Old man O’Meara tells ‘today’s generation’ to quit whining
Ian Poulter among critics of Muirfield course set up after tricky day on the greens
1998 champion Mark O’Meara has seen plenty of tougher days at The Open. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
England’s Ian Poulter said some pin positions were a ‘joke’. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
Veteran Mark O’Meara hit out at younger players who “whine a lot” after the older generation shone on day one at the Open Championship.
Ian Poulter led the criticism of the Muirfield course after scoring during the first round proved increasingly tough in hot conditions that continued to harden, and quicken, the fairways and greens. Yet 1998 champion O’Meara, 56, made light of the difficulties to card five birdies and an eagle in a four-under-par 67.
O’Meara said: “I’m not saying that I haven’t complained or gotten upset on the golf course, but I’m not a big fan of guys that get out there and whine a lot.
“I mean, I just don’t see any reason for it, especially today’s generation. They’re so talented, the players today, and they’re playing for so much money. To be at the top level of whatever sport you’re in, that requires some responsibility.
“That aspect of it I think players should be more aware of and players need to hopefully conduct themselves in the right manner on the golf course. When they don’t, it does bother me to be honest.”
Poulter labelled some of the pin positions at Muirfield as “a joke,” while Phil Mickelson called for tournament organisers to “let go of their ego.”
Poulter was two under par with five holes to play but carded four bogeys and a birdie to return a one-over 72 on a course playing extremely hard and fast. The Ryder Cup star then took to Twitter to complain about elements of the course set-up, writing: “Unfortunately the guys this afternoon will struggle with a few pin positions. 8th hole is a joke, 18th needs a windmill & clown face.”
Former champion Stewart Cink also wrote on Twitter: “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, winner of the Scottish Open on Sunday, fell victim to the fast greens as he three-putted the 18th in a round of 69 and said: “Number eight is probably the worst one that you’ll see. It 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. I love the fact that I shot under par, because it’s a very challenging course out there. I don’t expect anybody to beat the lead from the morning wave, I just don’t think it’s possible.
“Hopefully they (the R&A) will let go of their ego and set it up reasonable (tomorrow), but you just never know.”
O’Meara, whose Open triumph came at Birkdale in a glorious year in which he also won the US Masters, did not have any particular complaints about the course and felt his experience had been crucial.
The American, playing in his 28th Open, said: “I’ve seen the most horrendous conditions you can think about playing golf in. I’ve stood on holes where I could barely hold onto the club and it’s freezing, raining, sleeting and I can’t put my umbrella up.
“To me that’s way more miserable than what we had out there. I thought it was tough, it was challenging, but unfair? I say no. If they think it’s that way, then they need to look at the old man and say, ‘How did he do it that way?’ They should be able to play in these conditions.
“I realise I’m 56, but I also realise that I’ve won the Open Championship and I also know that links golf is a little bit different than playing in the Masters, it’s a little bit different than playing in the US Open, it’s a little different than a PGA.
“Experience, I think, plays a big factor in how guys play.”
O’Meara now returns refreshed for his second round and put himself further into contention for a third major title.
He said: “Do I think I can (win)? When I play like I did today, yeah, I think I can. I didn’t feel like I was 56 years old out there, I felt like I was 32. I know I haven’t won a lot in the last 10, 11 years of my career, but I’ve been close a lot.
“And I know that sometimes if you just keep getting close, sooner or later they’re going to open the door.”