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Jon Rahm avoids Open penalty after brush with rules

By Andy Hampson

Jon Rahm was at the centre of a rules controversy for the second time in less than a fortnight on the first day of the Open at Royal Birkdale. The Spaniard was penalised two shots on the 17th for moving a plant close to his ball but later had the strokes restored after rules officials accepted his explanation that his lie was not improved.

It meant the 22-year-old was able to sign for a one-under par 69 that he shot rather than the one-over score that was indicated when he finished his round.

The incident came after a similar brush with authority during the final round of his successful charge to victory at the Irish Open at Portstewart earlier this month. On that occasion, Rahm was found to have incorrectly replaced his ball on the sixth green but he was later cleared of wrongdoing.

On this occasion Rahm moved what he felt was dead vegetation, which would have been classed as a loose impediment, only for playing partner Lee Westwood to point out it was growing.

Rahm said: "I don't know what to call the plants - the one with the thorns in it, about three feet long - it was right over my ball.

"I thought it was a loose impediment because it looked dead so I just moved it to the side. That is when Lee realised it was not loose, it was still attached.

"We asked the rules official. He said improving my lie by moving an impediment that was not loose was a two-stroke penalty.

"That is what we agreed on. They said it was a two-stroke penalty. Unfortunately for me I was the only one that saw it, there were no cameras to back me up.

"But it was never on my lie, never on my line, never on my swing path. It was not going to bother me any way.

"I explained my version of what happened. Basically after that they made the decision there was no stroke penalty."

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