SOUTHPORT, England — Steve Stricker shrugged off a slow start to salvage a respectable round during the first day of the British Open on Thursday.
Stricker, a Madison resident and Edgerton native, had bogeys on two of his first six holes but rallied to post an even-par 70 at Royal Birkdale.
The 50-year-old Stricker is tied for 40th, five shots back of Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka.
Stricker birdied Nos. 10 and 13. He bogeyed No. 16 but came back on the next hole with a birdie.
“It was important getting that (birdie) at 10,” Stricker said. “I just got over here Monday and it was tough. I didn’t feel very ready to go this morning. Getting up at 5:30 here, which is still 11:30 at home, you feel like you should be sleeping. My body didn’t feel very good.
“I warmed up and thought like, ‘Geez, we’ve got our work cut out for us today.’ So I just managed my way around there. It’s all a challenge.”
Stricker and playing partners Matt Fitzpatrick and Emiliano Grillo will tee off at 6:42 Madison time this morning.
Jon Rahm thought he was moving a loose twig, didn’t realize he had violated a rule and eventually was cleared of a penalty.
Rahm 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 50-yard slice, which was not the case for any player in the world in that situation,” Rahm said.
The sixth hole at Royal Birkdale lived up to its fearsome reputation.
David Duval can vouch for that.
The 2001 British Open champion ran up a quadruple-bogey 8 and was one of eight players to make double or worse at the 499-yard hole that ranked No. 1 in the first round, with an average score of 4.5. It was the toughest hole the past two Opens held at Birkdale, in 1998 and 2008.
The signature hole on the front side is a left-to-right dog-leg that requires a precise drive and a long second shot to an elevated and well-contoured green protected by three bunkers at the front — two on the right and one on the left — and surrounded by dunes.
Dustin Johnson was asked before the tournament what he would call the hole if it was to be given a name, like they do at St. Andrews and some other Open courses.
“Probably words I couldn’t use in a press conference,” the top-ranked Johnson said.