Wind or gravity moved your ball at rest? Under 2023 rules change, do this

rickie fowler at 2019 WMPO

Rickie Fowler assessing a rules snafu at the 2019 WMPO.

PGA Tour

The governing bodies are generally loathe to admit that a single unfortunate incident triggered a rules change. But when you consider one of the significant rules modifications for 2023, regular PGA Tour watchers might well think back to a spot of bother in which Rickie Fowler found himself at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

In the final round, Fowler was leading by five on the par-4 11th hole when he knocked his third shot into a greenside lake.

Our Josh Berhow recounted what happened from there: “Preparing to play his fifth shot, Fowler dropped his ball, but due to the slope and rainy conditions it didn’t stay on the bank. He was then allowed to place it, which he did, before walking up the bank toward the green and assessing his next shot. As Fowler was on the green his ball rolled back into the water on its own, but since it was in play and had previously come to rest, he was still assessed a penalty stroke.”

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Fowler went on to make a triple-bogey 7.

Raw deal, right? The USGA and R&A seemed to think so.

Under the newest round of tweaks to the Rules of Golf, which will be implemented Jan. 1, if a ball at rest is moved by natural forces after being dropped, placed or replaced and comes to rest in a different area of the course or out of bounds, the ball must be replaced and played from its original spot — with no penalty. A ball on the putting green must still be replaced if moved after being replaced.

Sensible? Sensible.

Oh, and don’t feel too badly for Fowler. He still hung on that Sunday to win by two.

Alan Bastable Editor

As’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.