After a chaotic two days of rules controversies in the world of golf, the last thing the sport needed was another issue on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This didn’t seem like too much to ask considering how strange the Denny McCarthy and Sergio Garcia situations were on Saturday. Nothing could possibly top those, right?
Welp, Rickie Fowler’s predicament at TPC Scottsdale’s 11th hole just may have rivaled the rescinded McCarthy penalty and Sergio chopping up a few greens. Fowler, who entered the final round with a four-stroke lead, appeared to slam the door on the tournament with his first birdie of the day at the par-4 10th hole. It gave him a five-shot edge over Branden Grace, his nearest pursuer, as both of Fowler’s playing partners, Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas, weren’t making much of a push.
But disaster struck for Fowler at the 11th, where he hit his tee shot in the thick, wet rough and was forced to lay up in front of the green. With 33 yards left, Fowler hit an aggressive chip that skidded past the hole, over the green and rolled into the water. That ended up being the least of his problems, as he decided not to replay the shot but drop from behind the green. After two drops (from the new knee height requirement) saw his ball roll in the water both times, Fowler placed his ball, allowed by rules, to get it back in play lying 4.
Trying to collect himself, Fowler walked up to the green to scope out what would be his fifth shot, when his ball, previously at rest, suddenly rolled back into the water. By rule this is another one-stroke penalty, as Fowler once again had to drop his ball to get it back in play. An impressive up-and-down for Fowler left him with a triple-bogey 7, and his lead had shrunk to just one stroke.
You can watch how the whole saga played out below:
As you can hear Roger Maltbie explain, Fowler’s ball is in play after he places hit following the unsuccessful drops. By rolling into a hazard that gives him a one-stroke penalty in what has to be one of the unluckiest breaks of all time. Fowler’s Sunday woes are well-documented, but this just seems flat-out unfair, especially after he made what appeared to be a door-slamming birdie. Not to mention how close his original shot came to rolling in the bunker rather than the water.
So to recap: Fowler arrived at the 11th tee at 19 under, leading by five, and walked off at 16 under and leading by only one over Branden Grace. And then it got worse, as he bogeyed the par-3 12th and then made par at par-5 13th. As it stands, he’s one back of Grace, who made back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13. There is no cheering in the press box, but Fowler losing this one would be particularly painful to watch.