From Brian Keogh in Detroit
Graeme McDowell slammed US PGA bosses for raking up the rough as he crashed to a four-over par 74 at fast-running Oakland Hills.
The course that Ben Hogan dubbed “The Monster” was transformed overnight by mischievous officials who speed up the greens and ordered greenkeepers to sweep the rough towards the tees with grass rakes, making life impossible for players who missed the fairway by inches.
And McDowell had no hesitation in describing the sneak tactic as “stupid” as he finished with three successive bogeys to trail clubhouse leaders Robert Karlsson of Sweden and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh by six shots.
Padraig Harrington opened with three successive birdies but bogeyd the seventh, ninth and par-five 12th to fall back to level.
But McDowell was still scratching his head and wondering why officials ordered such a massive change in the condition of the course, especially the rough.
After mixing two birdies with six bogeys, McDowell said: “It is horrendous, especially the first three or four yards of the rough. Why do the first three or four yards and not the next ten?
“It hurts the guy that are straight. It hurts the guys that miss the fairway by two yards. It doesn't hurt the big bombers who miss my 10 or 15 yards. It's stupid. I don't like it at all.”
Already five inches deep, the raking process ensured that tee shots hit marginally off-line sat down deep in the grass, making it almost impossible to save par.
Title favourite Lee Westwood failed to make even one birdie as he slumped to a seven-over 77 while the normally arrow-straight Colin Montgomerie shot 76.
Bitterly disappointed, Westwood said: “I was happy to break 80 after being seven over after 12 holes. Standing on the 17th tee I asked my caddie if he could hear the sea as well as I am sure I could hear my holiday calling. But I dug in there.
“I didn’t do a lot wrong. The fairways are narrow and unfortunately if you miss the semi by a foot you are worse off than if you miss by 20 yards, which you need to take different people’s opinions as the whether that is fair.
“You have to reward the accurate players like they did at the US Open. It is a difficult course any way with the greens and the pin positions to protect it.
“I am not sure you need rough as long as it is and you certainly don’t need to sweep it back towards the tee the night before the tournament when we have played it as it is in the practice rounds.”
After a birdie at the sixth, McDowell bogeyed the eighth from just short of the green and dropped another shot at the 10th, where he was bunkered off the tee.
A birdie at the par-five 12 got him back to level par before he missed the greens at the 14th, 16th, 17th and tough 18th to failed to get up and down for par from the thick stuff.
Reflecting on his day, McDowell felt the course had changed completely overnight.
He said: "Unbelievable. I couldn't believe the change in the golf course in 24 hours. It was a different golf course out there.
“The greens are burning up, crusting up. The fairways are quicker. The whole place has toughened up by two or three shots today.
“There are a few unfair holes. The 17th is extremely unfair. I couldn't hit a better shot. I cut a three-iron straight up in the air as good as I can hit it. It pitches 15 feet short of the hole and runs over the back dead."
Darren Clarke was three over par after nine holes with two birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey six on his card.
But he bounced back with birdies at the 11th and 12th to get back to one-over par with six to play.