Open's rough injustice denounced by Els and Singh

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The Independent Online

So when someone of Vijay Singh's prominence starts saying that the rough here reminds him of that hideous experience by the Firth of Tay, and when he is backed by Ernie Els, you just know the Royal and Ancient are knee deep in trouble themselves.

"It's Carnoustie all over again in places out there," Singh said yesterday. "I think the course needed changing, but I think they may have overdone it. There are some holes where a yard can be the difference between being unplayable and being somewhere where you can make birdie. The rough is not very consistent and if the wind blows hard it will get really tough and par could be a good figure."

As 19-under won it here five years ago, that is some statement. But with a sea fret coming in yesterday afternoon bringing with it a chilling wind that transformed the nature of the course from benign to malign in an instant, Singh's words took on a prophetic relevance.

"The course has totally changed," the world No 2 said, pointing to two new tees particularly as potentially the most calamitous. "I hit a three-wood just over Hell Bunker," Singh said about the 14th, now the longest hole on the Open roster at 614 yards. "Normally you hit it wherever you want. And the fourth is also incredible now - into the wind, you'll struggle to make the fairway."

But it is at the most famous hole in golf where Singh and Els believe the R&A might have most overstepped the fairness mark. "At the 17th you can lose a ball without trying," Singh said. "Normally you're looking to come in from the right side of the fairway there, but they've narrowed it."

Els agreed that the rough was too penal. "The rough on the 17th is the highest I've ever seen it left or right," the South African said. "And some other parts of the course, the 14th by the right of the wall for instance. If you just leak it a bit too far, you used to get a kick off the wall, but they've got rough next to it now. In fact wherever there is rough it's really demanding."

Tiger Woods, for one, believes the governing body has realised its mistake on at least one of the holes - the fourth - because since he played his first practice round at the weekend an extra area of fairway has been cut there. "They can't have thought it was really fair to have a 280-yard carry all the way across," he said, "so they were kind enough to cut down the rough on the right side."

But as the whingeing started two days before the tournament even begins here, it took the words of Darren Clarke to add some much-needed perspective. The Ulsterman's wife is still fighting cancer and his thoughts were obviously with Heather. But they were also with the Dubliner Padraig Harrington, who officially withdrew yesterday to grieve for his father, Patrick, who lost his battle with cancer in the Irish capital on Monday night.

"I had a long chat with Padraig last week about what was going on," Clarke said. "We were both going through similar type of situations. It is sad, but if his dad was in as much pain as Padraig said he was then it was for the best."