A solid start from Mickelson at Muirfield, and then some advice for the R&A

  • Article by: DOUG FERGUSON , AP Golf Writer
  • Updated: July 18, 2013 - 11:20 AM

GULLANE, Scotland — Along with trying to win more majors, Phil Mickelson is giving some advice how to run them.

For the second straight round in a major, Mickelson had a few choice words for the way the golf course was set up. In the final round of the U.S. Open at Merion, he was caught on camera turning to USGA executive director Mike Davis and questioning why the par-3 third hole was 274 yards into the wind.

He was a little more coy with the R&A on Thursday for some hole locations on greens that even at midday were brown and brutally quick.

"We've got (to) let go of our ego sometimes and just set the course up the way the best players can win," Mickelson said after a solid start of 2-under 69. When a reporter started a question by saying, "You said you have to let go of your ego," Mickelson interrupted him.

"I wasn't referring to me," he said.

Muirfield has been firm and fast since the weekend, with dry conditions in the forecast for the rest of the week. The R&A was turning on sprinklers for a brief time in the evening to keep the speed of the course from getting out of control.

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson saw no problem with the course.

"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," Dawson said on the BBC. "It is part of the links courses defenses in this type of weather."

The hole location getting most of the attention was on the 441-yard eighth hole, in which Mickelson said it was tough to get chips or some putts within 6 feet of the hole. He also mentioned the 18th being on the edge of a slope.

Ian Poulter weighed in on Twitter after he opened with a 72.

"Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. 8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face," Poulter tweeted.

Mickelson was a little more reserved in his comment.

"I got very lucky to play early today because as the day wore on and we got to the back nine, about a third of every green started to die and become brown," he said. "And the pins were very edgy, on the slopes. The guys that played early had a huge, huge break. Because even without any wind, it's beyond difficult."

Dawson said the R&A was "very conscious" of the players' comments.

"And we will take it into account tonight when we decide our green keeping strategy overnight, just how we are going to set the course up tomorrow," he said. "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."

Mickelson said he was trying to lag his putt on the par-5 17th and it still went 6 feet past the hole.

"No. 8 is probably the worst one that you'll see if you watch it on TV," Mickelson said.

The four-time major champion had no complains how he played. He made an 18-foot putt for par on the opening hole, and then made an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 2 and a birdie putt from just inside 20 feet on the next hole.

The best part of his round was a series of pars when Mickelson said his game went through some "technical difficulties."

Once he got that sorted out, he made birdies on the 14th and 15th holes, and even a bogey on the 18th didn't spoil his day too much. It was his lowest start at the British Open since a 69 at Hoylake in 2006.

"I love the fact that I shot under par because it's a very challenging course out there," Mickelson said.

Mickelson had his record sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open at Merion, where he started the final round with the lead. He made two bogeys with wedge in his hand on the back nine, but he was particularly bothered by the par-3 third hole.

Walking off the fourth tee, he looked back at Davis and said, "That's terrible - 274 yards? You can't even reach it," Mickelson said.

As for the R&A and the pin placements on some of the holes at Muirfield?

"Well, hopefully they'll ... let go of their ego and set it up reasonable, but you just never know," he said. "I think both the players and the tournament committee were excited about the conditions because of how firm the golf course is playing. And I think they wanted a little bit more wind, but there's enough wind that it's challenging to maneuver shots. You have to hit shots to accommodate the wind, to get the ball coming into the greens at the right angles and stuff."

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