Fowler hopes to rebound from sluggish summer

By Doug FergusonAugust 2, 2016, 4:13 pm

SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Rickie Fowler is short on majors, not on class.

He returned to the 18th green at Baltusrol after an exhausting day because he wanted to congratulate the winner. He is friendly with Jimmy Walker and Jason Day, though there is a special connection with Walker. Both work with Butch Harmon. They were partners in all four matches in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, and two matches in the Presidents Cup at South Korea. They were housemates at Royal Troon.

''He's definitely one of my closest buddies on tour,'' Fowler said.

Sunday afternoon, however, was as close as Fowler came to a major championship trophy this year.

He was trending in a big way two years ago when he finished in the top five at all four majors, a feat previously achieved only by Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods until Jordan Spieth joined them last year. Even so, it appeared to be only a matter of time before Fowler broke through.

That now seems like a long time ago.

On a soft course at Baltusrol, in a major that produced five players who had all four rounds in the 60s, Fowler could only manage 70-71 in the last two rounds Sunday and tied for 33rd. That was his best finish of the year in the majors.

The British Open two weeks earlier was the first cut in a major he made this year. He shot 76-73 on the weekend at Royal Troon. He never shot better than 75 at Oakmont. He opened with an 80 at Augusta National.

Golf is hard, and so are the majors.

One year, Fowler had top 5s in all the majors without winning a tournament. The next year, he won a career-best three times and didn't feature in any of the majors.

There is no cause for alarm. He still is No. 7 in the world, and that's not a case of bad math. Fowler won in January at Abu Dhabi against the strongest field of the year on the European Tour. He lost the Phoenix Open in a playoff after leading by two shots with two to play. He had the 54-hole lead at Quail Hollow in early May and closed with a 74.

Since then, his only top 10 was at Firestone, a World Golf Championship with a small field and no cut.

''It's been a little slow the last couple of months,'' Fowler said Monday at the TPC Boston to promote his title defense next month in the Deutsche Bank Championship. ''Just golf's hard. If it was easy, then everyone would be out here playing and I wouldn't have a job. So it's just kind of fighting through it and continuing to put in the work, and it will turn back around here soon.''

The victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship last year, coupled with the victory in Abu Dhabi this year, put Fowler on the cusp of conversations involving the top players. He made people suggest a ''Big Four'' when there really were only three players battling for No. 1. And when Dustin Johnson won the U.S. Open to move into the elite in today's game, Fowler lingered as No. 5.

That's no longer the case. Golf is done with ''Big'' any numbers, and Fowler wouldn't be part of that conversation at the moment.

Where the sluggish season has hurt him is in the Ryder Cup standings.

Fowler has dropped all the way to No. 12, a precarious place to be for a couple of reasons. Only the top eight automatically qualify for the U.S. team, and Fowler is running out of time to make it. He chose to play in the Olympics, and he's leaving this week to be there for opening ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

That means he won't be at the Travelers Championship, where the other three Olympians are playing - Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. All of them are just outside the top eight, and just ahead of Fowler, in the Ryder Cup standings.

It's another reminder how little golf guarantees. Fowler never imagined this being an issue six months ago.

''I took a little bit more time off through the first part of the season to prepare for the busy summer that was ahead,'' Fowler said. ''Unfortunately, I haven't played as well as I would have liked to the past few months, which has kind of put me in a tough position.''

He was in reasonable shape at the halfway point in the last two majors, only to fade on the weekend. And as thrilled as he was for Walker winning a major, Fowler surely took notice that the 37-year-old Texan had been struggling over the previous 15 months.

It can be frustrating that it wasn't him, or it can provide hope that his turn his coming.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.