To say that Rickie Fowler embarks on his title defense of the Deutsche Bank Championship with mixed emotions is putting it lightly. After sleeping on the 54-hole lead at The Barclays, he backpedaled with a 3-over 74 to finish T7, three strokes adrift of champion Patrick Reed. While Fowler connected for a long birdie at the par-3 17th hole on Sunday, he played his last four holes in 3-over. That fate-sealing deficit also meant that he wouldn’t automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup team.
Four spots on the American Ryder Cup squad will be filled in September, the first three after the conclusion of the BMW Championship, so the 27-year-old will need a lifeline. Presuming he turns the page swiftly following Sunday’s disappointment at Bethpage Black, there are great memories to embrace and parlay at TPC Boston. And of all the Ryder Cup hopefuls, Fowler likely owns a prominent position on the shortlist (and, in fact, retains a good portion of control over his own destiny) even though Captain Davis Love III acknowledged that the new process in the timing of making his picks has opened the door for dozens of potentials, but rightfully so.
Fowler benefited from Henrik Stenson’s double bogey at the par-3 16th hole outside Beantown last year. The Swede led by one entering the final round and maintained that margin on the tee at the one-shotter before finding the drink short of the green. He settled for runner-up honors, one swing back. Coincidentally, No. 16 was the only hole at TPC Boston that was altered to any degree prior to the tournament. A new back tee was added. Sure enough, the new box was used only in the final round to stretch the hole to 188 yards, which is actually one yard longer than it reads on the scorecard.
This year’s major modification will be felt at the drivable, par-4 fourth hole. It can now tip at 353 yards, up 55 yards from previous editions. TPC Boston remains a par 36-35=71, however. It can tape off at 7,297 yards. Last year’s field averaged 70.956. That slotted it as the third-toughest par 71 of the season and in scoring conditions that were not unfavorable. It was its highest scoring average since it played over par in each of the first four years as host of the Deutsche Bank Championship (2003-2006) after which Gil Hanse shortened the track during a redesign. It was only in 2013 when the field manhandled it for a tournament-low 69.207, so expect something in between this week.
Plum weather is expected throughout the tournament. Sunny skies and dry land will allow TPC Boston to play as it’s designed. Gradually increasing temperatures will reach top out in the low 80s. The most challenging element might be a potentially moderate breeze from a northeasterly direction until it swings to the prevailing opposite for the finale.
The DBC is scheduled to begin on Friday, Sept. 2, and end on Labor Day. As of midday Monday, of the 100 qualifiers, only Danny Willett (seeded 86th) isn’t committed. Once 36 holes are complete, the low 70 and ties will survive the last cut of the 2015-16 season. There is no 54-hole/MDF cut in the FedExCup Playoffs. The top 70 in FedExCup points at the conclusion of the tournament will race over to Crooked Stick in Indiana for the BMW Championship scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 8.
POWER RANKINGS: Deutsche Bank Championship
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Jason Day 2 Patrick Reed 3 Dustin Johnson 4 Henrik Stenson 5 Jordan Spieth 6 Adam Scott 7 Rickie Fowler 8 Rory McIlroy 9 Matt Kuchar 10 Louis Oosthuizen 11 Brooks Koepka 12 Emiliano Grillo 13 Jim Furyk 14 Phil Mickelson 15 Charley Hoffman 16 Sergio Garcia 17 Gary Woodland 18 Justin Thomas 19 Sean O'Hair 20 Brandt Snedeker
ROB BOLTON'S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM's Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week's event. Look for the following features later this week:
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: FedExCup Bubble Glance, Fantasy Insider, Comfort Zone
FRIDAY: Most-picked players
* = Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM's Expert Picks, which also publishes on Tuesdays.