Fowler: 'I felt like I had it'
The World No. 4 was visibly emotional following his playoff loss at TPC Scottsdale
February 07, 2016
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Rickie Fowler hit two balls in the water Sunday on No. 17, one in regulation and one on the final playoff hole. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Eyes red, a crack in his voice, tears. Rickie Fowler has never been so publicly overcome with emotion.
“I mean, the hard part is having, you know, all my friends and family and grandpa who haven't seen me win,” he said, barely able to spit the words out before lowering his head into his hands. “But I will be able to hang with them tonight.”
He’ll need them after a stunning playoff loss to Hideki Matsuyama on Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Leading by two with two holes to play, Fowler hit driver on the reachable par-4 17th. He hit it too good -- 358 yards -- and the ball ran through the green and into the water.
“Usually don't expect it to hit on the downslope and then go 360,” he said. “So that was a bit unfortunate. I hit it right on line, hit it exactly where I was looking. That's kind of the unfortunate part, to hit the shots that I did and to pull them off, and then it kind of backfired there.”
Fowler made bogey, Matsuyama birdie and the two were tied going to the par-4 18th. Matsuyama putted first, drilling a 15-footer for birdie to put the pressure on Fowler, who answered by pouring in a 9 1/2-footer of his own to send the tournament into overtime.
Hideki Matsuyama's clutch putt on 72nd hole at Waste Management
Rickie Fowler holes pressure putt on No. 18 at Waste Management
Back they went to 18, both making par. Again 18, this time each with birdie before heading to the par-4 10th, where both made par to again extend the playoff. It had the feeling of a movie with one plot twist after another.
Twice along the way, Fowler had gotten up-and-down from tough spots, but then came 17 again.
Through the years, the 332-yard hole has been his kryptonite. Eight times previously, including a little more than an hour earlier, Fowler had found the water there.
This time, he opted for 3-wood. It didn’t matter.
Fowler pulled it left and knew he was in trouble before the ball even landed.
“Hit it solid,” he said. “Just hit it a little high on the face and it just got up and left a little quicker than I was expecting and wanted to.”
He took a drop and chipped to 9 feet but missed the putt for par. Matsuyama, meanwhile, had split the fairway and took two putts for the win.
“At 18, the 72nd hole, the putt I made there was probably the best putt I have ever made in my life,” said the 23-year-old Japanese star, who shot 67 and got his second career victory on the PGA TOUR and first in two years.
Hideki Matsuyama wins Waste Management Phoenix Open
It was an ending befitting the wildest stop on TOUR. It’s also one that Fowler won’t soon get over.
“It's gonna hurt,” said Fowler, who also shot 67, “because I felt like I had it, especially with the way I was swinging.”
Most of Fowler’s public persona is light and fun and happy. His Twitter and Instagram accounts are filled with pictures of him hanging out with friends, goofing off and enjoying the spoils of being a 27-year-old superstar who is one of the faces of the next generation in golf.
Through 70 holes at TPC Scottsdale there was hardly a speed bump, either. He reveled in the rowdy atmosphere and even down the stretch on Sunday seemed to thrive in the pressure of trying to win his fifth title since May 1, which would have been more than anyone else in golf during that span.
For the week, Fowler ranked second in the field in strokes gained tee-to-green. He also played the 12 par 5s in 12-under-par. Everything seemed to be going his way, too. Fowler got up-and-down for birdie on 13 and padded his lead with another on the par-5 15th.
Among the record crowd of more than 618,000 for the week were dozens of Fowler’s friends and family, including his grandfather, Yutaka.
Last year at THE PLAYERS Championship, Fowler’s mom and sister and father were there for the biggest victory of his career. His grandfather had never been at any of them, though.
Earlier this year, Fowler showed off a tattoo on his left bicep of his grandfather’s name.
It was a tribute to the man who introduced him to the game at age six and who had also spent time in an internment camp on the Pacific Coast during World War II.
He wanted to win this one for him.
Matsuyama didn’t make it easy. He simply wouldn’t go away, making three birdies over his final six holes to stay within reach and finally catch Fowler.
Sill, Fowler, who climbed to a career high fourth in the Official World Golf Rankings with his victory last month in Abu Dhabi, had this one in his grasp. Finally Yutaka would get to see his grandson win.
Instead, he was left with nothing but tears.
“I'll be all right,” Fowler said. “With how good I'm playing, I know I can win. That's the hard part.”