With the start of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, the PGA Tour requires most of its players to play in one regular PGA Tour event each season they hadn't played in the prior four seasons. The idea was simple: Get players to diversify their schedules each year in a small way that could have potentially huge implications for events not used to getting some higher-end players in their field.
The Travelers Championship was a huge beneficiary of the new rules in 2017, with Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy choosing to fulfill the rule by playing in that event.
Fulfilling the rule has some caveats. First, players with lifetime Tour status (at least 20 wins and at least 15 years) or who played 25 or more events last season are exempt. So are players 45 years or older. Second, a bunch of tournaments don't count: the majors, the WGCs, The Players, the Presidents and Ryder Cups, as well the four FedEx Cup playoff events.
That all explained, it appeared Rickie Fowler would not fulfill that rule this season. However, as the PGA Tour explained to us after the fact, he does. Let us explain that to you.
With the Wyndham Championship as the only eligible event remaining on the schedule that could satisfy this new policy, Fowler did not play an event this season he hadn't played in the prior four. Here's a look at the rule-eligible tournaments Fowler played this season
- Farmers Insurance Open -- 4
- Waste Management Phoenix Open -- 4
- The Honda Classic -- 4
- Arnold Palmer Invitational -- 3
- Shell Houston Open -- 3
- Zurich Classic of New Orleans -- 4
- the Memorial Tournament -- 4
- FedEx St. Jude Classic -- 1
- Quicken Loans National -- 3
Fowler played in the Wyndham Championship in 2016, so he can't meet the rule by playing in the event.
On that front, he would fall short. However, the PGA Tour tells us that Fowler does satisfy the requirement by playing 25 tournaments last year. Under official guidance, the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and the men's Olympic golf tournament, considered unofficial events on the PGA Tour schedule, count toward satisfying the Strength of Field Regulation and toward fulfilling the 15-event membership obligations for those that the PGA Tour is not their home tour. Therefore, those two events plus the other 23 he played in the 2015-16 season that are considered official equal 25 events, exempting him from having to fulfill that "one-in-four" policy.
According to a 2015 ESPN report, failure to comply is considered what the tour calls a "major penalty," which could mean a fine of at least $20,000 or a possible suspension.