MEXICO CITY (AP) — Rickie Fowler was penalized one shot Friday in the Mexico Championship for dropping from the wrong height, a new rule he expects to be changed.
Fowler hit a shank on his second shot of the round from the 10th fairway. He got a ball from his caddie and instinctively held out his arm at shoulder-height, then played his next shot to the green.
The modernized Rules of Golf that began this year require drops to be knee-length.
It’s not unusual for players to use a method that had been in place since 1984 — before Fowler was even born — but in all but one occasion on the PGA Tour, someone noticed and the player was able to re-drop. In this case, neither Jon Rahm nor Patrick Reed watched him go through the drop, and his caddie was looking at the yardage book.
Fowler said someone mentioned to Reed that the drop was shoulder-height, and that’s when Fowler realized what he had done.
“It’s on me. I took the shot. It was no big deal,” Fowler said. “But I think with the new rules that have been put in place, it’s not doing any favors for our sport.”
With the shank out-of-bounds and the penalty for the incorrect drop, he made triple bogey and shot 73.
He called the knee-length drop a “terrible” change, adding, “I definitely think it will get changed.”
Rules officials from tours around the world, led by the USGA and R&A, spent five years overhauling the rules to make them simpler and easier to understand for pros and recreational players alike. The change in the drop received most of the attention, mainly for the optics, as some players couldn’t figure out a smooth motion to get their hands at knee-length.
This is Fowler’s third tournament of the year, and he said he had no problem the first time he had to take a drop because of all the attention.
“We have been making fun of the knee drop for so long that it was ingrained that my first drop was going to be from the knee, like this iconic moment,” he said. “I get to drop from my knee and look stupid.”
Fowler said he also didn’t like the rule that a ball dropped from the knee could not roll more than two club lengths away, which was a previous rule for some drops. Because the ball is only falling from the knee, the new rule says it must stay in a relief area one club length in a semi-circle.
That was the idea behind the change.
When balls were dropped from the shoulder area, there were nine things that would have led to dropping again. Rules makers thought that by dropping from knee level, players would be able to get the ball in play quicker.
“Maybe there’s a minimum at the knee — you can drop from the shoulder, whatever,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re trying to gain some sort of advantage.”
That’s been a common theme among PGA Tour players, that the drop should be allowed from the knee to the shoulder without penalty. Fowler sees no reason why a shoulder-length drop that stays in the relief area shouldn’t count. The new rule (14.3b) says it must be knee high.
“I haven’t heard many of the guys say that the drop from the knee has been a good thing, or that it looks good,” Fowler said.
It was the second time this year Fowler has had a tough ruling. The other was on the 11th hole of the Phoenix Open, when after two drops on a slope next to the green, he was able to place the ball. After it was in play, and as Fowler was studying his shot by the green, the ball rolled into the water hazard.
That rule has been part of golf for years and was not part of the overhaul.
“I know that they’re going to bring up that rule, as well, when you’re getting assessed penalties for nothing, really,” he said.