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Fowler’s title hopes get lost in top of tree

The Associated Press

Fans try to shake golfer Rickie Fowler’s ball out of a palm tree in which his tee shot on the sixth hole landed during the second round of The Players Championship on Friday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

The Associated Press PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Rickie Fowler spent several minutes searching for his ball. He even borrowed binoculars to peer high into a palm tree as several spectators furiously shook it.

At one point, Fowler looked like a seasoned bird watcher.

A few minutes later, he was staring at a double bogey.

Fowler’s errant and unlucky tee shot at the par-4 sixth proved the turning point in his round Friday and his week at The Players Championship. Fowler’s ball landed in the 40-foot tree and never came down, prompting a penalty stroke that sent him back to the tee box and left him clearly flustered.

With three birdies in five holes to start his back nine, the 2015 Players champion was making a move up the leaderboard and providing some rare highlights from a mega grouping that featured fan favorites Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

But Fowler’s unfavorable landing spot led to the first of consecutive double bogeys, leading to a 1-under 71 on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. He missed the cut by two shots at 1-over 145.

Fowler lamented his luck by saying the shot was only a few yards right of the fairway, with volunteer marshals and of fans nearby. All of them, he said, saw it land in the tree. That wasn’t enough.

“Unfortunately, the part of the ball that was showing was just all the white and dimples,” Fowler said. “I couldn’t see any of my markings and so, yeah, couldn’t identify it, so back to the tee.”

Fans did all they could to get the ball to drop, with more than a dozen of them pushing the tree back and forth. It didn’t work.

Fowler feverishly tried to find some markings by grabbing binoculars and steadying them on chief rules official Mark Russell’s left shoulder for a better look. Had Fowler been able to ID the ball, he would have been able to drop from there with a one-stroke penalty.

“Unfortunate,” Fowler said. “I mean, if a ball happens to hit something and go into a hazard, it’s not like you have to go identify the ball inside the hazard or in the water. It’s, ‘Hey, we saw it go right here.’ So, I mean, it was pretty clear that the ball was there, that was where everyone saw it go, heard it go, but not the case with that one.”Speech

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