TWO-SHOT PENALTY OVERTURNED
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 Rickman, through an R&A official, said he weighed the balance of facts and rescinded the two-shot penalty.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.”
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.
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