Bizarre Penalty Nearly Costs Fowler A Victory

The final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open was a slog on Sunday. Not only was the weather less than ideal, so was the play of those at the top of the leaderboard.

However, through 10 holes, following his first birdie of the round, Rickie Fowler had somehow increased his lead over a pack of would-be chasers to five strokes despite shooting 2-over par on the front nine.

It was on the par-4 11th when things transitioned from the ridiculous to the sublime. After playing his second shot from over 250 yards to just short of the green, Fowler mishit a pitch from some 35 yards that tumbled over the green, around a bunker and into the back water hazard. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Fowler took the appropriate drop under the Rules of Golf only to walk a few yards up to the green, turn around and see his ball, which had already been deemed to be in play roll back into the water once again.

Because Fowler’s ball was deemed to have been in play and had previously been at rest, rolling back into the penalty area resulted in another 1-stroke penalty. Fowler re-dropped, hit a shot to 17 feet and made the putt for triple bogey.

That triple, coupled with Branden Grace’s birdie ahead at the par-3 12th, took Fowler’s lead from five to one. A subsequent bogey by Fowler at the 12th ended his time at the top of the leaderboard as Grace birdied the par-5 13th hole as well.

Trailing by one going into the closing stretch, Fowler birdied the par-5 15th as well as the short par-4 17th while Grace found the water on 17 and was unable to get up-and-down for par to produce a three-shot swing that gave Rickie a two-shot cushion coming down the 18th hole.

He was able to make par from a tough lie in left rough to earn his fifth PGA Tour victory and first on American soil since the 2017 Honda Classic.