The Open 2013: Poulter & Mickelson Blast Muirfield Set-Up

Organisers of The Open Championship have come under heavy criticism from a number of players unhappy with the set-up of Muirfield for the opening round of play.

The recent spell of hot weather has been welcomed by most people, but it has led to fast and hard fairways, as well as slicker greens which in the opinions of Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson made the course dangerously close to being out of control.

Poulter dropped four shots in the last five holes to return a disappointing 72 before lambasting the R&A for some “joke” pin placements. And it was the same story for Mickelson, who urged the tournament officials to “let go of their ego” after he managed a 69.

Poulter drew upon his annoyance at the course via his Twitter account, writing: “Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. 8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face.”

Poulter was speaking with reporters after his round and added: “It was disappointing I hit some great shots today and did not get my reward. The pins were very close to the mark. The pins on the eighth and 18th holes are so tough. I think the organisers did it because they were afraid of someone tearing up the course in the conditions.”

There was also a Twitter remark from former champion Stewart Cink, who wrote: “Muirfield greens really baking out in the sun. Keep an eye on #8, #9, and #16-18. Overall the greens are the fastest I’ve seen in the Open.”

Mickelson three-putted the 18th to slip two under and said, “No 8 is probably the worst one that you’ll see. The ball won’t stop until it collects in a little level area about eight feet away. Very difficult conditions and playing early gave us at least a fighting chance. Hopefully the R&A will let go of their ego and set it up reasonable on Friday, but you just never know."

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson insisted the course was “far from unplayable,” although he did admit comments made by players would be taken on board and considered. “We do have some fantastic weather,” he said. “We have the conditions here we really like to have, hard, fast, running conditions and we’ve set up the course to test the players’ course management strategy as much as anything.” He went on: “It is part of the links course’s defences in this type of weather, the course is playing very short. We are obviously very conscious of player comment and we will take it into account when we decide our greenkeeping strategy, just how we are going to set the course up for Friday.

"We are very happy with the scoring, it's about what we would expect. Five under par is currently leading with a good number of players under par. I do understand that some players get very frustrated. 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.”

"We are still very satisfied that the course is playable but very testing. It is far from unplayable."

And there was support for Dawson from 2001 champion David Duval, who tweeted: “Hard but fair at Muirfield today. Stop complaining.”

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