Another week goes by on the PGA Tour and another superstar wins, continuing the trend of 2017. This week it was Rickie Fowler, the 28-year-old So-Cal native taking home the hardware. Rickie began the day with a lot of pressure on him, as he had never before won while holding the 54-hole lead.
Rickie entered the final round of the day with a four-shot lead over rookie Englishman Tyrrell Hatton and a six-shot cushion over a pack of chasers, including Wesley Bryan, at seven under par.
Fowler ran into some trouble on the sixth hole when he rinsed his tee shot in the lake to the left of the fairway, but he displayed his maturity and resilience, bouncing back with birdies on holes eight, 12, 13 and 16. He eventually took a five-shot lead to the final 72nd hole of the tournament and enjoyed his walk down the fairway, toward the green and his fourth PGA Tour Victory.
Bryan, who I’ve mentioned in previous weeks as a young star in the making, had another brilliant week. Wes got it to nine under par after 36 holes and shared the lead going into the weekend. But Bryan struggled all week with the infamous ‘Bear Trap,’ holes 15-17 of PGA National, putting several balls in the water, ultimately taking him out of contention. Nonetheless, Bryan finished T-4th and picked up another $232,000 in winnings, moving him to about $100k short of securing his tour card for the 2018 season already. Wes also jumped from 96th to 77th in the Official World Golf Ranking, moving him closer to qualifying for The Masters.
The golf world is definitely reeling right now, wondering, “What did we do to deserve this great start?!” This year has already seen Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson win … and now Fowler has been added to the list. Just as last year was the year of first-time winners, this year has returned to the household names. The excitement is truly building toward Augusta, the year’s first major.
In 2014, Fowler finished in the top five at all four majors. He is the only player in the history of the game to accomplish this feat without winning at least one of them … not exactly the obscure stat he wants, but it shows a good trend. In 2015, Fowler won the Scottish Open, THE PLAYERS Championship and the Deutsche Bank Championship, ascending the world rankings, and posing himself to truly break out and win a major. But after his early 2016 win in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, the majors of 2016 troubled Rickie as he missed two cuts and wasn’t competitive in the others.
I firmly believe the work Fowler has done with swing coach Butch Harmon since 2014 will finally pay off with a major victory this season. Fowler has matured, waited and stayed stubborn in his young career, and my advice would be for him to maintain that mindset this major season. Augusta may not grant Rickie a Green Jacket, but I would be surprised if he doesn’t host either the Claret Jug or the Wanamaker.