It’s been a very hectic week for the world of golf. From MORE penalty drama to disqualifications, tour wins and the ultimate feel good story, here’s what you missed this week.
Rickie Fowler holds on to win dramatic Waste Management Phoenix Open
Rickie Fowler’s 5th PGA Tour win could never be accused of lacking drama: Battling the elements, his game and a tough rules break, Fowler lost a five-shot lead in three holes and still recovered to win by two shots.
Seeking his first official PGA Tour victory since 2017, Fowler began the day with a four-shot lead - but quickly gave two shots back to the course with a double-bogey on the 5th. Yet despite this, he still retained a four-shot advantage as playing partners Matt Kuchar and Justin Thomas struggled with their own games, and increased that lead to five with his first birdie of the day on the 10th.
But if his round is remembered for anything, it would be the treacherously unlucky 11th. Fowler had come up just shy of the green with his approach, and over-judged his wedge shot - which ended up rolling over the back of the green and into the water. What happened next was worse: Having replaced his ball, Fowler walked up the bank to take a look before playing, and as he did so, the ball rolled back in to the water - costing him a second penalty. He would end up with ‘really good triple’, but after another bogey on the 12th and back-to-back birdies from a charging Branden Grace, Fowler found himself one shot behind in second place.
He recovered with a birdie three holes later to once again draw level, and Grace made a crucial mistake from the tee on the drivable par-four 17th, finding the water and making bogey to drop a shot back.
Capitalising, Fowler drove that same hole and made a two-putt birdie to head down the 18th in the lead by two. It would be a scrappy par that required a hack-out from a patch of thick rough in a bunker, but it was enough to get the job done.
"I hope I never have to go through that again," Fowler said.
"It was definitely not fun out there. Seems as soon as I kind of got something going, I would take a step or two back and had to kind of dig myself out of some holes. So definitely happy coming out on top. But I really don't want to have to go and win tournaments that way."
Dustin Johnson claims Saudi International crown
Dustin Johnson recovered from a late wobble with back-to-back birdies to win the inaugural Saudi International by two shots over China’s Haotong Li.
Earlier in the week Dustin Johnson had posted a course record 61 to gain the lead but was chased down by Haotong Li on Saturday thanks a record-breaking round which included four eagles. The pair entered the final round tied for the lead, and spent the day trading the top spot before Johnson ultimately outlasted his opponent.
DJ was the first to move ahead with a birdie on the 2nd, but gains from Li on both the 4th and 9th holes saw him draw level and then gain a one-shot lead by the turn. It wasn’t to last though, and within the space of five holes three bogeys from Li and a bogey and two birdies from DJ had the former World No.1 three shots ahead. Li moved a shot closer with a birdie of his own on 15, and Johnson’s wayward tee shot on the 16th in to the ocean led to a gritty bogey which narrowed the gap to just one.
On the next though, a bold play from Johnson with the driver on the short par-four 17th led to a birdie as Li scrambled for par, and matching fours on the par-five 18th gave DJ his first regular European Tour victory.
Afterwards, DJ said he hoped the win would act as a springboard for a few more successful weeks.
"It feels really good. Any time you can win a professional golf tournament, no matter where it is in the world, it's a big win."
"To win here, obviously the game is in good form, and I'm heading into three really big weeks for me.
"Its three places that I've had a lot of success at and so I'm hoping to continue that going into next week and for the rest of the year."
Sergio Garcia disqualified but won’t face further ban after ‘serious misconduct’.
It wasn’t a week that did Sergio Garcia’s image any favours. He’s been known for his temper over the years, but a day after letting a bunker have out his frustrations in Saudi Arabia, he was disqualified for causing damage to five greens.
According to a report in The Scotsman, Garcia dragged the sole of his golf shoe across the top of several of the putting surfaces on the front nine in frustration, in addition to leaving a divot mark in the sixth green - which was still visible the next day despite the best efforts of the greens staff to repair it.
His behaviour prompted complaints from other players behind him, and resulted in the European Tour opting to disqualify him under Rule 1.2a - marking the first time a player has been disqualified under this offence.
A European Tour statement read: "Sergio Garcia has been disqualified from the Saudi International powered by SBIA during the third round of play under rule 1.2a, which allows for disqualification if a player has committed serious misconduct."
