Waste Management Phoenix Open

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Waste Management Phoenix Open
Scottsdale, Arizona
Winner: Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler had come again to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the tournament where he had failed so famously. In 2016, hitting driver, he watered his tee shot at the short par-four 17th, blew a two-shot lead, and on the second hole of a playoff, watered his tee shot again, this time with a three wood, and lost to Hideki Matsuyama. In 2018, he led going into the final round, shot 73 and got overrun by Gary Woodland.

Come the 2019 tournament, if ever a golfer was stamped for failure, it was Fowler. Well, he ended up winning it, but he had to come through the Twilight Zone in the final round to do it. There was the double bogey at the fifth — pedestrian. But the episode at the 11th? That was unreal. Fowler had tied for the lead in the first round, was the solo leader through the second and third, and in the final was rolling quite nicely on TPC Scottsdale on his way to his fifth PGA Tour win. He led by four starting the final round, and was up by five coming to the par-four 11th. There, in the rain, he stepped into another dimension. He’d missed the green, knocked his chip shot across and it trickled down the steep bank, grazed the bunker that would have stopped it and saved him, and tumbled into the water. He tried to drop, twice. But the ball rolled down both times. Finally, he placed the ball. It hung about 30 inches above the water. He climbed back up to the green, and while he was surveying his shot, he glanced down in time to see his ball let go and tumble into the water. He had to place another, pitched up and 17 feet past the flag and, admirably composed, he rolled in the putt — for a triple-bogey-seven. Up ahead, South Africa’s Branden Grace birdied the 12th. Fowler’s lead had shrunk from five to one.

“That’s an interesting one,” Fowler said. “We did nothing to cause it to happen, and it’s a one-shot penalty.” Rotten luck, a rules official said. Fowler’s ball was in play after he placed it, and under Rule 9.3, when it rolled away because of natural causes (wind, water, gravity, etc.), he would have to play it from its new position. And its new position was down in the water.

Next he bogeyed the par-three 12th out of a bunker. Grace birdied the 13th. So in the space of two holes, Fowler had gone from leading by five to trailing by one. In an earlier time, Fowler might have staggered away. But this time, he birdied the par-five 15th after reaching in two. Then the drivable par-four 17th became the clincher. Grace caught water and bunker and bogeyed it, and Fowler came along and drove it and two-putted from 60 feet for a birdie and was ahead by two. He parred the 18th, wrapping up a card of 64-65-64-74–267, 17 under, beating Grace by two. In the media room Fowler lifted a glass of champagne. “Cheers,” he said. “I finally got it done.”


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