Thursday Notebook: No birdies at Road Hole on Day 1 of the Open
By Doug Ferguson
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) – The 17th hole at St. Andrews – the infamous Road Hole – was so difficult into the wind and with cold air that it didn't give up a single birdie to the 156-man field in Thursday's first round of the Open Championship. The scoring average was 4.83, and more telling numbers might be the clubs.
Rickie Fowler hit a 3-wood. So did Phil Mickelson, who didn't reach the green.
"I came out of my 3-wood a little bit so it was very short, and I didn't catch my next 3-wood that great," he said. "So I was left with 60 yards back into the wind. It was a perfect shot I could spin. It might not be a bad way to play the hole given those wind conditions. But I was disappointed I missed that putt. I had about a 6-footer. That would have been a heck of a par on that hole."
Paul Casey can't recall having 247 yards left for his second shot. Justin Rose hit 3-iron. The pin was behind the Road Hole bunker, so most players were aiming toward the 18th tee and trying to get up-and-down for par from there.
"That's a pin you're not really attacking with those sorts of clubs," Rose said.
SECOND OPINION IS THE ONE THAT COUNTS: The early part of the first round of the Open Championship was going at a reasonable pace Thursday morning until it all came to a halt on the 15th hole thanks to an errant tee shot by J.B. Holmes, a gorse bush and a lad who thought he had a souvenir.
Holmes wound up with a triple bogey and wasn't happy about the ruling – or lack of a ruling – that he received.
His drive went right into the prickly bush, and Holmes thought he might be able to get line-of-sight relief from a temporary immovable object. He said the referee wasn't sure and called for a second opinion. European Tour chief referee John Paramor denied it. Holmes couldn't get another official.
"I wanted one more opinion because our walking guy (rules official) said he wasn't really sure about it," Holmes said after his 73. "He wanted to get a second opinion, and then they said the second opinion is the final opinion. And I was like, 'Well, the first guy didn't really give his opinion.' But that said that's what it is."
But there was more.
He said a child saw the ball and picked it up. By rule, Holmes had to replace it as near to where it was believed to be.
"If it would have been 2 feet in another direction, maybe I would have got the relief because I could have got more a swing on it," he said. "You would think most spectators would know not to pick up balls. He was a kid. I'm sure he was excited and thought he found a ball. I'll have to move on and go play out tomorrow."
Speaking of moving on, the entire saga took so much time that the group of Bubba Watson played through. Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed were hopeful of doing the same, but by then Holmes was ready to go.
WATSON'S BIG DAY: Five-time champion Tom Watson, at 65 playing in his last Open, looked like he might have a good chance to hang around St. Andrews all four days. The final six holes made that a lot less likely.
Watson was 2-under par for his round until he made three double bogeys coming in. He wound up with a 76.
"I knew the back nine was going to play a little tougher into the wind, and I knew I had to hit some quality shots," Watson said. "And I didn't. That was the disappointment. I didn't finish the deal. I failed."
Watson said it would take an "extraordinary" round for him to make the cut with a forecast of 30 mph wind. Either way, he plans a celebration for his final Open. Watson is the only player in the 155-year history of this championship to win on five links courses. But never at St. Andrews.
"We're going to have a big party tomorrow night, and a good time tomorrow night," he said.
DOPING PLEA: The director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency is pushing for golf to become fully compliant with the global drug-testing standards.
David Howman says he's encouraged by comments made by R&A chief Peter Dawson on the eve of the Open.
Dawson noted that stricter doping rules will go into effect 13 weeks ahead of next year's games in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will make its return to the Olympic program. After that, he wants all tours to "move toward being wider compliant at all times."
Howman says "no sport can be complacent on the doping issue," and he's hoping the Rio Olympics will spur the PGA Tour and other major organizations to adopt tougher guidelines.
He calls WADA's system the "gold standard" and says it's the best way to ensure "that clean athletes and the watching public can have full confidence in the anti-doping system."
FAST START, SLOW FINISH: The numbers explain the day for David Lingmerth of Sweden. He had a 69 without shooting in the 30s on either nine.
Lingmerth showed that low scores were available in the morning when he made birdie on his first four holes and went out in 29, making him the fourth player at St. Andrews with that 9-hole score, and the first since Paul Broadhurst and Ian Baker-Finch in 1990.
And then he shot a 40 on the back nine for his 69.
The difference? Not much.
"Links golf, you can miss 30 yards one way and be fine, and if you miss 3 feet the wrong way, you're in big trouble," he said. "And that's kind of what happened to me on the back a couple of times. I just left myself some really tough positions and had to fight."
DIVOTS: Tiger Woods is now taking shots from the American Association of Retired People. Asked on Tuesday if he ever thought about retirement, Woods said, "I don't have an AARP card yet, so I'm a long ways from that." Long after the 39-year-old Woods opened with a 76, AARP tweeted to Woods, "It's better to be over 50 than it is to be over par." ... Twenty-five years after he won at St. Andrews, Nick Faldo didn't make a birdie in his round of 83. He was in last place. "You can't fall out of a TV tower and come and play here and hope. Silly boy," Faldo said. "I'm not a golfer anymore. You come here to try to do your best, but these guys play every day of the week and it's a tough golf course. I'm not even a part-time golfer."
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