Fowler, Koepka, Singh come up short at PGA NationalStars make run at title but fall just short of first-time winner Mitchell at The Honda Classic
March 03, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Rickie Fowler gets up-and-down for birdie and share of the lead at Honda
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler were the biggest names among the contenders Sunday at The Honda Classic. Vijay Singh was the oldest – and most decorated.
In the end, the trio came up short to Keith Mitchell – whose birdie from 15-1/2 feet on the final hole made him a first-time PGA TOUR winner -- but each of the three left PGA National feeling upbeat about the rest of their seasons.
Koepka and Fowler, local residents who live a short distance from each other, tied for second at 8 under after some late heroics gave them hope for a playoff. Singh, the 56-year-old World Golf Hall of Famer seeking to become the oldest winner in PGA TOUR history, was in the mix until an errant tee shot at the 17th found the water.
“It’s always exciting to be in the hunt, no matter where you play,” said Singh, who shot an even-par 70 playing in the final group of the day with 54-hole leader Wyndham Clark. “Something’s going on. You’re excited. Something’s going to happen. … It’s exciting.”
Very exciting, to say the least.
Ryan Palmer, who teed off more than four hours ahead of the lead group, posted the number to beat at 7 under after a sizzling 63 moved him from T-39 to the clubhouse lead. That stood up for two hours until Lucas Glover joined him after his 66.
Koepka, though, was three groups behind Glover and was deftly navigating the treacherous Bear Trap – hole Nos. 15, 16 and 17 that often decide the outcome at The Honda Classic. He birdied the par-4 16th, then eliminated Palmer and Glover from consideration with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th.
But when he walked toward the scoring area, he feared the worst.
“I had the same feeling I had at Valero when Kevin Chappell won [in 2017 with a finishing birdie],” Koepka said. “It just wasn’t going to be enough.”
Fowler was next to finish at 8 under, thanks to three birdies in his last four holes. It was a sizzling stretch for the 2017 Honda champ, who won the Waste Management Phoenix Open last month.
But like Koepka, he was worried he might’ve come up one short.
“I thought 9 was good,” Fowler said. “I thought 8 might have a chance. … Obviously with a jam-packed leaderboard, you knew it was going to come down to the last hole with five or six guys or so up there.”
Brooks Koepka interview after Round 4 of Honda
Neither Koepka nor Fowler had their “A” games this week, but they still found a way to contend – a sign of good things as the TOUR heads into its run of big events the next few months.
“I’m proud of the way I kind of fought through things,” Fowler said, citing lost shots at the ninth and 10th holes that could’ve proved the difference. “I didn’t drive it quite that well today but hit some quality golf shots when I needed to, and nice to finish with three birdies in the last four.”
Said Koepka: “I didn’t hit the ball particularly well all week. I putted very well – that’s what I’m pleased about, coming into Augusta and THE PLAYERS, trending nicely. That was one thing that I felt like was missing. …
“I don’t need my ‘A’ game to be in contention. I feel like as long as I do one thing really well – whether it’s iron play, putting this week – I’m going to be in contention. I’m going to give myself a chance at a win come Sunday with nine holes to go, and that’s all you want to do.”
It’s been a while since Singh was in contention on the PGA TOUR on the back nine – the last of his 34 TOUR wins came 11 years ago – but he impressed just by hanging tough. Of course, that shouldn’t be a surprise, given his work ethic and success rate.
Singh has gradually shifted his playing schedule for more starts on PGA TOUR Champions, although he’s scheduled to play the next two TOUR events – including THE PLAYERS Championship, thanks to his win last year at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship.
Asked if this week’s outcome might cause him to reassess his playing schedule beyond that, Singh gave a little grin.
“I’m pretty set with it. It’s pretty hard work out here,” he said. “I’ll see what happens in the next two weeks. If I’m still playing the same, I’ll think about it.”