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Johnson a big fan of Carnoustie

Solid start: Zach Johnson en route to his opening 69
Solid start: Zach Johnson en route to his opening 69

By Phil Casey

Former champion Zach Johnson hailed a "terrific job" by tournament organisers after an opening round of 69 at Carnoustie.

Johnson was highly critical of the USGA at last month's US Open, accusing them of failing to learn from their mistakes and "losing" the golf course after his third round at Shinnecock Hills.

The USGA admitted they went "too far" with elements of the course set-up as just three players broke par and scores of 66 early in the day proved enough to lift Tony Finau and Daniel Berger from a tie for 45th to a share of the lead.

"From a competitive standpoint I think you could argue Shinnecock is the best course we could play," Johnson said. "Carnoustie is really, really good too, don't get me wrong. But the beauty of what we're seeing right here is Mother Nature just took it over. This is what you get.

"When you go into a place like Shinnecock and try to not let Shinnecock be Shinnecock, you saw what happened on Saturday, which is unfortunate. I shot two over and played awesome.

"I felt bad for the guys behind me because I had a moderate tee time. I felt really, really bad for the USGA because they're good people. I just don't understand the mentality.

"And this is the opposite of that. The golf course is what it is. Greens are what they are. It's a perfect Championship.

"You go back to the first two days at Shinnecock, how many guys were under par? One. Who was it? Dustin (Johnson). Who is he? He's No.1 in the world.

"There's nothing wrong with it. The R&A does a terrific job. They always do."

Henrik Stenson, meanwhile, was satisfied with his first round after overcoming injury.

The 2016 champion's preparations were hampered by an elbow problem that forced him to miss last week's Scottish Open, but the Swede carded a one-under-par 70.

The 42-year-old said: "I'm happy with a fighting performance. I feel like I'm behind on practice, playing and preparation. We're just trying to do the best with what we have.

"The elbow is okay. It's not 100% but good enough to play. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here."

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