GULLANE, SCOTLAND — The 15th hole at Muirfield is listed at 448 yards, a par 4 guarded by bunkers off the tee. A pot bunker some 30 yards in front prevents players from running the ball to the green. And when players arrived there Friday in the second round of the British Open, they found the true task — finding some way, any way, to two-putt.
Brandt Snedeker, who was in contention much of the day and is one of the best putters on the PGA Tour, needed four putts to get down at the 15th Friday, a triple bogey. He said he didn’t know if there was any place on that green where he could have held an approach shot.
“I don’t know how you’re supposed to do it,” Snedeker said.
Zach Johnson was leading the tournament when he arrived there Friday afternoon. His chip settled 12 feet left of the flag. He ran his first putt just past the edge of the hole, and it didn’t stop until it was five feet past. He missed that one and made a double bogey that knocked him out of the lead. Billy Horschel had a 15-foot putt, missed it, and had 15 feet back up the hill.
“I know other people have found that pin position on edge,” said Ian Poulter, who played with Horschel. “And as fast as that green was and as slopey as that green is, then that pin is in a very, very difficult position.”
Phil Mickelson made an exceptional putt at 15 for his par.
“I had to make it or it was going to be 15 feet coming back,” Mickelson said. He added: “These are the fastest greens we’ve ever had at a British Open. They’re faster than at Augusta.”
Rory McIlroy’s Open ended early, because he followed up his opening 79 by playing his first eight holes in 5-over par. From there, he said, he treated the walk home like a practice round, pulling driver every chance he got en route to a 75 that left him 12 over, missing the cut.
And before he departed, he provided one last analysis of his mystifying 2013, in which he has failed to win in 14 tries with his fourth missed cut.
“It’s been a combination of things, to be honest,” McIlroy said. “Schedule hasn’t been quite right. Swing hasn’t been quite right. And a combination of those has led to, I guess, sloppy play, just because of not [being] sharp enough.”
McIlroy will play six times in the next eight weeks, a stretch that begins Aug. 1 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, where he tied for fifth a year ago the week before winning the PGA Championship. . . .
When Mark O’Meara opened his 28th British Open with a surprising 67, he spoke of his reverence for links golf and the experience it takes to play it. None of that changed Friday after he shot a 78 to drop back to 3 over for the tournament. The explanation for the difference was quite simple.
“I just played pretty poorly, to be honest with you,” said O’Meara, who made one birdie and bogeyed his final three holes.
He was not alone in those among the older set having trouble. Tom Lehman, 53, opened with a 68, but his 77 Friday included four bogeys, a double and no birdies. He’s also 3 over.