HOYLAKE, England — Taichi Kho made his major debut at this week’s Open Championship, and while it started shaky, the former Notre Dame golfer turned things around on his back nine. He even made his first birdie on 17 — but disaster was waiting on 18.
Kho shot 43 on the front nine on Thursday at Royal Liverpool, but he made all pars on Nos. 10-16. He even birdied the controversial par-3 17th, rolling in a 27-footer for his first red number of the day.
The internal out of bounds on the par-5 18th has caused headaches for some pros this week — Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler included — but Kho avoided that by piping a drive 313 yards down the fairway. He avoided the internal O.B. on his second shot, too, but instead found a pot bunker guarding the green.
Video of Kho’s next several shots is not available, but according to The Open’s shot tracker, things turned grim. He was only nine yards away from the hole, but his score quickly spiraled to a 10.
There’s three pot bunkers that guard the front-left part of the 18th green, and Kho’s second shot found the far left one. He couldn’t get out with his first two attempts, and his fifth shot went to the native area in the back-left corner of the green, 19 yards away from the hole. It was likely a decision by Kho to take his medicine and just escape the bunker.
But that didn’t do the trick, either. His sixth shot went into the same pot bunker, and his next went back out to the native area. From there — he was up against the grandstand and was awarded a free drop — he pitched onto the green and two-putted from nine feet.
It was a rough ending for the 22-year-old Kho, who signed for a 12-over 83 after finishing five strokes over par on the 18th hole alone. In fairness, the pot bunkers at Royal Liverpool have troubled many pros this week, so he wasn’t alone.
A couple of hours after Kho played the 18th, two-time major champ Justin Thomas found the same trio of bunkers. He had similar issues and made 9.
“It’s the most well-bunkered golf course that we play,” Shane Lowry said Thursday. “They’re everywhere — and they’re very penal.”
Kho picked up his first win earlier this year, claiming the Asian Tour’s World City Championship in March. His second round begins at 7:08 a.m. local on Friday.
Here’s hoping he gets revenge on 18.