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Spieth still hitting learning curve

Crowd numbers down at Open; Lefty gives course a thumbs-up

The Associated PressJuly 20, 2013 

British Open Golf

Phil Mickelson plays out of a bunker on No. 15 during Saturday's third round.

SCOTT HEPPELL — AP

— 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 hobbled to a 5-over 76 Saturday, hurt by bad bounces and worse decisions.

“I wasn’t patient, and that was the issue,” he said. “Bad bounces are going to happen out here, but I could have shot three shots lower, without even playing any different.”

Despite being 6 over for the tournament, Spieth enjoyed himself, in part because he played alongside Northern Irishman and major winner Darren Clarke.

“He’s obviously loved, and I can see why. Extremely nice guy, he’s very selfless, he’s rooting for me. It was cool,” Spieth said.

Despite a full schedule since March and the pressures of being in contention 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 after the Open.

“Yeah,” Spieth acknowledged, “I’m looking forward to it.”

Where are the crowds?

Despite flawless weather, the crowds at Muirfield are noticeably smaller than the last time the British Open came here in 2002.

The R&A reported attendance figures for the first three days of the tournament, as well as the practice. The turnout was slightly higher for practice — a total of 31,320 — but the higher-priced tournament tickets haven’t been 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. At Muirfield’s previous Open, the crowds were 34,479 for the second round, 33,212 for the third.

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.

No one can blame the weather for the smaller turnouts. It has been sunny all week, with temperatures in the 70s.

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 a 72 in the third round, leaving him five shots behind leader Lee Westwood.

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