Controversial course feature leads Rickie Fowler to tumble 42 spots — in 1 hole

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler retrieves one of the balls he hit out of bounds on Thursday.

Getty Images

Brooks Koepka’s strategy? It was 12, matter-of-fact words. 

“Just don’t hit it over there, you won’t have a problem, right?”

Right. But Rickie Fowler did. And he did. 

To begin, Koepka had been advising on the internal out of bounds in play this week at the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool — which has been a contentious subject. In writing about the topic earlier this week, GOLF’s Sean Zak may have best described the frustrations with the setup — located to the right of the 3rd and 18th fairways — when he said: 

“If it’s in the bounds of the golf course, why would it be out of bounds?”

Of course, that raises another question:

Why is it there in the first place? We’ll refer to Zak’s piece again (which you can read in full here):

“But the reason it exists at this course is more about historical quirk than it is a purposeful detriment for players. 

“One-hundred-and-fifty years ago, Royal Liverpool Golf Club was known as the Liverpool Hunt Club, not a course for the burgeoning game with stick and ball but a racecourse for horses. Back in the 1870s, ponies ripped around the northern section of the property, making a right turn where the 3rd hole banks to the right, then looping back toward town near what is now the start of the 18th fairway. What remains is the mound system in which the rails of the track once stood. Over the next few decades, golf took over the grounds and fascination of the locals, so much so that it began to take precedence over horse racing. The Liverpool Hunt Club took a step back, and Royal Liverpool Golf Club took a permanent step forward.” 

royal liverpool internal out of bounds
Why this controversial course feature could help decide Open Championship
By: Sean Zak

And that brings us back to Fowler. 

The popular pro had been playing well in his Open Championship first round. He had bogeyed the 1st hole, then birdied 5, 15 and the dangerous par-3 17th. Coming to the par-5 18th, he was two-under and tied for sixth. A birdie would bump him up to a tie for third. 

He left tied for 48th. 

Twice, he found the internal out of bounds. On his second shots, no less. 

Here’s the play-by-play:

Stroke one: A 305-yard tee shot to the fairway. He had 289 yards to the pin.

Stroke two: A 249-yard shot — to the internal out of bounds. It had skipped over by a few yards. 

Stroke 3: Penalty. And a re-hit from the original spot. 

Stroke four: A 247-yard shot to the internal out of bounds. This one was a few yards farther right than the first. 

Stroke 5: Penalty. And a re-hit from the original spot. In a scene reminiscent of Tin Cup, Fowler asked caddie Ricky Romano for a ball. 

Stroke six: A 307-yard shot to the green. He had 53 feet, 2 inches to the hole.

Stroke 7: A 52-foot, 7-inch putt. He had 1 foot, 7 inches to go.

Stroke 8: Putt made. A triple bogey. 

And Fowler was done. He signed for a one-over 72. 

“That puts you in serious jeopardy and hard work for tomorrow to make the cut now,” analyst Nick Faldo said on the broadcast on the USA network.  

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at