The Rickie Fowler Rule has changed in the Rules of Golf, and we're all better for it
Golf Culture

The Rickie Fowler Rule has changed in the Rules of Golf, and we’re all better for it

A picture of golfer Rickie Fowler at the 2018 Phoenix Open


Back at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Rickie Fowler faced one of the great indignities a golfer could ever experience -- and it was all because of the Rules of Golf.

In the final round of a tournament Fowler desperately wanted to win -- and was his last PGA Tour win to this point -- he hit his third shot into the water on the 11th hole at TPC Scottsdale. He took a drop outside the water hazard (now called penalty area), and the ball came to rest. However, while he was preparing to hit his fifth shot after the penalty stroke, Fowler's ball rolled back into the water all on its own.

Under the Rules of Golf at the time, Fowler had to take another penalty stroke and drop again. From there, Fowler hit his sixth shot and made a triple bogey. Fortunately, Fowler still won the tournament, but the circumstance was outrageous to anyone with a good sense of the Rules of Golf. They were never meant to penalize a player in that manner.

A similar situation happened to Charley Hoffman at last year's Phoenix Open that left him steaming.

The good news is that rule has now changed with the changes to the Rules of Golf put into place jointly by the USGA and R&A that are done every four years. Now under the Rules of Golf, Fowler would not have been penalized for his ball rolling back into the water. He would have been able to replace his ball to that drop spot without an additional penalty.

If a ball is at rest after being dropped, placed or replaced and then natural forces cause it to roll to another area of the course, it now must be replaced without penalty. This applies to any situation where a ball moves from one area of the course to another by natural forces after being dropped, placed or replaced -- including to and from a penalty area, a bunker, a putting green or out of bounds.

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Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is a scratch golfer...sometimes.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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