Did Fowler play it too safe in Scottsdale


Did Rickie Fowler make the right decision by laying up from 230 yards on the par-5 15th at TPC Scottsdale Sunday? In this edition of Punch Shots, GolfChannel.com senior writers Randall Mell and Rex Hoggard weigh in with their opinions.

Say it isn’t so, Rickie.

When Rickie Fowler chose to lay up at the 15th hole Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a 2011 PGA Tour card was probably won but a larger opportunity lost.

This was a substance-meets-style moment, a star-is-born meets legend-in-the-making moment.

Whether Fowler pulled off the shot or not, he would have won acclaim as the new face of fearless shot making for a bold new generation. If he pulled off the shot and went on to win, he would have been the water-cooler buzz this Monday morning. Even if he missed, there would have been admiration.

All those stories about how Fowler’s motocross background influenced his derring-do style of play would have taken new flight. You could almost see and hear dirt bikes whizzing and whirring in the background of a new Puma commercial as he set up over a replay of the shot.

Alas, tied for the lead, the rookie chose to lay up from 230 yards out with a good lie even though both the fellow competitors at his side (Camilo Villegas and Mark Calcavecchia) went for the green from farther back.

“I took the safe route,” Rickie said.

Say it isn’t so, Rickie.
The problem with the Monday morning Tour pro is the dangerous business of interpreting intent.

Did Rickie Fowler opt for the safe layup on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale’s 15th hole because he thought a wedge was his best chance for birdie or because rookies secure Tour cards before they go Roy McAvoy?

The little we know about Fowler, our guess is the former.

We know when he was 15 years old the former motocross star broke his right foot in three places on a bike. When he was 3 years old he broke his leg on a motorcycle. Not the type of DNA that is drawn to the path most-safely travelled.

Zach Johnson famously won a green jacket bunting his way around Augusta National in 2007. David Toms won a PGA with a wedge in his hand at Atlanta Athletic Club’s last hole. And only Fowler knew what the correct play was from 230 yards on Sunday.

“In the position I was in, if I was a few back I might have gone for it, but the tournament wasn’t decided at 15,” Fowler told Golf Channel. “I’d like to go back and hit the wedge shot (again).”

No reason to question Fowler’s decision, only his execution.