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February 28 2013

7:00 PM

Bad back doesn't slow Fowler

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Every time Rickie Fowler swings he feels pain in his lower back.

Fowler admitted it has been that way since last June. You wouldn't have known it judging by the way he played on Thursday.

He shot a a 5-under 65 to sit within a stroke of the lead after the first round of The Honda Classic.

"I actually felt pretty good today," Fowler said. "Probably the better you play, the better it feels. But it's definitely still there, and I'm still working on it."

Fowler had reason to feel good. He made just one bogey to go with six birdies, including three over his final five holes to match his lowest round of the year.

After making the turn in 1 under, Fowler warmed up along with the weather. He made four birdies on the back nine and closed in 31. That included playing the difficult Bear Trap -- Nos. 15, 16 and 17 -- in a combined 1 under.

Fowler started to find his rhythm on the 11th hole, where he stuck his approach shot to 7 feet and made the putt for birdie.

Three holes later, he hit it to 8 feet and made another.

After narrowly missing a birdie on the par-3 15th, Fowler rolled in a 28-footer on No. 16 before saving par from the bunker on the par-3 17th, where he made another 8-footer.

As well as he played, however, Fowler's main concern is staying healthy.

"Especially looking at the Masters, five, six weeks away," he said of the year's first major. "It would be nice to be getting close to pain‑free by then."

So far, Fowler has resisted getting a cortisone shot to treat the injury, instead opting for anti-inflammatories and massage therapy.

They've worked, but only to an extent.

"A shot would be the last resort," Fowler said. "We are doing our best to get rid of it, but it's definitely better than what I was playing through last summer."

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