Charley Hoffman is taking the rules makers to task on social media while seemingly trying to strike a nerve with the PGA Tour.
Hoffman called out the USGA and Tour on his Instagram account after Friday’s second round of the WM Phoenix Open, stating it “a joke” that he was penalized one stroke after his ball rolled into the water while taking a penalty drop. He then took it several steps further, criticizing how the Tour treats its players and appearing to sympathize with potential defectors to a proposed Saudi-funded league.
The incident in question happened after Hoffman hit his tee shot into the water at the par-5 13th hole. After dropping twice (both times unsuccessfully), Hoffman, per the rules, was allowed to place his ball on what he describes as a “small tuff (it's actually tuft, Chuck) of grass.” But moments later, Hoffman’s ball rolled down a slope and splashed into the penalty area.
While there is no specific rule for this, Rule 9.3 states: If natural forces (such as wind or water) cause a player’s ball at rest to move, there is no penalty, and the ball must be played from its new spot. However, because Hoffman’s ball was now at the bottom of the pond, it was deemed lost, so therefore, per Rule 18.2, he was docked a shot and had to carefully drop another ball.
Hoffman hit his next shot left of the green and eventually made a double-bogey-7. He ended up carding a 1-over 72 and made the cut by a couple of shots at 3 under, but he still wasn’t thrilled following his round.
So, he penned a lengthy post, specifically criticizing the Tour for letting the USGA – or “amateurs” – make the rules, and the rules officials for the “terrible penalty area line.” He also brought up the threat of a potential rival league to the Tour, saying players need "protection," among other things, or he doesn't blame them if they "jump ship" to the Saudi-back circuit.
“I was under the impression that the USGA had changed that rule. I was wrong,” Hoffman said. “Had to take another penalty for doing nothing wrong at all. Did everything by the book. It's still mind blowing that a group of amateurs rule the professional game of golf. I also blame the PGA Tour rules officials for putting out a terrible penalty area line where this could even happen. No accountability at any level here. No protection for the players at all. You wonder why guys are wanting to jump ship and go play on another tour. Players need transparency, protection and consistency. We don't have that under the current governing bodies.”
Hoffman, who is one of four player directors on the Tour’s Player Advisory Council, then tagged several media outlets, including Golf Channel, and even the Saudi International account before continuing: “Sorry Jay! We need to do better at all levels of the PGA Tour. Including myself who represent the players on the board of the Tour. If we don't we won't have a Tour any longer! Hopefully there will be a change soon.”
This isn’t the first time that a player has complained about the rules at TPC Scottsdale. Back in 2019, just weeks after the USGA rolled out its overhauled new rules, several players spoke out about an unpopular caddie-alignment rule, and the Tour opted to rescind a penalty it had given Denny McCarthy earlier in the event.
In fact, this isn’t the first time that the exact rule Hoffman is speaking of has been a topic in Phoenix. During the final round of that 2019 WMPO, Rickie Fowler tripled the par-4 11th hole after his drop rolled back into the water.
Only Fowler didn’t complain; he moved on and won the tournament.
Hoffman has liked the rules before, though. He notably was given a questionable free drop while facing a fried-egg lie in a bunker five years ago at the RBC Canadian Open, prompting his playing competitor, Kevin Chappell, to point out the "generous" ruling – “Look at that s***-eating grin on his face,” Chappell says to Hoffman. (Hoffman proceeded to hit a poor shot and eventually lost in a playoff.)
As Hoffman famously responded to Chappell that day: “Hey man… rules.”
Shortly after Friday's post hit Instagram and understandably caused backlash, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau chimed in with comments backing up Hoffman.
"I feel ya," Mickelson wrote.
"Agree wholeheartedly," said DeChambeau.
Others, however, weren't so supportive of Hoffman's drive-by criticism. Among them: former Tour player Blayne Barber, who had the ultimate comeback, writing on Instagram:
"Don't hit it in the water."