Garcia was accepting of the punishment given to him, and had apologised to fellow players and assured them it wouldn’t happen again.
"I respect the decision of my disqualification,” he said. “In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologise for, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again."
And now, according to the report, Garcia won’t face any further punishment (including not needing to pay back any part of his appearance fee money) with the European Tour’s Keith Pelley closing the matter.
“The incident is over,” Pelley said. “We have dealt with it. Sergio has apologised to the players and we move on.”
Haotong Li breaks eagle record on the European Tour
While Garcia was making the history books for the wrong reasons, Haotong Li was entering them for the right ones. He might have finished second to Dustin Johnson at the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday, but it was Li’s astonishing round on Saturday that placed him in the record books.
Li carded a remarkable FOUR eagles during his third round, including a record-breaking three eagle twos - a first on the European Tour.
It caught him up with Dustin Johnson heading in to the final round, who had posted a course-record 61 on Friday to hold the 36 hole lead - but he was adamant that he hadn’t even played that well.
“Very lucky today,” Li said afterwards. “Those eagles, especially the last couple of shots, were really solid but except for that, honestly, my play, wasn’t that good.
Rules snafu: PGA Tour dish out, then rescind, penalty at Phoenix Open
The PGA Tour came under fire last week for handing Denny McCarthy a two shot penalty during the Waste Management Phoenix Open for having his caddie stand behind him as he took his stance - only a few days after the European Tour made the same judgement on Haotong Li, which dropped him from 3rd to 12th at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
In this instance, McCarthy did have his caddie behind him as he lined up for a practice swing, but his caddie walked away before he stepped away from the ball, reset and took up his actual stance. According to the ruling judged to Li the week prior, this should have been OK.
What followed was a huge amount of backlash once more over the enforcement of this rule, and the governing bodies decided to review and rescind the original ruling, stating that the same situation happened with Justin Thomas - and they judged both to be free from penalty. The USGA and R&A added they realise more clarity is needed over this rule.
“Following an ongoing dialogue with players and in co-operation with the PGA TOUR rules team, The R&A and the USGA revisited the penalty assessed to Denny McCarthy during round two of the Waste Management Open,” the statement read.
"After an additional review of available video this morning, it was determined that the penalty would not apply in this instance nor in a similar instance involving Justin Thomas.
In each of these cases, when the caddie was standing behind the player, the player had not yet begun taking the stance for the stroke, nor could useful guidance on aiming be given because the player was still in the process of determining how to play the stroke. The same would be true for any similar situation that might occur.
“The R&A and the USGA recognise that clarity on how to appropriately apply this Rule is needed. We are committed to assessing its impact and will provide the necessary clarifications in the coming days”
TaylorMade and PXG agree settlement deal over patent infringement suit
Remember the long-standing law-suit between Parson Xtreme Golf (PXG) and TaylorMade? The brands had been stuck in a long legal battle over a patent dispute lodged by PXG in September 2017. Bob Parsons, owner of PXG, claimed that TaylorMade’s P790 irons infringed ‘many PXG patents’, and took to twitter to announce he was going to sue
The original lawsuit was a 277-page complaint filed in the US District Court for the District of Arizona, contending among other things that the P790 irons’ elastic polymer material ‘Speedfoam’, mimicked the same elastic polymer used by PXG and therefore infringed the patent-protected designs of PXG’s own clubs.
Last week, both parties released a joint statement announcing that ‘they have reached a settlement of the pending patent litigation and related patent disputes between the parties. Under the terms of the agreement, each company will have specified rights to make club products under patent cross-licenses.’
David Abeles, TaylorMade Golf’s CEO, said, “I’m pleased that we were able to reach an acceptable and amicable resolution to put this this case behind us so we can continue focusing on bringing industry leading equipment innovations to the golfer.”
Bob Parsons, PXG’s CEO, said, “As a golf equipment innovator, PXG will continue to pursue research and development and obtain patents for our novel club designs in the iron technology space. We will not hesitate to assert those patents in the future.” Details of the settlement are confidential.
Special Olympics golfer goes viral after parring 16th hole
Special Olympics golfer Amy Bockerstette became a viral sensation after taking on the infamous par-three 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale - and walking off with an unlikely par.
