By DOUG FERGUSON
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The Royal & Ancient Golf Club stood by the rules official who gave Tiger Woods free relief from television cables in the British Open, even though its rules director said Friday he was able to move the cables himself.
“We know Alan Holmes got the ruling right,” said David Rickman, rules director of the R&A.
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Woods’ tee shot on the 10th hole Thursday went left into thick rough, resting on a strand of cables. Holmes, the incoming chairman of the R&A rules committee, tried to move the cables but found them to be fixed. In that situation, the player can drop the ball within one club length without penalty.
Woods’ lie improved dramatically, from thick rough to trampled grass. He hit just short of the green and made an 8-foot par putt.
Mark Roe, a former European tour player working for the BBC, said he was able to move the cables a full yard, raising questions whether Woods was given preferential treatment.
Rickman said he went to the spot Thursday evening and said he also could move the cables. But he said he it was possible the cables had been snagged in high grass or by the stakes holding the ropes. He also said spectators might have been standing on the section of the cables.
“I don’t have a clear explanation,” he said. “Alan confirmed the cables were not readily movable.”
TEMPER, TEMPER: Henrik Stenson lost his ball out-of-bounds on the par-3 eighth hole, then he lost his temper.
The Swedish star, who won the Accenture Match Play Championship in February, smashed his club into the tee marker. He went on to make triple bogey and shot 40 on the front nine, then ended his round with a bogey on the 18th for a 76.
He could have saved his angry for late in the afternoon. The cut fell at 4-over 146, and Stenson missed by one.
Ernie Els also was frustrated by his putting, which he said cost him about four or five strokes. After missing a short putt on the ninth hole, the Big Easy let out an expletive loud enough for everyone to hear.
And he saved another one, slightly more mild, after a grilling from the media.
“That’s just the way I felt,” Els said. “Normally, I keep it all in. But I thought, ‘Maybe let me get everything out.’ I didn’t see too many small kids, so hopefully, they all closed their ears. That’s what a major does to you.”
Later in the interview, he was asked whether his reaction at No. 9 was a culmination of emotions. Then he was asked if he had heard about Stenson. Then he was asked where his mind was at that moment. Finally, a question about what his coach would have said.
“Who gives a (expletive),” Els said. “Jeez!”
SHADES OF ‘99: Just as they did the last time the Open came to Carnoustie, Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard nervously watched the day’s final group play the 18th hole to learn their fates.
The difference is that in 1999, leader Jean Van de Velde made triple-bogey there, opening the door to a four-hole playoff that Lawrie eventually won by making birdies on the final two holes. This time around, both were already at 5-over par 147 and simply hoping to make the cut.
The Open field is trimmed to 70 players and ties after the second round, and the only way Lawrie and Leonard would have played on the weekend was for W.J. Lee to make double-bogey and slip into the group at 147. Lee came close, but salvaged a bogey for a round of 73 and a 146 score at the midway, sending both home to watch the rest of the tournament on TV.
GOOD BREAK: Tiger Woods wasn’t the only player who got a good break on the 10th hole at Carnoustie.
Woods’ approach was headed for the burn to the right when it rattled into the trees and found land. Jim Furyk’s escape was even more fortuitous, as it sailed through the trees and hit the edge of the concrete bridge, bouncing into the cluster of trees.
Furyk figured it was wet, and that he would do well to escape with double bogey.
“I’ve never been so happy to see a ball stymied behind a tree,” Furyk said after his 70, which left him four shots behind.
Then there was Rich Beem.
The former PGA champion was 2 under for the tournament when his ball headed for the burn and wound up at the bottom. He took double bogey, made another double bogey on the 18th and shot 73. Beem wound up seven shots behind.
ON THE AIR: The last European to win a major championship was inside the ropes at Carnoustie with golf spikes.
And it wasn’t Paul Lawrie.
Karen Stupples of England, who won the Women’s British Open three years ago, is working at the British Open as a radio commentator for BBC Five Live. She was assigned to Phil Mickelson’s group Friday.
“I can talk endlessly. That’s my skill,” Stupples said.
Don’t get the idea she is hanging up her clubs for a microphone. Stupples recently gave birth to her first child, and will be at St. Andrews for the Women’s British Open in two weeks. She already played a Ladies European Tour event a few weeks ago in her first tournament as a major – 10 weeks after giving birth – and finished second.
Stupples won her only major by starting the final round at Sunningdale with an eagle. On the par-5 second, she holed a 5-iron from 202 yards for a double eagle.
“I still can’t believe I did that,” Stupples said.