British Open qualifying descended into a farce yesterday at Sunningdale Golf Club as the R&A conceded the pin position on the par-3 4th was unplayable.
Play was suspended while the cup was moved from the highest point on the sloping green to a flatter area, and eight players were forced to replay the hole. R&A officials realized there was a problem when Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez five-putted and Brett Rumford four-putted from two feet, taking his second putt from 35 feet.
Martin Kippax, the Open Championship committee chairman, said: “I admit it was a mistake and the responsibility lies firmly with me. I went out and saw that it was in an unplayable position. When I was positioning the holes I was looking to put pins in positions where, if there was any danger of flooding, we would hopefully be able to continue play. I apologized to the eight but I told them it was only going to be equitable if everybody had to play it again whether it’s good or bad for them. One option was to start again
completely, but we were on a tight schedule with 36 holes in one day.”
The player most affected was Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed. He double bogeyed after carding a par the first time. He had to wait until 8 p.m. before he found out those two dropped shots had not cost him one of the 16 places available in the British Open from the 120-strong field.
“I think the European Tour should do the pins,” he said. “Every time I’ve played in an event run by the R&A there have been one or two that were barely playable.”
This debacle brought back memories of the 2004 U.S. Open when the USGA lost control of the par-3 7th at Shinnecock Hills. Amid the furry, Kevin Stadler watched his two-foot putt roll into a bunker and Jerry Kelly fumed: “When are the USGA going to grow a head?”
Notable qualifiers for the British Open were Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell who also qualified for last month’s U.S. Open, and England’s Nick Dougherty who finished seventh at Oakmont. One failure was Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam, returning to competition after suffering from post-viral fatigue syndrome.
“My feet are aching and I’m knackered,” he said.