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Darren Clarke docked two strokes in bizarre rules infraction due to … a bird feeder

June 28, 2019

Darren Clarke began his first U.S. Senior Open with a frustrating first round 73 at Warren Golf Course at Notre Dame. The score wasn’t what he wanted (or needed) on a low-scoring day, but it wasn’t what it could have been because of a bizarre rules infraction by … his caddie.

Clarke had turned to the back nine after shooting one-under on the front, but flew his tee shot in the fescue trouble left of the 10th fairway. While meeting with rules officials to get a ruling, Clarke’s caddie did his best to uproot a bird feeder that was in Clarke’s line toward the green.

Can you blame him? A bird feeder would feel not much different than other movable obstructions like the ropes that keep fans from the fairways. But in this case, it was different. The bird feeders at the Notre Dame course were immovable obstructions, so Clarke’s caddie’s attempts were an infraction of Rule 16-1. Immovable obstructions only allow for relief when they interfere with the player’s stance or swing, not their intended line of play.

Clarke would go on to make a bogey on the par-4 10th, but the penalty for the infraction was two stokes, adding up to a triple bogey for him, dropping him down to two over for the event.

Clarke finished his first round at three over, a brutal score on a day where scoring was incredibly low. Steve Stricker and David Toms both shot 8-under 62s. Tom Watson, ever the golfing machine, shot his age, 69, on a day where the scoring average was 71.50.