ian Poulter, Phil Mickelson, and the other whiners that the grounds crew had their best interests at heart.
"Everyday we have a meeting with the greens staff at the close of play, we’ll be deciding what we’ll do this evening, what our hole locations will be for tomorrow and obviously, we’ll take the conditions that we’ve seen today into account and indeed the comments that we’ve seen today into account," Dawson said on ESPN. "It’s very important that we have a championship course that’s not just a great test for the players but that the players also appreciate.
"We hear what people say," said Dawson, apparently not appreciating the irony of that statement in light of the firestorm of criticism he’s weathered about Muirfield’s all-male membership policy.
Dawson offered his remarks after several golfers, with Mickelson the most vocal, ripping the set-up of the course.
"The greens are dying, and the holes are on edges of slopes that the ball just simply won't stay. You drop it, it won't stay by the hole," Mickelson carped, according to Geoff Shackelford. "No. 8 is probably the worst one that you'll see if you watch it on TV. [The ball] won't stop until it collects in a little level area about eight feet away, six, eight feet away."
Mickelson also took a direct shot at the R&A suits.
"Hopefully, they’ll let go of their ego and set it up reasonable," Mickelson told reporters after bitching about what the dry, hot summer had wrought on the East Lothian track.
Lefty even complained that golfers had to "hit shots to accommodate the wind," leaving some observers to wonder what the heck Dawson could do about that.
David Duval, the winner of the 2001 Open Championship, offered an opinion that, no doubt, reflected that of many observers.
"That looks like sour grapes to me, frankly," Duval said on ESPN. "Hard is fine but I don’t think it’s even approached unfair though."
Without calling out his competitors, early runner-up Mark O’Meara said he had no problems with the track, and why would he, after the 56-year-old winner of the 1998 British Open posted a 4-under 67 to share second place and get to within one of clubhouse leader Zach Johnson.
"I didn’t think it’s unfair," O’Meara said after recording an eagle, five birdies, and three bogeys. "Because the breezes weren’t that bad and it was consistent from the same direction, I thought the golf course was playable.
"It was tough and it made you think, and, yes, the greens were fast, which is unusual for an Open Championship," O’Meara said, "but I didn’t think it got carried away."