Bri­tish Open re­port

Spa­niard cleared of in­frac­tion

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - GOLF -

SOUTHPORT, Eng­land — Jon Rahm, who thought he was mov­ing a loose twig, didn’t re­al­ize he had vi­o­lated a rule and even­tu­ally was cleared of a penalty in Thurs­day’s open­ing round of the Bri­tish Open.

It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive tour­na­ment in which the Spa­niard was caught up in a rules dis­pute.

This one oc­curred on the 17th hole on Thurs­day when he was play­ing his sec­ond shot out of deep grass. Rahm no­ticed what he thought was a loose im­ped­i­ment to the right of his ball and went to move it. But it was a vine grow­ing just above the ground with thorns. Lee West­wood no­ticed and men­tioned to Rahm that he was vi­o­lat­ing Rule 13-2 for im­prov­ing the area of his in­tended swing.

The walk­ing rules of­fi­cial was called over and af­ter a brief dis­cus­sion, Rahm, 22, was as­sessed a two-shot penalty.

That changed in the scor­ing area when Rahm met with David Rick­man, the rules di­rec­tor of the R&A.

“It would not have af­fected my swing un­less I hit a 50-yard slice, which was not the case for any player in the world in that sit­u­a­tion,” Rahm said.

Why move it if it wasn’t in the way of his swing? Rahm said it was a re­flex be­cause he thought it was a dead twig, sim­i­lar to a player mov­ing away leaves or other loose im­ped­i­ments as a vis­ual dis­trac­tion.

There was no video of the in­ci­dent, and West­wood and Pa­trick Reed were not close enough to him to see for them­selves. Rick­man, through an R&A of­fi­cial, said he weighed the bal­ance of facts and re­scinded the two-shot penalty. The bo­gey be­came a birdie. Rahm’s 71 be­came a 69.

Two weeks ago at the Ir­ish Open, Rahm avoided a two-shot penalty in the fi­nal round for re­plac­ing his ball in­cor­rectly on the sixth green af­ter the Euro­pean Tour re­ceived emails and calls from TV view­ers. Andy McFee, chief ref­eree of the Euro­pean Tour, said Rahm made a “rea­son­able judg­ment” af­ter hav­ing moved his marker one put­ter head to the side to get it off the line of his play­ing part­ner.

Rahm won the Ir­ish Open by six shots.

Rough start

Mark O’Meara was hon­ored when the R&A asked him if he would be the first to tee off at the Bri­tish Open be­cause it will be his last time play­ing and he won at Royal Birk­dale in 1998.

The honor quickly turned into mild em­bar­rass­ment.

It was rain­ing, and O’Meara had his left hand on the driver as he waved to the fans that filled the grandstand. He felt his grip slightly wet, but fig­ur­ing it wouldn’t be a prob­lem, O’Meara took a swing. The ball shot to the right into the gorse, and O’Meara hit an­other tee shot. That one went into the pot bunker on the left. He wound up start­ing his fi­nal Bri­tish Open with a quadru­ple­bo­gey 8.

He fol­lowed with an­other bo­gey into the wind. He made dou­ble bo­gey on the par-3 sev­enth. He was 9 over at the turn. O’Meara wound up with an 81, the high­est score of the day. In his 109th round at the Open, it was only his third round in the 80s. His high­est was the open­ing round at Carnoustie in 1999.

“It’s not the end of the world. I re­al­ize kind of where I’m at in my life,” O’Meara, 60, said. “But, you know, you still play for your pride. When I play like that, I don’t care who plays like that, they’re dis­ap­pointed. And cer­tainly I’m dis­ap­pointed that I didn’t do better to­day.”

Fash­ion state­ment

Justin Thomas had his “coat” and tie. Ja­son Day had his high tops.

To­gether they made a fash­ion state­ment Thurs­day. More im­por­tantly, per­haps, both played well.

Thomas, wear­ing a Polo Golf cardi­gan and a loosely knot­ted tie, shot a 67 and was two strokes off the lead. Day shot 69 while wear­ing white Nike high-top shoes that stood out against his black pants wher­ever he walked.

“If you wear golf shoes with these pants, they don’t look that great,” Day said. “So they look all right with these shoes. I’m happy with them.”

Thomas also was happy with his throw­back look, which the com­pany had pub­li­cized be­fore­hand.

“Ob­vi­ously I knew it was go­ing to get a lot of pub­lic­ity and be out there,” he said. “But I didn’t come here to dress well. I came here to try to play some good golf. And I guess that just hap­pened.”

Casey and cad­die

Paul Casey is a cy­cling en­thu­si­ast at home in Ari­zona, and he took it on the road to Italy two weeks ago.

Casey said he cy­cled 300 miles, which in­volved 3,700 feet of climb­ing, from Verona and up to Cor­vara. He was ac­com­pa­nied by his cad­die, John McLaren, on the oc­ca­sion of his 50th birth­day.

“There was a lot of wine drink­ing go­ing on, as well,” Casey said.

Casey has had a resur­gence since he brought McLaren, known as “Johnny Long Socks,” on his bag. He hasn’t won yet, but he had two close calls in the FedEx Cup play­offs last year, los­ing out to great fi­nal rounds by Rory McIl­roy and Dustin John­son.

Rahm

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