GULLANE, Scotland — Martin Laird was at home in Scotland, closing in on the lead at the British Open when it all went wrong.
His mess at Muirfield began with a 2-iron that strayed into nasty, yellow rough right of the fairway. After a couple of hacks – and a couple of penalty shots – he staggered off with quintuple-bogey 9.
And that wasn’t even the worst of his forgettable Saturday.
Walking up the 16th fairway, he was informed an additional shot was being added to his score for failing to alert all the right people when he moved his ball in the rough on the 10th hole to identify it.
“To say that deflated me, I think would be an understatement,” Laird said.
He ended his long day with an 81 – 12 shots out of the lead.
WHERE’S THE CROWDS? Despite flawless weather, the crowds at Muirfield are noticeably smaller than the last time the British Open came here in 2002.
The turnout was slightly higher for practice – a total of 31,320 turned out, but the higher-priced tournament tickets haven’t seen as much as 11 years ago.
The opening-round crowd Thursday was 23,393, a significant drop from 30,620 in ’02. The trend was much the same the past two days.
Also noticeable: the number of empty seats at the 18th hole when Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods arrived.
Even the BBC commentators noted that plenty of fans headed home early, despite two of the most popular players still contending for the lead.
SCHOOL’S STILL IN SESSION: Jordan Spieth created a stir last weekend by becoming the youngest PGA Tour winner in 82 years.
But he’s smart enough to know there’s plenty left to learn.
The 19-year-old was 5-over Saturday, hurt by bad bounces and decisions.
“I wasn’t patient and that was the issue,” he said. “Bad bounces are going to happen ... but I could have shot three shots lower, without even playing any different.”
Despite a full schedule since March and the pressures of the previous three weekends, Spieth said he didn’t think fatigue was a factor in his performance here. That said, he wasn’t unhappy about taking time off.
“Yeah,” Spieth acknowledged, “I’m looking forward to it.”
MICKELSON’S GRIND: Phil Mickelson criticized the course setup at Muirfield after his first round in the British Open, then apologized for it after his second.
After finishing play Saturday, he was sticking with the party line.
“I thought today was excellent,” Mickelson said. “It was set up very well. We saw a few scores under par. We saw quite a few over par. If you manage your game well, I thought you could make pars, and an occasional birdie here and there.”
Mickelson shot 72 in the third round, leaving him five shots behind leader Westwood.