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British Open 2023: Tour pro who just served a month-long suspension is on the Open leaderboard

July 20, 2023
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Andrew Redington

HOYLAKE, England — There has always been a bit more to Adrian Otaegui than the fact that his seven-letter surname contains all five vowels. The 30-year-old Spaniard, a four-time winner on the DP World Tour, is a protege of former Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and one of the most talented individuals on the Old World circuit.

Well, he was. Then he wasn’t. Now he is again.

The reason for the gap in his tour narrative is that the San Sebastian-native, whose opening 67 has him one off the lead after Thursday’s opening round at the 151st Open Championship, dabbled more than briefly last year with the LIV Golf League. In all, Otaegui played four events on the Saudi-backed circuit, banking $1.1 million along the way. He also, courtesy of the legal stay that allowed the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia to do likewise, continued competing on the DP World Tour.

In Otaegui’s case, that reprieve proved to be significant. Shooting an almost unheard-of score of 19 under par on one of Europe’s toughest courses, he won the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama by six shots. Then, in December, he was runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. Suddenly, the former British Boys champion was a legitimate contender for the 2023 Ryder Cup team.

At the start of this year, however, Otaegui’s name was nowhere to be seen in the starting line-up LIV events. Even before the long-awaited arbitration hearing allowed the DP World Tour to fine and ban the LIV defectors, the Spaniard had clearly made the decision to return to the fold. It was a move not without consequences though. Fined a reported $300,000, Otaegui was suspended for four events at a time when he sat sixth on the European Ryder Cup points list.

In all, after finishing second in the KLM Open at the end of May, Otaegui missed the European Open, the Scandinavian Mixed, the BMW International Open and the British Masters. This week’s Open Championship is his third event back, after the Made in Himmerland, where he finished T-60, and the Scottish Open, where he missed the cut. Right now, he sits ninth on the European points list and 16th in World points. So a big week at Royal Liverpool could well see him become one of the six automatic qualifiers (three from each list) with only three counting events remaining.

All of which is for the future. For the moment, Otaegui was clearly more than content with his six-birdie, two-bogey effort on an increasingly blustery afternoon at Royal Liverpool.

“It was a good round for me today,” he said. “I'm very happy with how everything went. I didn't put myself in too much trouble. Just tried to be in the fairway as much as I could. I hit many greens in regulation. Even though sometimes you end up far from the hole, the green is always a good place. I'm very pleased with my back nine, as well, with four birdies. Very pleased with my four under today.”

And the highlights?

“I think the first putt I holed on No. 6 was very good,” he continued. “It was a very good roll. It’s always good to see the ball going in. It gives you a little bit of confidence for the next few long putts. I felt very confident and comfortable with my swing. I was driving the ball well. I was in a good position on many occasions.”

Ah, but queries as to his involvement with LIV were less welcome, although he was happy enough to chat re the Ryder Cup

“I’m always motivated” said Otaegui of his prospects of teeing-up at the Marco Simone Country Club in late September. “If I’m not motivated, I just stay home. It’s been a few weeks I stayed at home. But it’s good to be back. And good to get a bit of rhythm. I really enjoyed my round today.”

And LIV? Good to draw a line under the fine and the suspension and all that?

“I’m happy with my round today. That’s all I’m thinking about now.”

Fair enough. He should be pleased; 67 was a fine effort.

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Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.

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