From Brian Keogh in Detroit
Graeme McDowell had a pain in the grass after a first round 74 at Oakland Hills and blasted the tricked up rough as “stupid”.
As Padraig Harrington blasted his way into and early US PGA lead with three birdies in the first three holes, the Ulsterman felt he played great all day but closed with three bogeys on the trot to finish on four over.
It was a poor return for the Irish ace, who felt the PGA’s policy of raking the five-inch deep rough towards the tees completely changed the character of the course.
He groaned: “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.”
McDowell blasted off his title bid with a bang - rocketing a massive drive down the first and then firing a wedge to 12 feet.
But he was fooled by the pace of the greens and raced his putt six feet past the hole before saving par.
He did the same at the par three third from eight feet before the “fun” really started.
After a birdie at the sixth, he 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.
“I didn't seem to get much out of my game today. I played good, played really good and hit a lot of fairways and a lot of solid iron shots.
"I seemed to get on the wrong side of the pin a lot and had to get defensive on the greens. I didn't really hole much.
"I hit probably my only bad iron shot of the day on the 16th and I can accept bogey there. I hit a great three iron to 17 and it runs over the back and I make bogey.
“And the 18th is just a tough hole. It was a bad finish and it is obviously disappointing. It could have been a lot better because I played good."
McDowell wasn’t the only player complaining as the deep rough gobbled up balls and sent scores soaring.
The greens were rolled overnight to speed them up while the raking of the first few yards of rough towards the tees severely punished shots hit marginally off line.
Straight hitter Colin Montgomerie crashed to a 76 and favourite Lee Westwood blew up with a 77 as Robert Karlsson and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh took the early clubhouse lead with two under 68s.
Monty said: “It was tough. Unfortunately if you spray it wide you are okay but six inches and a foot off the fairway isn’t. It is a shame. Never mind. We will try again tomorrow.”
Westwood had a nightmare, adding: “I was happy to break 80 after being seven over after 12 holes. 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.
“I can’t think of a reason why they would do it other than to irritate the players as that is all it does. It is five inches long, why brush it back at us. It makes no sense to me. People want to see birdies and they have not seen me make any.”