Jon Rahm, in another rules situation, avoids penalty at British Open

Getty Images

Jon Rahm, in another rules situation, avoids penalty at British Open

PGA Tour

Jon Rahm, in another rules situation, avoids penalty at British Open

SOUTHPORT, England – Jon Rahm found himself in the middle of another rules situation Thursday at the British Open. But again, no penalty was assessed.

Rahm was walking up to his ball before his second shot at the par-5 17th hole during his opening round at Royal Birkdale when he saw a 3-foot-long thorny vine, or reed, near his ball. Thinking the reed was dead, he pulled the reed away; a reflex move, Rahm called it. That’s when playing competitor Lee Westwood stepped in.

“I got there and I thought it was a loose impediment because it looked dead, so I just moved it to the side,” Rahm explained. “And that’s when Lee came and he realized it was attached.”

A rules official was called over and Rahm was asked whether it improved his lie or not. If it did, he would be subject to a two-shot penalty under Rule 13-2. Rahm was adamant that it did not improve his lie.

“It was just over an inch right of my ball,” Rahm said. “It was not on my line and it would not have affected my swing unless I were to hit a 50-yard slice.”

The official did not clear Rahm immediately. Instead, Rahm was tentatively assessed the two-shot penalty. He would finish his round, and then a final decision would be made in scoring.

With the two shots added, Rahm went on to make double bogey on 17, though live scoring showed him with a 7 on the hole. When he closed with par at the closing hole, Rahm was listed at 2 over.

But after discussing the matter in the scoring trailer with chief referee David Rickman. R&A officials told Golfweek that Rickman spoke to both players to establish the facts, and because there was no TV evidence, he had to rely on the testimonies of the players.

Rickman decided that the lie had not been improved, and that Rahm gained no advantage while acting in good faith. Rahm was therefore cleared of any wrongdoing, the two-stroke penalty was removed, and Rahm walked away with an opening 1-under 69.

“The discussion was was it an improvement of the lie or not; that’s it,” Rahm said. “I explained my version of what happened. 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 me in any way.”

Jon Rahm avoided a two-shot penalty Thursday at the British Open. (Getty Images)

The Spaniard was embroiled in a potential penalty situation two weeks ago at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. Rahm was several shots in the lead on the 13th hole at Portstewart Golf Club in the final round when a rules official met up with him to talk about how he marked his ball on the sixth green.

On that par 3, Rahm was facing an 18-incher for par, but his ball was directly in front of the mark of playing opponent Daniel Im.

In order to avoid putting his mark on Im’s, Rahm marked his ball to the side before moving it over a putterhead length to get out of Im’s line. When Rahm replaced his ball to putt out, he moved it that putterhead length back but from there appeared to mark the ball in front rather than to the side.

Viewers emailed about a potential infraction and social media blew up about the two-shot penalty that seemed inevitable for violating Rule 20-7c (playing from the wrong place).

But in a controversial decision, officials did not penalize Rahm. The parties felt Rahm had not put the ball back down in front, and that he had used reasonable judgement to put the ball back in the same place as before.

This reasonable judgement standard is a new one implemented following the mis-marking penalty fiasco that cost Lexi Thompson the ANA Inspiration. In the end, Rahm avoided penalty thanks to this standard and won by six.

Rahm said it’s been frustrating to be involved in two rules situations in the span of three weeks. But he isn’t letting it bother him because he knows he has no control over the final decision.

“At the end of the day it’s no my call, honestly,” Rahm said. “I can describe what happened as honestly and truthfully as possible, and as detailed as can happen, and they make the judgment call. it’s up to them. They did say it was a very fine line, but the decision is up to them. I would’ve been fine with whatever. They’re the rules officials; they know the rules better than any of us, and it’s their call. I said the same two weeks ago.”

So while Rahm has to feel good about the 69 he fired Thursday. He likely feels just as good knowing that he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home