Another fun day at Open: Missed cuts, slick greens, apologies and a grumpy defending champ

  • Article by: JIM LITKE , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 19, 2013 - 4:25 PM

GULLANE, Scotland — Two weeks after enjoying the perks of a U.S. Open champion, from dining with the prime minister to watching the Wimbledon men's final from the Royal Box, Justin Rose led a parade of stars exiting the British Open.

Rose shot a 6-over 77 Friday to finish with a two-day total of 152, missing the cut by two strokes. He was joined by several former major winners, including Rory McIlroy and Jim Furyk, as well as a few others, like Luke Donald, Matteo Manassero and Nick Watney, ranked among the top 30 players in the world.

"Golf humbles you all the time," said Rose, No. 3 in the ranking.

The last U.S. Open champion to miss the cut at the British was Lucas Glover in 2009.

Two weeks of unseasonably warm weather and sunshine made the fairways in some places rock-hard and more than a few greens lightning-fast. Even players like McIlroy who grew up playing on links courses found the conditions testing their patience beyond the limit.

The Northern Irishman shot 75 to go with a first-round 79. Birdies were so few and far between that with his departure before the weekend already guaranteed, he celebrated one at No. 17 with an exaggerated fist-pump.

"That was a very big putt for me," he said, laughing.

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SLICK 15th: The nickname for Nicolas Colsaerts coming into the Open was the "Belgian Bomber."

He can only hope someone doesn't change it to "Six-Putt."

That's how many putts it took Colsaerts to get the ball in the hole on the 15th green, where he ended up making a quintuple-bogey 9. He missed the cut by a shot.

"When you see it on TV it will look like a stupid situation but he was trying on every putt and he missed each time," said Michel Vanmeerbeek, Colsaerts' putting coach. "One of the best players in the world ends up looking stupid."

If it's any consolation, Colsaerts wasn't alone. Zach Johnson three-putted from 10 feet, a putt from Billy Horschel went 30 feet when it was supposed to go only 15, and player after player walked off the green shaking their heads in amazement.

"Obviously, 15 was a bit of carnage, when I'm trying to two-putt from 10 feet," Johnson said. "That was just not easy."

Ian Poulter was happy just to get down in two on the green, where the hole was cut on a slope that was exposed to the wind.

"I managed to two-putt it, so I'm over the moon," Poulter said.

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MICKELSON BACKS OFF: A day after he took British Open organizers to task for the setup at Muirfield, Phil Mickelson had a change of heart.

That came despite shooting a 74 that included a four-putt on the 16th hole, where Mickelson took three putts from inside 4 feet.

"When I made those comments yesterday, I wasn't being totally fair to the R&A because they've done a lot of things great this championship," Mickelson said. "The fairway width is a very fair width to get the ball in play. The rough is difficult and challenging, but it's not over the top. It's very fair in spots."

Mickelson said a day earlier that some of the greens were unfair because of the speed of the course and the pin positions.

"For me to single out just a few sketchy pin placements and not give them credit for all the good things they've done was not fair," he said.

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EDGY ERNIE: The only thing defending champion Ernie Els liked less that his round of 74 was having to talk about it afterward.

Asked to talk about the conditions at Muirfield, Els said: "I don't need to be here. Ask your question."

After saying two greens on the back nine had dried out so badly they bordered on unplayable, Els was asked what he thought the setup crew from the Royal & Ancient should do about them.

"Water," he replied.

Grumpy as he appeared, at least Els didn't curse at the reporter like he did to another last month at the U.S. Open before declaring "I'm out of here."

___

TOO YOUNG?: Jordan Spieth's win at the John Deere Classic last weekend made him the youngest player to win on the PGA Tour since 1931. The 19-year-old was making a serious bid to become the youngest British Open Championship since 1868 — until he got reckless over the four closing holes Friday.

Spieth made just two bogeys in his first 32 holes to reach 3 under and stake out a spot near the top of the leaderboard. Then he went double bogey at No. 15, bogey at Nos. 16 and 17, and closed on a sour note by missing a 4-foot birdie putt at the last hole. Despite the 3-over 74, he was still in contention at 143 heading into the final two rounds.

"Yesterday I was, for some reason, extremely patient with just taking my 30-footers and just trying to give myself tap-ins and not worrying about making birdies," Spieth said. "Today I got to a point where I finally had enough and wanted to really hit it closer.

"And that," he added, referring to his closing stretch, "is what happens when you try."

Spieth was asked whether the frenetic pace of the last week might have contributed to the bad decision-making. He said that wasn't a problem, and he wasn't worried about getting caught up reflecting on his breakout win, either.

"Partly because there's not great internet access for me here. But also because it's a major championship, and I'm right back into feeling the nerves of trying to compete out here."

___

TOO OLD?: Making rash decisions on the course is rarely a problem for Mark O'Meara and Tom Lehman.

The two former British Open winners, 56 and 54, respectively, parlayed experience into scintillating opening rounds. Friday, though, was a different story.

O'Meara, the 1998 winner at Royal Birkdale, followed up his 67 with a 78; Lehman, who won at Royal Lytham in 1996, followed his 68 with a 77.

"I just played pretty poorly, to be honest with you," O'Meara said. "Bogeying the last two holes didn't help."

"Really ugly golf," Lehman said. "From the beginning to the end, just seems like I got progressively worse."

Lehman added "there's an element of patience that really suits that kind of course we had yesterday."

But he also conceded giving away yards and years to the rest of the field made winning tougher as the tournament stretched on.

"I think the good rounds are as good, but the bad rounds, you don't hit it as far or bring more of those bunkers into play or start to miss it a little bit. Bunkers that are out of play for the younger guys are in play for me. You kind of get it. Today is a good example."

If either golfer rallies on the weekend, he would become the oldest ever to win a major. Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the PGA Championship in 1968, holds that distinction.

___

FEAST OR FAMINE: With Graeme McDowell locking up a spot on the weekend, the rest of the field is advised to look out.

The Northern Irishman and former U.S. Open champion hasn't been a threat in either of the season's first two majors, missing the cut. McDowell also failed to make the cut in five of the eight tournaments he's played since the Masters — but won all three when he made it to Sunday.

"Not like me to make a cut, so I'm pretty happy with that," he said after shooting an even-par 71 Friday, for a two-day 146 total. "Get your money on me now. ... I certainly didn't want to be sitting at home watching this on TV this weekend."

Despite playing links golf growing up, McDowell's record in nine previous Open appearances hasn't been stellar either. But he appears to be trending in the right direction. His only top-10 finish in this championship came last year at Royal Lytham, when he tied for fifth.

"This golf course is going to get nothing but tougher and tougher. If I can go out tomorrow and shoot a number about, who knows? It's tough to see the leaders getting beyond 4 or 5 under par," he said. "Literally anything a little under par could win at this point."

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