The Open: Muirfield to be in prime condition

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy plays in the shadow of a golfing legend during his practice round. Picture: Jane Barlow

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy plays in the shadow of a golfing legend during his practice round. Picture: Jane Barlow

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OPEN Championship chiefs have Muirfield “exactly as we wanted it” for this week’s 142nd Open Championship but have started watering overnight to stop it becoming arid.

The recent hot spell has turned the East Lothian venue from green to light brown over the past fortnight, its fairways having become brick-hard and fast-running. But, while happy to see how the course has taken shape, the R&A are also now taking steps to ensure it stays that way as the good weather continues.

“We’ve got the course exactly as we wanted it,” chief executive Peter Dawson told The Scotsman. “The players are loving it with nothing but compliments.

“It’s just a process now of keeping it as it is and trying to balance a little bit of irrigation at night with what we expect to lose during the day so as to not get too browned off.”

World No 1 Tiger Woods said he had been aware of some watering on Monday night as he continued his preparations by playing nine holes yesterday.

“The golf course has a little bit of speed to it but today is a little bit slower,” he noted. “I think somebody might have put some water on it last night.” Dawson added: “We are just trying to keep it as it is. We also have the green speeds coming up nicely, close to where we want them to be on Thursday.

“As things stand right now, we are very pleased with the course – it couldn’t be better – but we just need to be careful.”

While similar in appearance to Hoylake in 2006, when Tiger Woods only used his driver once but still won on a fast-running course, Dawson insisted this week is slightly different to then.

“Hoylake was a little bit more burnt but I didn’t think it was as firm,” he said. “I think that Hoylake had got to a slightly powdery stage, which we don’t have here. As for the rough here, it is not as thick as it looks. The sun has burnt it out a bit and it is wirey now as opposed to lush, which is just what you want it to be.”

The good weather has also had a positive effect on attendance figures in the three official practice days so far.

“We’re already seeing better crowds than we expected so far this week,” reported Dawson. “Catering and merchandising sales are already strong, which is encouraging.”

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