British Open: David Duval has the highest score on one hole in at least 36 years

David Duval cleans one of his clubs as he wait to play on the fifth tee during the first round of the British Open on Thursday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
(Jon Super / Associated Press)

A lot of golfers struggled at Royal Portrush on Thursday, but no one had a day as lousy as David Duval.

Duval, who won the 2001 British Open, shot a 20-over-par 91 that included a 14 on the par-five seventh hole, on which he hit the wrong ball and had to start the hole over.

“Very unique, awful situation,” concluded Duval, 47, who had the poise to stick around and talk to reporters after the worst round of his career.

“I’ve posted 85 twice, but never a 90,” he said. “It was a long day, rough day.”


Oddly, he got off to a terrific start, with birdies on the first two holes. He parred the third and fourth, but then took an eight on the par-four fifth when he lost a couple of golf balls.

Two holes later, it got worse. He lost his first tee shot on No. 7, and his provisional landed in the rough. A marshal said he found the ball, but neither he nor Duval checked it closely enough. It wasn’t Duval’s ball.

“I asked if it was a 2, a Titleist 2,” Duval said. “And then I looked at it and saw 2 and then played almost the entirety of the hole, and it turns out with the wrong ball. So then I had to go back to the tee, basically start the hole over.”

Rory McIlroy grew up on Royal Portrush, but he definitely looked like a first-timer on the opening hole of the British Open on Thursday.

Duval blamed himself for the error, failing to check whether the 2 on the ball was black or red.

“I’m at fault,” he said. “I didn’t take a close enough — it happened to me once before where a marshal is standing right next to the ball, kind of glanced down. I usually use a yellow mark, it’s hard to see. And I don’t see red very well. And so standing looking down at it it’s a 2. So just my mistake.”

Duval’s score originally was listed as a 15, but then was reduced by two strokes because of a calculation error. Officials later determined it was a 14.

That represents the highest score on a hole at the British Open since at least 1983, when the PGA Tour began keeping hole-by-hole records. The previous high score of 11 was made by four different players, most recently Henrik Stenson in 2011.

Duval, who pulled out of the Open on the second day last year, said he intends to play Friday, and explained his thinking about posting his score rather than withdrawing.

“You have an obligation as a professional athlete, if you play, you post your score,” he said. “So, well, am I happy about that? Is there some, I don’t know, embarrassment about that? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot a [91] today, so I put it on the board.”

Aced that test

Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, who missed the cut the past two years, came away from the first round with a memory to savor. He had a hole in one on the par-three 13th. His tee shot landed on a ridge to the left of the hole and rolled into the cup. He shot a two-over 73.

Rise and shine

Darren Clarke, who’s from Northern Ireland and won the Open in 2011, had a good day in front of the home gallery, starting with three birdies in the first five holes before finishing with an even-par 71.

He went to bed at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday night, and slept like a log until the alarm sounded at 3:15 a.m.

“I had to go through the gym to get into the laundry area to get something, so I swiftly walked past that,” he said, drawing a laugh, “and had my bacon sandwich the wife had made me at that time.”

If he had butterflies, they weren’t bad ones.

“It wasn’t one of those where I was looking forward to it with trepidation; I was looking forward to it to enjoy it,” he said.

Feeling good

Bad news for the rest of the golfers in the field: Brooks Koepka is on a roll. He has won four majors the past two years, and finished second this year at the Masters and U.S. Open.

“I’ve hit it unbelievable the last couple of days,” said Koepka, who opened with a 68. “I’m very pleased with the way I’m striking it. It’s nice to get some practice in over the last five, six days. I feel good. I feel very comfortable. It’s a major championship. That’s what you’re trying to peak for.”