Fowler sets up another major chance
August 09, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Rickie Fowler's lengthy birdie putt at PGA Championship
ST. LOUIS – Rickie Fowler knows winning a major championship takes patience.
Patience that may have been tested as he’s had to watch his young friends Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas among others pick up trophies.
Fowler is always there with a congratulatory high five or a hug ... but surely that has to bring a small level of annoyance deep inside.
The good news is, Fowler knows the other side of the coin.
It took Phil Mickelson 47 tries. Sergio Garcia waited till his 74th appearance. Winning a major championship can be hard.
It is why he takes nothing but positives from his eight top-5 finishes from 35 majors without a win.
And it is why he’s not surprised by his emotion filled 5-under 65 to open the PGA Championship – good enough to sit second alone just one shot behind Gary Woodland.
At 29 years of age, Fowler’s trajectory might seem slow in the context of the 25-year-old Spieth and his four majors.
But Fowler is a proven big game player with four PGA TOUR wins including the 2015 PLAYERS Championship.
“I always have hope. I know Phil (Mickelson) didn't win until his 30s,” Fowler said.
“I don't know the exact numbers, but it's not something I necessarily worry about. Keep putting ourselves in position, get in contention, we have had plenty of runners-up, Jack (Nicklaus) had a lot of runners-up, we'll just keep beating down that door.”
Fowler could look at another contemporary in Jason Day and realize he is potentially on a very similar path.
Day had won four times before coming to the 2015 PGA Championship. He also had nine top 10s in majors without winning, six of those were top 5s with three runner ups.
The harsh critics said he couldn’t close – and certainly a handful of blown chances fed the narrative.
But then Day destroyed Whistling Straits, setting a record 20-under mark for major championship golf.
Fowler was runner up at the Masters this season. He’s also been second at the U.S. Open and Open Championship, and third in the PGA Championship – part of a 2014 season where he finished in the top-5 of all four majors.
People are saying he can’t close …
But he’s not just knocking on the door … he’s kicking it as well.
He says the key is to stay calm.
“You can't force the issue and it relates to some of our game plan and how we're going about this week as far as just trying to play within ourselves and not do anything extra special,” Fowler added.
“I don't have to play special to win. Like I said, wear out fairway, wear out greens, and keep it as stress free as possible and keep picking apart this golf course. It sounds cliché, hole by hole, shot by shot, but Thursday you can check the success box and move on to Friday.”
Rickie Fowler comments after Round 1 of the PGA Championship
WOODLAND WIELDS THE WAND … Gary Woodland admits he’s had his issues in the majors. And with his putter.
But with a new focus on both he was able to apply the blowtorch on a still wet Bellerive and steal the first-round lead late on the opening day of the PGA Championship.
The three-time PGA TOUR winner – including this seasons Waste Management Phoenix Open – has yet to finish in the top 10 in a major from 27 starts.
But a lovely 6-under 64, with seven birdies in his last 11 holes, put him one clear at the top.
Why has the long hitting talent failed at the majors previously?
“I think a lot of it is pressing,” Woodland said.
He found himself pressing early in his round on Thursday after an opening hole bogey but identified it and relaxed.
It helped that he had around 100 family and friends in the galleries who came in from nearby Kansas.
Then the new-found putting touch took over.
Having had season after season with putting woes negating his ball-striking Woodland turned to putting guru Phil Kenyon while at The Open Championship last month.
The pair did more work last week in Akron before getting quality time in this Tuesday.
The simple fix was a new SuperStroke grip that helped Woodland need just 27 putts, making 152 feet, five inches of them to lead the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (4.365).
“I was hitting it so good and just got nothing out of it. He (Kenyon) showed me some things that he saw that I was doing wrong in my stroke,” Woodland said,
“It really took a lot of time on the putting green, and I've started to feel pretty comfortable this week and it was nice to see results today.
“It helps me release the club different. I've been releasing with my hands and this helps me release it more down the line, which has been huge.”
BIZARRO DAY … Jason Day is known for his putting and while he is long off the tee he can certainly be a little erratic.
