The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

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

On the 17th hole Thurs­day, he was play­ing his sec­ond shot out of deep grass when he 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 was as­sessed a two-shot penalty.

That changed in the scor­ing area when the 22-year-old Spa­niard met with David Rick­man, the rules di­rec­tor of the R&A.

“It would not have af­fected my swing un­less I hit a 50yard 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.

“At the end of the day, it’s not my call, hon­estly,” Rahm said. “I can de­scribe what hap­pened as hon­estly and truth­fully as pos­si­ble, as de­tailed as can hap­pen.”

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 quadru­ple-bo­gey 8.

It didn’t get much better as he fin­ished with an 81, the high­est score of the day.

Fash­ion plates.

Justin Thomas had his “coat” and tie. Ja­son Day had his high tops. To­gether they made a fash­ion state­ment and 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. Doug Fer­gu­son, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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