21 July 2023

Open officials alter bunkers after complaints as Brian Harman surges into lead

21 July 2023

Tournament officials have changed the way the bunkers are raked for the 151st Open Championship following complaints from players that they were overly “penal”.

Masters champion Jon Rahm described Royal Liverpool’s 82 bunkers as “proper penalty structures” after having to play backwards out of one during his opening 74, while Rory McIlroy needed two shots to escape a greenside trap on the 18th.

In response, the R&A instructed greenkeeping staff to build up the edges of the bunkers to allow more balls to roll back into the centre.

“Yesterday afternoon the bunkers dried out more than we have seen in recent weeks and that led to more balls running straight up against the face than we would normally expect,” the R&A said in a statement.

“We have therefore raked all of the bunkers slightly differently to take the sand up one revet on the face of the bunkers.

“We routinely rake bunkers flat at most Open venues but decided this adjustment was appropriate in light of the drier conditions which arose yesterday.

“We will continue to monitor this closely for the remainder of the Championship.”

Even those players who managed to successfully escape from the bunkers on day one had expressed their concerns, with former champion Stewart Cink speaking out following a bogey-free 68.

“Eventually it’ll catch up with you,” the 2009 winner said. “The bottoms of them are so flat that if a ball comes in with any momentum, it’s just going right up to the lip and stop.

“There’s not a little upslope that helps you at all. They are very penal.”

American Brian Harman was having no issues with any bunkers as he carded four birdies in succession to surge clear at the top of the leaderboard.

Harman holed from 20 feet on the second and similar distances on the third and fourth before hitting the pin with his chip to the par-five fifth to set up a simple tap-in.

At eight under par the left-hander led by three shots from Tommy Fleetwood and South African amateur Christo Lamprecht, with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo falling out of an overnight share of the lead following a double bogey on the second.

McIlroy began his second round in ideal fashion with a birdie on the first to improve to one under.

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