Firm, fast, fiery conditions draw fire at British Open

USA Today - Only at the British Open could perfect weather — in collusion with a few thorny pin placements — wreak havoc on the field.

On another Scotland scorcher off the Firth of Forth, where the umbrellas fended off sunshine instead of the inclement weather Open players typically battle, tempers rose as the unseasonably dry Scottish weather continued to bake Muirfield Golf Club, leaving a few players plenty hot under the collar after Thursday's first round of the 142nd British Open.

With wind only a minor impediment — again, unusual for these parts — Zach Johnson shot 5-under-par 66 to grab a one-shot lead on Rafael Cabrera-Bello and 1998 Open winner Mark O'Meara, who is doing his best work these days on the Champions Tour. As is Tom Lehman, the 1996 Open winner, who is in a group with Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker at 68. World No. 1 Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson each shot 69, and reigning Masters champion Adam Scott had a 71.

On the other end of the scoreboard, U.S. Open champ Justin Rose fired 75, Rory McIlroy a 79, Luke Donald an 80.

It was the day's pin placements, more daunting for the afternoon tee times on the crispy course, that drew much of the attention. McIlroy putted a ball into a pot bunker behind the 15th green. Woods putted a ball off the 14th green.

"And it really wasn't that bad a putt," Woods said. "Anything that goes 4 feet by, it's gone. It was tough."

The setup drew the ire of several players, including Ian Poulter and Mickelson.

Poulter shot 72 and said some of the greens reminded him of a miniature golf course. Taking to twitter, he wrote, "Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. 8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face."

Mickelson, the winner last week in the Scottish Open, suggested tournament officials should put their egos in an ice box.

"I think the R&A was really worried about the scores going too low, and there are some really funky pin placements," said Mickelson, who ended his day with a three-putt from 12 feet. " … You got (to) let go of your ego sometimes and just set the course up the way the best players can win.

"… I got very lucky to play early because as the day wore on and we got to the back nine, about a third of every green started to die and became brown. And the pins were very edgy, on the slopes and whatnot."

R&A chief executive Peter Dawson made no apologies, telling the BBC, "We're very happy with the scoring. It's about what we would expect," Dawson said.