THE NEW RULES OF GOLF

The Valley of the Sun was anything but on Sunday. The final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open was cold (well, for Phoenix), wet and windy. It made for some interesting viewing and ultimately (finally) a victory for Rickie Fowler, but not without some crazy golf, some of which involved the rules of golf.

Yes those rules. 2019 marked the first wholesale changes of rules for the game of golf in, well, forever! So many rules changes were instituted for the new golf year that it would be hard to list all of them. The most obvious change is leaving the pin in while putting. Some pros have used that change while others prefer the old method.

I’ve been told that the two main reasons for all the rules changes are 1) to speed up play, and 2) to make the rules more fair. If the latter is the case then what happened to Rickie Fowler on #11 Sunday seems to indicate that another change is in order.

Fowler had been so close to winning the Phoenix Open in past years that when he went to the final round with a four shot lead this year, it seemed he would finally get that win. Fast forward to the 11th tee and we see Rickie with a five shot lead. It was incomprehensive that leaving the green he would find his lead down to a single stroke and a couple holes later he would be trailing by one. It all worked out for him in the end, but the situation at 11 needs some further analysis.

The rain picked up in intensity while he played the long par 4. His approach came up short and his chip shot ran all the way across the green and into the water. That of course was his own mistake. From there it got weird. He ended up taking the penalty for hitting into the water and then (after the ball would not stop after two drops) he placed his ball on the slope.

When he walked up to the green’s edge to see where he wanted to land his next shot, the ball suddenly rolled back into the water. He was no where near the ball when the wind, or gravity decided to play a cruel trick on him. Just to be sure what the rules say about his next step, he called in a rules official – Slugger White. It was determined (after much discussion) that he could try to drop again with a one stroke penalty. Again the two attempts to drop a ball met with the ball rolling back towards the water.

He then placed the ball like he had previously and went back to the edge of the green to view a landing spot once again. This time the ball stayed put, he chipped to some 17 feet and then rolled that in for a triple bogey 7. Combine that with Brendan Grace dropping a 50 foot putt on the hole ahead of Fowler and we now had a tournament.

The question is simple. If the change in golf rules was meant to make competition more fair then why was Fowler penalized for something he had no control over? What would have happened if the ball had rolled back into the water a second or even third time. The game certainly would not have been made faster or fairer if this had taken place.

The view from my seat suggests that I’m not questioning the new rules of golf. They seem better. But this seems very unfair. Hopefully it won’t take as long to correct this situation as it did to change other outdated and unfair rules.

COMMENTS