Darren Clarke made his U.S. Senior Open debut on Thursday at Notre Dame's Warren Course. A debut that was memorable, albeit for the wrong reason.
Things were going relatively well for the former British Open champ during the first round, making the turn at one under. However, Clarke sailed his tee shot left at the 10th hole, his ball coming to rest is fescue near the woods. The Northern Irishman was in conversation with a rules official when Clarke's caddie attempted to remove a birdhouse that appeared to be in Clarke's line, which is allowed under USGA Rule 15.2 on movable obstructions.
One problem: though the birdhouse might have been movable, it is technically immovable.
Under the USGA rules, a birdhouse is considered an immovable obstruction because it is a permanent fixture on the course. And under Rule 16-1, a player only receives relief when a) the player’s ball touches or is in or on an abnormal course condition b) abnormal course condition physically interferes with the player’s area of intended stance or area of intended swing c) or only when the ball is on the putting green, an abnormal course condition on or off the putting green intervenes on the line of play.
Basically, no relief for line of shot.
What was particularly odd was, despite a USGA rules official present, Clarke was not informed about the penalty until later, changing his bogey on the hole to a triple. Cameras caught the interaction, and the 50-year-old was clearly livid.
Clarke would finish the day three over, 11 shots behind first-round leaders Steve Stricker and David Toms.