Rules Blog #2

What Happened To Rickie Fowler on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open

I have to be honest. I was watching the tournament on Sunday and saw Rickie Fowler make birdie on the 10th hole to gain what I thought was an insurmountable lead. I stayed around to watch him hit it into the right rough on 11 and smartly lay-up to what I thought would be an easy up and down. Then, I got up to get a soda from the fridge and came back to see that he had been assessed a couple of penalties and now had a one-shot lead. I definitely admire his poise and drive to fight off challengers and still win - and that is probably worthy of a separate post - but I want to take a minute and talk about the ruling that happened on Sunday.

Back to Rickie’s 3rd shot from just short-right of the green. His chip went long and rolled down a hill and into the penalty area (used to be called a hazard - weird right?). He then proceeded to drop from knee-height and his ball came to rest outside the penalty area. He then walked back up to the green and his ball rolled back into the penalty area without him intending to hit it or addressing the ball. What do the rules say about that? I mean, it is probably one of the worst breaks I’ve ever witnessed in tournament golf.

Under the Rules, a ball can only be caused to have moved by 4 different causes (9.2b). These are: natural forces (wind or water), the player or the players caddie, the opponent in match play or an outside influence. Because it was deemed that the ball was moved by natural forces, Rickie’s ruling comes out of Rule 9.3. If natural forces cause a player’s ball at rest to move: There is no penalty, and the ball must be played from its new spot. What a bad break for Rickie! Although there is no penalty for a ball moving, he must play it from its new spot in the penalty area. He took another drop, chipped up and made the putt for a seven and went on to win the tournament showing great grit and determination in doing so.

This is another example where knowledge of the Rules saved a bad situation from becoming disastrous. The one exception to this rule is had his ball been on the putting green, he would have replaced it with no penalty. Remember, if you get in a situation where you’re unsure how to proceed, we encourage to play two balls under Rule 3-3.

Come out on Sunday March 3rd to a Rules Seminar at Annbriar held by PGA Professional Kevin Schaeffer, where we will be discussing the basics as well as the impact of the 2019 changes. The cost is $20 and covers appetizers. Hope to see you all there. You can register here:

Matt Minder