Rule changes are so often unwelcomed in golf that when they finally happen, players are taken aback by them. This year, the USGA and R&A changed several rules, from allowing players to leave the flag stick in while putting to dropping from knee height instead of shoulder height.
One rule that hasn’t changed, however, and should be is the rule that Rickie Fowler dealt with on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open after he chipped over the 11th green into the water behind it.
After consulting with Slugger White and dropping his ball twice from knee height, which didn’t stay in place because of the severe slope and rainy conditions, he was then allowed to place it on the drop mark. Unfortunately, and this is where the rules get iffy, Fowler’s ball rolled off the surface and into the water a second time after he had walked up to survey the green and was nowhere near it. Since his ball was in play, he was penalized again.
It sucks that this is a penalty in the game today. It’s not fair to force golfers to take a drop at the closest point of entry to a hazard and then penalize them for factors beyond their control when the ball rolls out of position.
Fowler managed to get up and down with a 17-foot putt after a second drop, but the damage had been done. He walked away with a triple-bogey and a five-shot lead dropped to a one-stroke lead with Branden Grace making a birdie on the hole ahead.
Of all the rule changes that were implemented this season, this is one that was definitely overlooked. Hopefully, both the governing bodies change the rule next season and players won’t be penalized for things beyond their control.