As one of golf’s most popular players, Rickie Fowler’s quest for his fifth career PGA Tour victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open last Sunday had some of the biggest stars in the game glued to their television sets.
Included in that cluster of stars was Jordan Spieth, one of Fowler’s best friends on Tour.
While the new and modernized Rules of Golf got plenty of press in Scottsdale, it was an unchanged rule that caught the ire of the three-time major champion. En route to Fowler’s triple-bogey 7 on the 11th hole, the eventual champion hit his third shot improbably into the water hazard behind the green.
After taking two drops in which the ball did not stay inside the drop area, Fowler placed his ball on the hillside and proceeded up to the green to assess his options. While he was 10 or 15 yards away, the ball, which had been at rest and deemed in play, rolled back down the slope and into the water, costing Fowler another penalty stroke.
Spieth realized the infraction right away, and speaking prior to this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am shared his opinion on why the rule should be changed.
“Certainly after a drop (it shouldn’t be a penalty),” Spieth said. “But at the same time, I’ve seen that same rule work to somebody’s advantage where the ball sits on a slope on the green and they’re walking up to the green and by the time they get there, their ball as has rolled down the slope closer to the hole. But it was at rest for a certain amount of time, you get to play it from wherever it goes and it just served as an advantage. So I don’t see it as a problem in the rule, unless it’s after a drop.
“I was watching it on the couch. I was like, wow, that’s another penalty stroke, just knowing the rule. And that’s frustrating because he drops it twice and then places it and you can’t like create a lie. You can’t, so he’s doing everything he should be doing, and then all of a sudden it rolls in the water. And if it happens off of a shot, then that’s where the ball was supposed to go. Well, when it happens off of a drop, the idea is to get the ball in play in a location there, and I don’t think anybody wants that to be a penalty. And it certainly shouldn’t be after you’re taking a drop or a penalty stroke. But the rule itself can work to your advantage or disadvantage.”
Fowler would go on to win on the strength of closing birdies on two of the last four holes.
Spieth is making his third start of 2019 this week at the Clambake, playing alongside country superstar Jake Owen as well as Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky. He’s coming off of a T-35 at Torrey Pines two weeks ago.