SOUTHPORT, England -- Jerry Kelly put the Royal & Ancient in the same league as the U.S. Golf Association on Thursday, and considering he shot 83 in the first round of the British Open, that wasnt a compliment.
Kelly, who criticized the USGA over the setup at Shinnecock Hills for the final round of the 04 U.S. Open, blamed the R&A for not moving up a few tees in 30 mph wind, which he said made it impossible for him to reach four of the par 4s.
I was really surprised because the R&A usually uses common sense, Kelly said. The weather was playable, but not with that setup. Do you want to take half the field out of the championship just because you cant hit it far enough? Basically, if youre not a long hitter out there today, then there are seven or eight par 5s.
R&A chief executive Peter Dawson didnt understand the fuss.
Three of the holes in question were the 499-yard sixth, the 11th and the 16th hole, which are moderate in length (just under 440 yards) but required a carry of some 210 yards to reach the fairway.
Vijay Singh couldnt reach the sixth hole in two by using driver twice, both solidly struck.
Dawson said with such a strong wind, the sixth hole played more like a par 5. He also noted that the claret jug is awarded to the lowest score, not the score under par.
It was a par 5 today, even though it was a par 4 on the card, Dawson said. I just dont see an issue with (No.) 6 at all. There was no issue about whether you could reach the fairway or not. End of story, as far as Im concerned.
He said the 11th hole required a 230-yard carry, but officials mowed the rough in front of the fairway earlier in the week and set the markers to the front of the tee box.
I do believe its reachable by most of the field if the ball was well-struck, Dawson said.
He didnt hear any complaints about the 16th, where the next forward tee is some 50 yards closer. He hadnt heard from Kelly, though, who had said he would talk to Dawson about the way the course was set up.
Theyve put themselves right in the same league with the USGA at Shinnecock, Kelly said. They knew what was coming. We knew what was coming yesterday. Four greens I couldnt reach. Three fairways I couldnt reach. I cant hit it far enough. This is a great golf course. You cant mess it up, except for the tees.
Dawson said he considered Kelly a good friend and a great supporter of the British Open who had a bad day at the office.
Links golf tough day by the seaside, Dawson said.
VETERANS DAY: Some of the British Open champions now on the 50-and-older circuit acquitted showed how much experience matters on the links courses, especially Tom Watson.
He was the first player under par Thursday'albeit briefly after a birdie on the opening hole'but the five-time champion refused to buckle in the wind and rain and finished birdie-par for a 74.
I have plenty of experience on Open Championship courses, but in conditions like this, you have to judge the wind right, Watson said. I did that today. If you dont do that and you hit some bad shots thats it.
Mark OMeara, who won at Royal Birkdale in 1998 at age 41, also had a 74 by playing the back nine in even par.
DUVAL STIRS: David Duval has said he was close to playing well again. In conditions that expose the slightest weakness, he used the first round of the British Open to show he was serious.
Ive been expecting some glimpses of greatness for a while, Duval said after opening with a steady 73.
Duval, who hasnt won since the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan at the end of 2001, showed remarkable control of his shots in 30 mph wind. His best shot was a 4-iron on the 184-yard 12th hole that he held against a harsh right-to-left wind to a right hole location. The ball settled 10 feet away for one of his three birdies.
Getting the ball onto the green is success, he said. Hitting it within 10 or 12 feet was obviously a great golf shot.
As for the six bogeys? Those were to be expected.
Duval, who won the British Open in 2001 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, has made only one cut in 11 starts on the PGA TOUR this year, and that was a tie for 60th at the Stanford St. Jude Classic. He has only two rounds under par.
But he rarely looked more in control than he did Thursday at Royal Birkdale.
I probably stand here with a lot more confidence than you maybe think I should if you simply look at results, Duval said. But Im the one holding the club, Im the one hitting the shots, so I know how Im truly swinging the golf club and how Im playing. And I feel good about it.
WET WEATHER: Lucas Glover played his entire round in the rain, and summed up his experience with one comment.
You know youre at the British Open when you come inside to change rain suits, he said.
SLOCUM STARTS: Heath Slocum figured his best chance of playing his first British Open was if defending champion Padraig Harrington could not play because of his injured wrist.
Warming up in the morning, he was two spots down from Harrington on the practice range, but didnt stay long.
When I saw him hitting full shots, I knew he was OK, Slocum.
So he retreated to the clubhouse, the putting green and family dining, bracing for a long day. The first tee time was 6:30 a.m., and the last group went off at 4:31 p.m. Slocum couldnt afford to leave the property.
Imagine his surprise when an R&A official tapped him on the back at 9:15 a.m. to tell him that Toru Taniguchi had withdrawn.
I was a little bit stunned, Slocum said. And I was pretty excited.
He played that way, too, opening with a 73.
BEEMS BAD DAY: Rich Beem took a few practice strokes on the second green and moved over his ball when he backed off, noticing that the wind made it wiggle. It moved the ball slightly, and Beem called for an official.
He was assessed a one-shot penalty because it was deemed he had grounded his club, and thus had addressed the ball when it moved.
I thought you had to be set to address the ball, Beem said. We sat there and argued for a good seven or eight minutes. I called another official, and apparently, once you put the putter down, youve taken your stance.
A triple bogey turned into an 8, and Beem was done after nine holes, joining Sandy Lyle as the two players who quit early.
I came over here to compete for the Open, and it wasnt meant to be, Beem said. It stinks. But its a hell of a game. Anybody who plays with any passion knows how hard it can be.
EARLY STARTERS: R&A chief executive Peter Dawson was on the first tee for the opening shots Thursday, watching as Craig Parry, Simon Dyson and Lucas Glover found the short grass.
Someone asked if he knew about Glovers reputation?
Oh? What would that be? Dawson said.
Glover is among the fastest players on the PGA Tour, and when told this, Dawson nodded his head and smiled.
Really? he said. Funnily enough, so are the other two.
Its a safe bet those three players were not first off the tee by accident.
DIVOTS: Davis Love III was among the 29 players who failed to make a birdie in the opening round, but he takes on special significance. Love failed to make a birdie in his final two rounds of the U.S. Open, and now has gone 55 holes in majors without one. All of the 19 rounds in the 80s came in the morning. Mike Weir shot 71 despite two double bogeys.