Day’s iron and wedge game this season has also been below his usual standards. And so it was like watching a different player on Thursday as the 2015 PGA Championship winner plotted his way around Bellerive.
Day hit 12 of 14 fairways (he was 12/12 before two late misses) and 17 of 18 greens. If he had of also provided the putting game that has him ranked first on the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting it is likely the 12-time winner could have gone exceptionally low.
Instead he needed 32 putts, struggling with the speed of the greens and had to settle for a 3-under 67.
It leaves him three shots back and tied fifth.
“I definitely gave myself a fair share of birdie opportunities out there but didn't quite capitalize on the front side,” Day admitted.
“But overall, I'm very happy with how things progressed out there.”
AUSTIN’S COOKING … PGA TOUR Rookie Austin Cook is just 5 feet, 7 inches and weighs in at 160 pounds.
He ranks 130th on the PGA TOUR in driving distance so with Bellerive supposed to be a bombers paradise he certainly wasn’t on the radar of many looking for a pre-tournament pick.
But the RSM Classic champion decided not to listen to the so-called experts.
“My caddie and I kind of talked about that this week. A lot of guys were saying bomber, bomber, bomber, but I think with the fairways being so big that the short guys if we miss our tee shot a little … you'll be fine,” Cook said after shooting a 3-under 67 to be tied second in the morning wave.
“With the greens being so soft our 7-irons, 6-irons, 8-irons, will stop pretty quick just like their wedges. So I think that the long guys, they may have to worry a little bit more about spin coming into the shots than we will, but I think this week just with the way that the course is set up, that it's anybody's game.”
Gary Woodland's clutch birdie putt at PGA Championship
TIGER WOODS – After a terrible start Woods came back to shoot even par 70 and still alive for a 15th major. Read about his day here.
DUSTIN JOHNSON – The FedExCup leader and world No. 1 hit the lead midway through his round but two late bogeys had him settling for a 3-under 67.
ZACH JOHNSON – The two-time major winner is looking for a third leg in the career slam, shooting 4-under 66 to share third.
ZACH J. JOHNSON – The other Zach Johnson – club pro from Southern Utah – failed to be quite as crisp. He shot 6-over 76.
JORDAN SPIETH – The career grand slam bid opened with a 1-over 71 for Spieth.
IAN POULTER – Fresh off being in contention at the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational the Englishman shot 3-under 67.
JUSTIN THOMAS – Last week’s winner and the defending champion opened with a solid 1-under 69.
RORY McILROY – The two-time PGA Championship winner shot even-par 70.
BRANDON STONE – The young South African and recent Scottish Open winner opened with a 4-under 66.
TROY MERRITT – Recovering from surgery to remove a serious blood clot Merritt still managed to shoot 1-over 71.
PHIL MICKELSON – Phil wasn’t in the mood for much dancing after an opening 3-over 73.
DAVIS LOVE III – In his 100th major championship Love III struggled to a 75.
FRANCESCO MOLINARI – The Open champion opened with a 2-under 68.
Tiger Woods' approach sets up 4-foot birdie at PGA Championship
QUOTABLESI probably woke up somewhere around No. 6 today with the tee time.I've never had my ball end up in somebody else's pitch mark in a bunker before. That was a pretty terrible break on my last hole. Could have cost me one or two strokes. It's just unfortunate for someone not to rake it.My shot of the day? I don't think I had one.Quail Hollow chewed me up and spit me out quite quickly last year.It wasn't exactly what she wanted, but she loves it.
Jon Rahm's 27-foot birdie putt at PGA Championship
Low round: 6-under 64 – Gary Woodland
Longest drive: 370 yards – Kevin Chappell on the par-4 7th
Longest putt: 63 feet, 11 inches – Seungsu Han.
Toughest hole: The par-3 6th played at 3.462 with just nine birdies.
Easiest hole: The par-5 8th played at 4.724 with 59 birdies.
Zach Johnson's 51-foot chip shot at PGA Championship