OPEN chiefs were confident the speed of the Muirfield greens wouldn’t come under fresh criticism in today’s second round in sun-kissed East Lothian.
New Scottish Open champion Phil Mickelson and Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter both blasted some first-round pin positions as greens became lightning-fast in the searing heat.
But they’d been hand-watered by greenkeeping staff overnight and Mother Nature was also helping this morning.
“It is interesting that we’ve had a lot of mist and dew so it’s much damper than yesterday,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson told the Edinburgh Evening News as the second day’s action got under way.
“As the day went on yesterday the greens speeded up more than we expected because the temperature was higher than forecast. The greens are stimping just under what they were yesterday and we don’t expect them to get as quick.”
On his way to the practice area this morning, 2011 winner Darren Clarke commented that the 18th green looked to have been watered since the end of play yesterday.
“The greens were hand-watered last night and a bit more was used than earlier in the week,” added Dawson.
“It’s generally attacking the brown areas, but there is no question that the greens have died. The roots are healthy.”
Former Masters champion Zach Johnson shot a five-under 66 yesterday to lead by one from 1998 champion Mark O’Meara and Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Tom Lehman, another former winner, was in a group on 68, with world No. 1 Tiger Woods and Mickelson both nicely placed after 69s.
“It was a great day yesterday for links course management,” insisted Dawson. “You had to hit the fairway to control your second shot and keep it below the hole.”
O’Meara, who’d disagreed with the course criticism, set out in his second round at just after 7am in the company of Lothians amateur ace Grant Forrest.
On another picture postcard morning on the East Lothian coast, O’Meara started with a par to stay at four-under but Forrest ran up a double-bogey 6 to slip to four-over.
That was a disappointing way to set out again after he’d marked his Open debut with a battling 73, bagging back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th as he covered the last four holes in two-under.
“I played 15 really well,” said Craigielaw’s 20-year-old Scottish Amateur champion. “I hit a 7-iron to 15 feet, holed it and got a bit of momentum back after a few bogeys.
“I then birdied 16 as well from 15 feet again and, though three-putting for a par on 17 was a bit disappointing, I had a great time out there.”
So, too, did West Linton’s Gareth Wright, who shot a level-par 71 on his debut in the event to sit in a tie for 21st at the end of day one.
“I’d have gladly sat in the clubhouse with a nice cold drink if someone had given me level-par as it was tough out there,” declared Edinburgh-based Wright. He faced a nervy wait to resume his bid to make the cut as the Tartan Tour No. 1 was out in the last group today at 4.13pm.
Stephen Gallacher described the first-day test as “brutal” after his 76, three under Lloyd Saltman after his unfortunate 8 after hitting two balls out of bounds at the first.
Disappointingly, the attendance on the opening day was 23,393 – more than 7,000 down on the corresponding figure in 2002.
Meanwhile, a leading Lothians golf official has hit out at the Tented Village at Muirfield. “It’s the worst-ever – Disneyworld,” tweeted former Lothians Golf Association secretary and president John Wood.