Jon Rahm finished the first round of The Open Championship just four strokes off the lead, but not before a close call with a potential two-stroke penalty that could have severely cut his momentum heading into play on Friday.
As Rahm, one of the pre-tournament favourites to win, was navigating the rough on the par-5 17th at Royal Birkdale, the Spaniard walked up to his ball to prepare to take his second shot. Before playing his ball, he saw a thorny vine in close proximity and thinking it was dead, went to pull the vine away.
Playing partner Lee Westwood walked over and noticed that the vine was still attached, and a rules official was brought over to assess the situation.
The rules official asked Rahm if the move improved his lie, to which Rahm adamently said it did not. After hearing from Rahm and checking the scene, the rules official gave Rahm a tentative two-stroke penalty, with the final decision to be made at scoring. But after discussing the penalty further in the scoring trailer after the round, it was ruled that the penalty would be lifted, leaving Rahm at one-under on the day.
“The discussion was was it an improvement of the lie or not; that’s it,” Rahm said, according to Golfweek. “Unfortunately for me I was the only one who saw it; there were no cameras to back me up. That’s what happened and it was never on my lie, it was never on my line, it was never on my swing path, it was not going to bother my in any way.”
You can watch him speak about the moment further below.
The brief incident marks the second time this month Rahm found himself in a close call with a rules official this month. At the Irish Open earlier in July, Rahm was almost assessed a penalty stroke after accidentally mismarking his ball, but still went on to win the event.
Rahm tees off on Friday at 9:58 a.m. local time well within reach of the leaderboard.