Bockerstette, who has down-syndrome, teed up alongside defending champion Gary Woodland and Matt Kuchar and found the bunker with her tee shot. Woodland asked her if she wanted to hit from the sand, and adamant that she did, Bockerstette showed off her sand game by hitting the tricky shot to around 15 feet.
‘I’ve got this,’ she told Woodland when she stood over the putt for par. And she meant it. Woodland raised up his arms and laughed in delight, as he had done with her bunker shot, and told her ‘that is so good’.
“I told her she was an inspiration to all of us and we can all learn from her," Woodland said.
"She was dealt with some serious issues and she’s overcome them and she is phenomenal. She was so sweet, she was so excited and happy and that’s something that we can all learn from. When things aren’t going our way we can definitely look back at her. And I told her she was a hero and to keep doing what she’s doing because we’re all going to be following her."
Patrick Reed granted European Tour honoury membership
The European Tour announced last week that Patrick Reed has been awarded an Honourary Life Membership of the Tour, becoming just the fourth American to be given that honour after Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Arnold Palmer. The 28-year-old is just the 55th player to take up Honourary Life Membership since it was introduced in 1978.
Reed has been a supporter of the European Tour over the past few years, playing in enough events to keep his card in his goal to be thought of as a ‘global player’ - and was presented with his membership in recognition of his first major victory at the Masters last year. He also recorded six top 10s on the European Tour in 2018, and finished second in the Race to Dubai standings.
“Words can't really describe how proud I am right now," Reed said. "It's always been a dream of mine to be a worldwide player and play on both Tours.
"Now, to be able to fulfil that on the European Tour, and to travel the world and grow the game means so much to me. For the European Tour to have faith in me and give me this opportunity means everything."
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the European Tour, said: "Patrick's masterful performance at Augusta National last April was full of character and determination, which is everything we've come to expect from him.
"Patrick is a global player who has fully embraced the European Tour and he has been extremely popular with our fans wherever he has played because of that."
Understandably, with just one major to his name and the age he’s at, the honour raised a few eyebrows.
Trump, Nicklaus and Tiger
Not a trio many would have predicted to see in the last week, but President Donald Trump spent the day at his Jupiter golf club with Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Nicklaus’ son Steve.
Trump, naturally, took to twitter after the round to tell his followers how Tiger had played, and predicted more major success for the 14-time champion.
“Everyone is asking how Tiger played yesterday,” he tweeted. “The answer is Great! He was long, straight & putted fantastically well. He shot a 64. Tiger is back & will be winning Majors again! Not surprisingly, Jack also played really well. His putting is amazing! Jack & Tiger like each other.”
According to Tim Rosaforte, it was the first time Nicklaus and Tiger had played together since 2000.
Gary Player’s son was arrested over incidents related to the 2018 Masters Gary
Player’s son Wayne was arrested in Atlanta at the end of January over a charge for fraud and spent five nights in jail.
The Augusta Chronicle reported that Player, 56, was charged with deposit account fraud/bad checks amounting to greater than $499 for failing to pay for the full amount of a rental property he used on the 3rd and 4th April last year, which amounted to $2000. The homeowner was paid by cheque but it was returned by the bank for insufficient funds, and several attempts to player went unanswered - leading to an outstanding warrant for his arrest in Georgia.
According to the Chronicle, Player apparently contacted the lawyer and said he would send $1,000 to take care of the debt, but the homeowner never received the money and reported the incident to police in July. He was detained on the 18th January until the 23rd, and has claimed that the money has now been paid and fraud charges dropped.
But that’s not the end of the saga for Player.
He is now facing another law suit filed by Todd Feltz, which claimed Player’s company promised a ‘Green Jacket Masters Experience’ to him and his wife, costing $6,850pp. It was to include luxuries such as dinner with Player, tickets to the Par-3 and opening round of the masters, and a meet-and-greet with Gary Player and other Masters Champions. Player told Golf Channel rising costs let him to be unable to deliver, and the suit says he headbutted Feltz when he met with him, and claims he acted in bad faith. Player pled guilty to simple battery and was fined $300 for disorderly contact. The suit is ongoing.