PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – It looked like Rickie Fowler’s golf ball wedged among the branches of a palm tree alongside the par-4 sixth hole at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course Friday in the Players Championship.
The gallery had watched Fowler’s tee shot fly into the tree and never come out.
Using binoculars borrowed from PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell, Fowler got a good look at the ball in the tree and felt virtually certain it was his Titleist. But all he could see through the binoculars – which he balanced on Russell’s back for a sharper view – was an unmarked portion of the ball.
No name. No identifiable marking. No certainty.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 11, 2018
The rules being the rules, Fowler was forced to return to the sixth tee and hit another tee shot, leading to a double bogey that began his undoing and cost Fowler a spot on the weekend.
Fowler, who started the second round on the 10th hole in the company of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, compounded his dilemma by hitting his tee shot into a water hazard at the seventh, setting into motion another double bogey and assuring the freedom to spend the weekend at the beach should he so choose.
“Obviously (I) didn’t make a great swing (on No. 6), but it’s five yards right of the fairway and the marshals and fans were standing right there, saw it was the tree it hit and obviously got stuck up there,” Fowler said.
— bill (@bill36495236) May 11, 2018
“Unfortunately, the part of the ball that was showing was just all the white and dimples, I couldn’t see any of my markings and so, yeah, couldn’t identify it, so back to the tee.”
Even under the new Rules of Golf that will go into effect in 2020, Fowler would not have received a different decision despite the general consensus it was his ball visible in the tree.
“I mean, if a ball happens to hit something and go into a hazard, it’s not like you have to go identify the ball inside the hazard or in the water,” Fowler said. “It’s, hey, we saw it go right here.
“So, I mean it was pretty clear that the ball was there, that was where everyone saw it go, heard it go, but not the case with that one.”
It happens. Not often, but it happens.
When was the last time it happened to Fowler?
Last year at the Players Championship. Different tree, though.